CHAMPIONS LEAGUE | COPENHAGEN 0-2 REAL MADRID
Madrid rip up the record books on their way to the last 16
Luka Modric opened the scoring in the first half and Ronaldo sewed up the three points with his ninth goal of the campaign, but missed a spot-kick late on.
Madrid strolled into the Parken Stadion with the confidence of a team that both felt and knew they were superior to their opponents. They were professional, dedicated to the task at hand and thorough, because there are some nights you just feel like playing football, whether you’re in Timbuktu or Copenhagen. The hosts helped the occasion, because they put up as much a fight as they could, and the home fans also contributed, singing non-stop throughout the game. Everything went right, and an essentially pointless match became meaningful.
Right now it’s easy to say that Ancelotti did the right thing in fielding a first choice team: this is the Champions League, the club’s prestige was at stake, as was a million euros, and Europe was watching. However, with the tackles flying about, several of which hit Xabi Alonso, there was the risk of a player getting needlessly injured. Cristiano also fell to the floor following a challenge which would have cut down several trees. In the end it was Modric who came out bruised. Let’s hope it’s not anything serious.
The hosts, however, came out with all guns blazing, or at least tried to. With 12 minutes gone the first sign of danger arrived, an effort from Icelandic striker Gislason, an interesting player. Madrid responded immediately with a flicked header from Bale which signalled that Madrid were not going to lose control of the game any longer.
Ancelotti’s side deserve credit for having the patience to pre-heat the oven before they started cooking. Modric got things going with a formidable goal, controlling the ball from Isco with his left-foot, losing a defender with a drag back and then rolling the ball onto his right to shoot high into the net. It’s the goal every midfielder dreams of scoring, the type that only comes off in training sessions. If Modric were more consistent, more influential and more intense he would be a fundamental and impeccable footballer. But he also wouldn’t be Modric.
Madrid grew in stature to the point that the crowd, for a moment or two, forgot to sing and instead looked on in amazement. Then we realised this would not be a happy occasion unless Cristiano got on the score-sheet. That was all the team were playing for too, which says a lot about the quality, or lack thereof, of the group. After several attempts, Cristiano scored. It was a move started by Marcelo, and assisted by the head of Pepe. It was not an extraordinary goal, but it was significant - Madrid’s 800th goal in the European Cup and Cristiano’s 60th in the competition, which puts him level with Van Nistelrooy, five away from Messi and 11 behind Raúl. It was also the ninth he has scored this season, more than any player has scored in a Champions League group stage.
Cristiano celebrated the goal with the enthusiasm and anger that defines his unrelenting ambition – there is always a statistic that excited him, a record that motivates him, another frontier to cross. It’s possible that this anxiety overcame him later on, when he was awarded a penalty in the final minutes of the game. He was so confident he struck the ball softly down the middle, and the Copenhagen goalkeeper Wiland punched it clear with his left hand. The photograph will hang on his living room wall for the next 30 years. The crowd, delighted with the achievement, began singing again.