Paris: European footballer of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo helped himself to one goalscoring record and equalled another as holders Real Madrid booked their place in the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday.
Ronaldo is now the all-time leading goalscorer in European competition after two goals in the upset 4-3 defeat against Schalke took his total to 78, surpassing the previous record held by another former Real stalwart, Raul.
Crisitiano Ronaldo. Pic/ AFP
But, perhaps more importantly for his intense rivalry with Barcelona's Lionel Messi, Ronaldo equalled the Argentine's Champions League record of 75. And there was more than a touch of irony that the record-breaking goals should have come against Schalke, the club where Raul ended his playing days after being deemed surplus to requirements in Spain.
Real's 2-0 win in the first leg in Gelsenkichen saw them squeeze into the last eight 5-4 on aggregate. Also through to the last eight are FC Porto, who advanced at the expense of Swiss club Basel, 5-1 on aggregate and 4-0 on the night.
Ronaldo scored twice for Real in the first half, his header in the 25th minute from a corner by Tony Kroos cancelling out an opener for the Germans by Christian Fuchs five minutes earlier. That equalled Raul's record of 77, and then, after Klaas Jan Huntelaar had restored Schalke's lead, Ronaldo equalised for a second time with another header just before the break, with his 78th European goal in all.
Ronaldo, 30, who collected his third Ballon d'Or in January, just seems to go from strength to strength.
- Fully-deserved -
Last year he led Real Madrid to their 10th European Champions title, but their first in 12 years, smashing Messi's record of 15 Champions League goals in a single season with 17 in just 11 appearances along the way. This season, he has already netted 30 times in the league and eight times in the Champions League, matching Messi goal for goal.
It also means he has now scored 60 times in 59 Champions League appearances for Real. But he still ended up on the losing side on the night. Early in the second half, Karim Benzema put the hosts in front but Schalke earned a fully-deserved win thanks to further strikes from Leroy Sande and Huntelaar. Real had come into the game unbeaten in 21 Champions League games at the Bernabeu, but that record was under threat from the off in a wretched performance that was only salvaged by Ronaldo's prediatory instincts.
"It is clear I feel very sorry because everyone has seen we played very badly. This is not good for the image of the club," said Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti after a fifth defeat in 15 games this year. "It is normal that the players lack confidence. I think we have dipped a bit physically too. We had problems in every aspect of the game: offensive; defensive; desire; fight and concentration."
Schalke boss Roberto di Matteo, meanwhile, was left with the bittersweet feeling of having pulled off a stunning victory but still being eliminated. "We have mixed feelings," said the man who won the competition with Chelsea in 2012. "The team showed a really high level. We tried everything to stay in the competition. Tonight we won the match, but nevertheless it wasn't enough."
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