Competition
  • Champions League

Cristiano Ronaldo back on form in Dortmund

Madrid secured a decent draw in Dortmund, although it may taste a little flat because after being under the cosh for most of the first half the visitors were the better side in the second. The draw was good and so was Cristiano Ronaldo, whose performance was his first convincing one of the season. He scored the opening goal, had one disallowed for offside, was a presence on the pitch, helped out at the back, shot, intimidated… it’s wonderful news. A player who hasn’t fully returned yet is Karim Benzema, whose inclusion at the expense of Álvaro Morata looks unjust. In Dortmund, as the second half ticked past, the need for the substitution was clamorous but it did not arrive until far too late.

Dortmund are a good side and a pleasure to watch. In the first half they produced a master class in attack, keeping possession, biding their time and with two extremely dangerous players up front in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembélé. Fortunately, Dortmund’s ascendancy resulted in just the one goal, which cancelled out Ronaldo’s effort after a quick counter-attack. Keylor Navas contributed a lot to the home side’s goal, punching out a bad clearance when he could easily have held the shot. The keeper looked quick and strong but uncertain in his decision-making. As with the goal he made another, equally absurd, punched clearance a few minutes earlier and these marred his performance.

In the second half, Dortmund’s rhythm dropped, Madrid were able to breathe and took on the appearance of game-winners. The visitors were camped in the opposition half, scored one and had chances for more. But the superstition surrounding the BBC led to Zidane calling Morata from the bench too late, missing the chance to kill the game off. Thomas Tuchel, for his part, brought on Christian Pulisic for Dembélé when he saw the France youngster tiring. In principle the removal of Dembélé should have been a relief but Pulisic provided an injection of fresh urgency on the same wing. He provided moments of genuine danger (including in the build-up to Dortmund’s second goal). Got the crowd on their feet and lifted his teammates. In the end, it was a fair draw and a game that was well worth watching.