by Kieran CANNING
On a night of high drama and controversy at the Santiago Bernabeu the Portuguese striker once again dominated the headlines with a hat-trick to send the holders into the semi-finals for a record seventh straight year.
But they needed extra time — and some questionable officiating — to beat 10-man Bayern 4-2 on Tuesday to seal a 6-3 aggregate win.
“Cristiano demolishes Bayern,” said the front cover of Madrid sport daily AS.
A celebrating Ronaldo also graced the front page of rival sports paper Marca with the headline: “Madrid rules Europe” as Atletico Madrid edged out Leicester City 2-1 on aggregate to reach the last four of the Champions League for the third time in four seasons.
However, Real needed more than a little help to finish the tie off after Ronaldo’s double in the first leg had given them a 2-1 lead in Munich.
Ronaldo’s second on Tuesday to bring up a century in the competition — including qualifiers — and third to round off his hat-trick were allowed to stand despite the Portuguese clearly being offside.
Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti called for the introduction of video refereeing after Arturo Vidal was harshly sent off with the tie delicately balanced at 3-3 on aggregate with five minutes remaining of normal time.
“There is a lot of anger because the referee put us out the Champions League,” said a furious Vidal.
Madrid boss and Ancelotti’s former assistant Zinedine Zidane understandably wanted the attention focused on his four-time World Player of the Year rather than Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai.
“When you see what Cristiano is doing, it is really impressive,” said Zidane.
“He always knows when there’s an important moment he’s going to be there.
“He’s out of this world. There are few players who will manage to do what Ronaldo has done.”
– ‘Don’t boo me’ –
Ronaldo now has a remarkable 85 Champions League goals in as many games since joining Madrid in 2009.
However, he had been on his longest European goal drought for Los Blancos having failed to score in six Champions League games before the first leg last week.
Real fans were quick to make their feelings known as the 32-year-old produced an error-strewn first-half display.
It is not the first time the Bernabeu natives have booed Ronaldo and he grew increasingly desperate to find the net with a series of wild efforts, including at one point ignoring strike partner Karim Benzema to go for goal himself, infuriating the home crowd.
“The only thing I ask is that they don’t boo me because I give my best in every game,” Ronaldo said afterwards.
He had already made his point with a hush gesture by pointing his finger to his lips after heading home his opening goal.
“Maybe they will not whistle him any more,” Zidane said hopefully.
Tellingly, Madrid’s run of seven semi-finals have come in the eight seasons since Ronaldo joined from Manchester United.
Previously, Real had been eliminated in the last 16 for six straight years.
Ronaldo hailed Zidane’s repeated brave decisions to rest him throughout the course of the campaign for his upturn in form at the most crucial part of the season.
“Like I said after the first game against Bayern, I have worked hard to try and be on top form come the end of the season,” Ronaldo told UEFA.com.
“That is something I have been struggling to do the last three or four years because I played every minute.”
Madrid fans will miss him when he is gone.
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