It’s finally happening, Cristiano Ronaldo is going to return to football after a month rife with speculation, prognoses from so called “experts,” and tantalizing videos of Ronaldo training in the gym. And guess what? The team he’s coming back to face is Osasuna, a side he quite literally smashed apart in the 2013/14 season, in one of Osasuna’s last matches in the first division. Now that they’re back after a two season hiatus in the lower echelons of Spanish football, they have to once again face the man that heavily contributed to their demise (Osasuna were relegated by one point in the 2013/14 season).
One can only imagine the nightmares their players must have had; the ball rising from Ronaldo’s boot like an intercontinental ballistic missile, before exploding into the net with such devastation, that it quite literally blows them out of the league.
While the Los Rojillos faithful might be less fearful of an older Ronaldo unleashing a devastating rocket this time around, one can’t help but wonder if the hunger for goals upon his return and the recent history of the match-up, will propel Ronaldo to dazzle the Bernabeu once again.
Whether he ends up doing so or not, it’s worth reminiscing the moment that will have Osasuna quaking in their boots when they come to the chapel of Spanish football to face Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid once again.
With the league title still very much on the cards, Osasuna visited the Bernabeu near the tail-end of the 2013/14 season. While Real Madrid were the heavy favorites, relegation-threatened Osasuna had every incentive to play their hearts out and make this a tricky encounter for Los Blancos. Fully aware of the importance of the situation, Ronaldo didn’t even give the minnows a chance to breathe.
Receiving a cross-field pass from Angel Di María, Ronaldo took his first touches of the game, before cantering in from the left-wing and unleashing a devastating strike on goal from 25 yards out. Similar to his strike against Atlético Madrid at the Vicente Calderon two years prior to this event, the ball rocketed into the air with its trajectory destined for the stands, before fiercely plummeting into the corner of the net after the ball had passed over the keeper.
Unable to believe what he had seen, the keeper looked back in the direction of the celebrating Ronaldo as if to ask, “how?”
With Real Madrid on the front foot, Osasuna found themselves at Ronaldo’s mercy, as the Portuguese left-winger switched from flank to flank and tested the strength of the opposition defense with probing dribbles.
With Los Rojillos’ weaknesses analyzed, Ronaldo unselfishly drifted out to the flanks to avoid the congested center of the pitch (as evidenced by his relatively low shot total of 3 and the heatmap below), and instead looked to combine with Marcelo and arc deadly crosses into the box.
The strategy was successful, as Ronaldo created a clear-cut chance for Sergio Ramos on 23 minutes, completed an excellent 2 out of 4 crosses, and successfully released Marcelo into troubling areas.
His movement out wide also allowed Ronaldo to isolate his marker for tantalizing one-on-one opportunities, something that Ronaldo used to draw a foul and create a resulting free kick opportunity in the half hour mark (Ronaldo’s shot from the set-piece was just wide from a nearly impossible angle).
But Ronaldo’s unselfishness in this match proved to be more than just isolated to his positioning, as he passed on an excellent shooting opportunity from a free kick to successfully chip the ball to Sergio Ramos, before cutting inside from the left-wing only to create a shooting opportunity for Marcelo.
By the end of the half, Ronaldo had completely dismantled Osasuna, with only the poor finishing of his teammates keeping the scoreline at 1-0. Sensing that we would need to do it all by himself once again, Ronaldo channelled his inner magic from the first half and scored a wonder goal in the 52nd minute.
This time, instead of shooting from the left diagonal of the box, Ronaldo cut inside past two defenders to arrow a shot that didn’t stop rising until it pierced the top corner of the net.
Unable to contain their glee, the commentators exploded into appreciation of the magnificence on display:
“And that’s even better than his first! It was simply unstoppable! Breathtaking stuff from Ronaldo!!”
“Kevin, two goalkeepers wouldn’t have saved that!”
Carlo Ancelotti could’ve been forgiven for wishing to see this kind of brilliance for as long as possible, but with a crucial match against Bayern Munich on the horizon, the Italian mastermind smartly substituted Ronaldo off 9 minutes later with the scoreline at 3-0.
Ronaldo’s Match Stats Vs. Osasuna
Key Passes: 5
Fouls Drawn: 1
Crosses Completed: 2/4
Passes Attempted: 37
Passing Accuracy: 91.9%
While such a vintage performance will clearly be incredibly difficult to replicate, here’s to hoping that Ronaldo can produce at least an iota of his previous magic this time around.
(Statistics and charts taken from whoscored.com)