Champions League last-16, Santiago Bernabeu
Cristiano Ronaldo rose to the occasion and scored twice to help rescue Real Madrid from a shock Champions League elimination against Schalke on Tuesday night.
Ronaldo bagged his 77th and 78th goals in all European competitions to save his side’s bacon against the German club and see them through to the quarter-finals on an intense night in the Spanish capital.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored a brace of his own for the Gelsenkirchen club to give Roberto Di Matteo’s men a real chance of progression and Madrid had Iker Casillas, who also contributed errors, to thank late on for making saves that thwarted the visitors a shock progression.
Karim Benzema also scored on a night in which Madrid lost at home for the first time in the competition since April 2011 when they went down to a semi-final defeat against Barcelona.
The defeat also prevented Carlo Ancelotti’s men setting a new Champions League record of eleven straight wins in the competition at home and away.
Ronaldo did set an individual record, however, by becoming the highest scorer in the history of European competitions with two goals that took him to 78 in Europe – two more than Raul and Lionel Messi.
The Portuguese forward, in for his own criticism in recent weeks alongside his under-performing team-mates, saved the day for Madrid on a night that came as a shock for the vast majority inside the Bernabeu.
Schalke breezed through the Madrid midfield almost at will, led by youngster Max Meyer, and not even the welcome return of Luka Modric from injury in the second half helped to completely stem the flow of the German attacks.
Ancelotti made a number of changes to his starting eleven. Fabio Coentrao replaced Marcelo, who was one booking away from a suspension in the next round, at left-back and Sami Khedira was preferred to Asier Illarramendi and Lucas Silva in the middle. Alvaro Arbeloa started at right-back in place of Dani Carvajal.
The visiting threat was there throughout and they took the lead in the 20th minute when Christian Fuchs was left unmarked to open the scoring just inside the box.
Ronaldo scored twice, both from headers, and wrapped around Huntelaar’s first of the night. The Portuguese star’s second, just before the break, looked to have delivered a killer blow to the inspired visitors.
The tie looked done and dusted when Benzema produced a calm finish to fire Madrid ahead for the first time in the second half but a curling effort from Sane levelled things up and Huntelaar’s goal late on put the cat amongst the pigeons.
Schalke had chances to add another and progress to the next round but Casillas made a couple of solid late saves to help edge the reigning champions through to the last eight.