The World Player of the Year has done it again! Like in Porto where he showed up with a magnificent strike to send Manchester United into the semis, Cristiano Ronaldo raised himself up against Arsene Wengerâ€™s youthful Arsenal squad on Tuesday night at the Emirates.
A 1-0 advantage was never enough for the Red Devils to feel comfortable and secure, going into the second leg of this Champions League semifinal clash. Before the game, Cristiano Ronaldo had voiced out his anger at the refereeâ€™s performance at Old Trafford which added to Manchester Unitedâ€™s lack of luck and efficiency in front of goal.
Ferguson had promised everyone that the European defending champions would go in Tuesday nightâ€™s game with the intention of scoring at all cost, while left-back Patrice Evra was convinced that a good defense will be the key behind success.
Arsenal started fiercely and Ferdinand almost got caught into an early own goal. Almunia had revealed that the solution to beating the Red Devils was to gain possession, and Arsene Wengerâ€™s boys meant to do just that. Manchester United perhaps didnâ€™t impose their game like they did at Old Trafford a week ago, but the Redsâ€™ ability to capitalize on Arsenalâ€™s numerous mistakes in midfield proved to be the key to glory.
Anderson played in Ronaldo at the left hand side who had to use his pace to chase the ball before powerfully sliding it to Ji Sung Park in the penalty area. The Korean benefited from Kieran Gibbsâ€™ slip in the box and before Arsenalâ€™s defense realized, Park had already hammered the ball across the goal line to score for the first time ever in the Champions League.
Cristiano Ronaldo was in confident and upbeat mood from the whole start â€“ winking and smiling at the camera at the fansâ€™ pleasure. Ferguson decided to play him as a center striker in the first half, with Rooney wide at the left and cutting into the midfield at times, while Park played in the right wings.
Almost all of Ronaldoâ€™s touches were without defect but the best of all was just about to come. The Portuguese winger was awarded a free-kick after Arsenalâ€™s flop on the day â€“ Kieran Gibbs â€“ harshly brought him down.
Cristiano Ronaldo struck the ball hard and stunned everyone as the ball flew like a rocket to hit the back of Almuniaâ€™s net inside the near post. Who was expecting that Ronaldo would score directly from nearly 40 yards from this right-hand sided free-kick? 2-0 the score line was after only eleven minutes gone down the clock; Cristiano Ronaldo had raised the bar too high for Arsenal to get back into the game.
The score remained the same at half time, meaning that the Gunners needed at least four goals without reply in the second period. However, Manchester United continued from where they left off in the first half, leaving Arsenalâ€™s youngsters confused and perplex.
The Gunners thought they could pull a goal back from a corner as they looked to have found some power upfront, but were instead punished by Manchester Unitedâ€™s flamboyant attacking forces.
The ball was cleared away only for Cristiano Ronaldo to cap a superb counter-attack. The Portuguese winger made a wonderful back heel to find Ji Sung Parkâ€™s feet who then burst forward as Manchester United broke away. Park fed Wayne Rooney who was waiting for the pass on the left hand side while Cristiano Ronaldo was also making his run. Rooney then squared the ball back to Ronaldo who ultimately fired the ball past goalkeeper Almunia at in the roof of the net.
3-0 it was at that stage and Cristiano Ronaldo had broken Arsenal supporterâ€™s hearts with his double on the night.
However, Manchester Unitedâ€™s wonderful night was somehow tarnished by Fletcherâ€™s sending off moments later for bringing Fabregas down in the penalty box which allowed Van Persie to pull a goal back for the Gunners from the spot but this was only a consolation.
Ronaldo was just about to get his hat-trick when he fired in a low shot as Arsenalâ€™s defense opened up again, but Almunia got his save right this time.
All the same, Cristiano Ronaldo did enough to help Manchester United crush Arsenal on their own ground. The Red Devils are the first team to score at the Emirates in the Champions League this season.
Ronaldo might have been disappointed a week ago for not having a perfect 50th Champions League appearance under a red jersey, but last night was yet another special moment for the World Player of the Year.
His two goals sealed Manchester Unitedâ€™s 4-1 aggregate win over Arsenal. The European defending champions have now booked their place for the final in Rome on May 27. Speaking to Sky Sports after the victory, Man of the Match Cristiano Ronaldo underlined his confidence and desire to reaching the final in Rome and help Manchester United to be the first team to retain the Champions League crown:
“I have always believed we were going to win it again,”
“That is what we have been trying to do and now we are in the final, so we have a great opportunity,â€ Ronaldo declared.
“It was not an easy match. Arsenal are a good team, so to score three goals at their own ground is just amazing.
“The whole team were superb and we deserve to be in the final.”
Then reflecting on Darren Fletcherâ€™s dismissal, Ronaldo concluded:
“I am tremendously disappointed for Darren,”
“He has played in most of the games and now he cannot play in the final. He deserves to – but that is football.”
The reigning UEFA Top Scorer â€“ who has now netted four times in his last five Champions League games â€“ has increased his tally to four goals in Europe and twenty-five in all competitions. After being able to score against Inter Milan, Porto, Arsenal, and Chelsea (the referee wrongly disallowed Ronaldoâ€™s brace), who can dare to say that Cristiano Ronaldo doesnâ€™t show up on the big stage against big teams?
Ronaldoâ€™s dream for the quadruple this season is still alive. Five more goals â€“ including one in the final at the Stadio Olimpico â€“ and Cristiano Ronaldo will fulfill his dream of scoring thirty goals this season with his last one being in Romeâ€¦
Written by: Angela Asante