Real strike late on Ron­aldo’s home­com­ing

Kuwait Times - - OKAZAKI, MAHREZ FIRE LEICESTER INTO LAST 16 -

Cris­tiano Ron­aldo was lauded like a king on his re­turn to where his ca­reer be­gan at Sport­ing Lis­bon, but Real Madrid showed no mercy in book­ing their place in the knock­out stages for a 20th con­sec­u­tive sea­son with a 2-1 win on Tues­day.

How­ever, vic­tory came at a cost for the Euro­pean cham­pi­ons as Gareth Bale limped off just be­fore the hour mark with an an­kle in­jury just 11 days be­fore Real travel to face Barcelona in El Cla­sico.

Real had sub­sti­tute Karim Ben­zema to thank for all three points as he came off the bench to down Sport­ing’s 10 men with a fine fin­ish from Ser­gio Ramos’s cross.

Raphael Varane had fired Real into a first-half lead, but Sport­ing cap­tain Adrien Silva lev­elled from the penalty spot af­ter Joao Pereira had seen a straight red card.

Real still need to beat Borus­sia Dort­mund at home in two weeks’ time to top Group F af­ter the Ger­mans thrashed Le­gia War­saw 8-4.

“The good thing is we didn’t give up,” said a re­lieved Madrid boss Zine­dine Zi­dane. “When you con­cede you can think it is go­ing to be dif­fi­cult, but we kept go­ing and in the end got the goal through Karim. I am happy for him and the team as a whole.”

Ron­aldo’s name was loudly cheered amidst the other­wise din of whis­tles that greeted the an­nounce­ment of the Real team, whilst a ban­ner with the mes­sage “Made in Sport­ing” was raised by the home fans with a pic­ture of a teenage Ron­aldo in their fa­mous green and white hooped shirt.

De­spite leav­ing Sport­ing for Manch­ester United at just 18 hav­ing not even won a tro­phy with the Por­tuguese giants, Ron­aldo is revered in Lis­bon hav­ing cap­tained his coun­try to a first ever in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment win at Euro 2016.

The af­fec­tion shown may even have had an ef­fect on the nor­mally ruth­less Ron­aldo as for the first time in four meet­ings against Sport­ing he failed to find the net.

Af­ter an in­tense Sport­ing start buoyed by a bois­ter­ous at­mos­phere, the hold­ers slowly grabbed a stran­gle­hold of the game and went in front on 29 min­utes when Luka Mo­dric’s low free-kick was de­flected into Varane’s path and the French in­ter­na­tional swept home his third goal of the sea­son.

Madrid cap­tain Ramos was mak­ing his first ap­pear­ance in six weeks af­ter sprain­ing knee lig­a­ments and came to his side’s res­cue mo­ments later to de­flect Bruno Ce­sar’s goal­bound shot be­hind.

Real were put un­der pres­sure at the start of the se­cond pe­riod as Ramos cleared a dan­ger­ous cross from Gel­son Martins and fur­ther dis­rupted as Bale hob­bled off.

Zi­dane con­firmed that fur­ther tests will be car­ried out on the Welsh­man back in Madrid to de­ter­mine the ex­tent of the in­jury.

How­ever, Sport­ing’s chances looked to have gone when Pereira was harshly shown red for an off-the-ball clash with Ma­teo Ko­vacic. De­spite their nu­mer­i­cal dis­ad­van­tage, Sport­ing were level 10 min­utes from time when Silva blasted home from the penalty spot af­ter sub­sti­tute Fabio Coen­trao had been pe­nalised for hand­ball.

Joel Camp­bell even had an ef­fort saved by Costa Ri­can in­ter­na­tional team­mate Key­lor Navas as Sport­ing searched for the win­ner they needed to keep their Cham­pi­ons League hopes alive. In­stead, they were hit with a Real sucker punch as Ben­zema fired low into the far cor­ner to set up a shootout with Dort­mund for top spot in a fort­night. — AFP

LIS­BON: Real Madrid’s Por­tuguese for­ward Cris­tiano Ron­aldo jumps for a ball dur­ing the UEFA Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball match Sport­ing CP vs Real Madrid CF at the Jose Al­valade sta­dium in Lis­bon on Tues­day. — AFP

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