Real Madrid obliterated Schalke in the first leg of their last-16 tie, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale all scoring twice
It’s all to play for in the second leg at the Bernabeu! Thanks for reading. Night.
90 min+2: To be clear, the answer to that question is no.
What a goal! Klaas-Jan Huntelaar gives Schalke’s fans something to shout about by watching a ball drop out of the sky and then belting a glorious volley in off the underside of the bar from 18 yards out. Wow. Is the comeback on?
It’s not as if Real need Schalke to gift them goals on a plate. Neustadter loses the ball to Benzema in his own half and the Frenchman quickly knocks it through to Ronaldo. He holds off Matip, skips merrily past Fahrmann and finishes with ease.
88 min: Whistles float around the ground as Ronaldo falls to the ground after being rudely body-checked by Matip. He’s just winded and after a bit of rolling around, he’s soon up again.
86 min: A lightning counter from Real down the left, with Marcelo again rampant. He slides it across to Benzema, who looks set to complete his hat-trick, only for the flag to go up for offside. Fahrmann saved anyway. If Benzema had let the ball run on, Ronaldo would have scored. Tee hee!
84 min: Jese crumples in a heap under a challenge in the area from Santana and looks pleadingly at Howard Webb. The youngster really should know better.
81 min: All around Cristiano Ronaldo, Schalke defenders are sprawled across the floor. But amazingly he shoots straight at Fahrmann from 18 yards. He should have had five goals tonight.
80 min: There will be no hat-trick for Gareth Bale tonight - he’s replaced by the promising youngster Jese.
78 min: Schalke have crossed the ball so uselessly and so much I keep having to remind myself they’re not Manchester United.
76 min: Schalke have been down to 10 for a couple of minutes, Kolasinac having injured his jaw. He’s been given a torrid time by Bale but Christian Fuchs has the honour of marking him now.
74 min: A corner for Real on the right. Modric takes it, Bale flicks on at the near post and Ramos heads not too far wide. Meanwhile Asier Illarramendi is on for Alonso.
72 min: On comes Obasi for Farfan.
71 min: Huntelaar reminds everyone of his existence by being booked for a foul on. Incidentally. Here are the first-leg scores from the last 16 ties last year.
Porto 1-0 Malaga
Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2 Borussia Dortmund
Real Madrid 1-1 Manchester United
Galatasaray 1-1 Schalke
Arsenal 1-3 Bayern Munich
Celtic 0-3 Juventus
Milan 2-0 Barcelona
Valencia 1-2 PSG
As you can see, while there were three away victories, only one - Juventus’s at Celtic - made the second leg a dead rubber. Though, of course, that assertion is coloured by the memory of what Arsenal did at Bayern in the second leg, which we weren’t to know would happen at the time. But otherwise, there were no thrashings, merely tight draws or wins for the home side. That said, only two of the sides that finished second in their groups reached the quarters- Galatasaray and Real.
70 min: The Schalke fans are still making a racket.
This is embarrassing. Sergio Ramos lopes forward unchallenged from the park and carves Schalke open with a lovely pass through to Bale on the right. He races through, away from poor Kolasinac, opens up his body and curls a first-time finish past the advancing Fahrmann with his left. Like Benzema, Bale is on a hat-trick.
67 min: Isco replaces Angel Di Maria.
65 min: If Real can be bothered, there are more goals to be scored.
62 min: Howedes is booked for an incompetent foul on Marcelo.
60 min: Real are playing Atletico on the weekend, so we could see Ancelotti bring a few of his big hitters off in preparation for the derby - not that this match is more taxing than a training session.
59 min: Schalke replace Boateng with Goretzka. That’ll do it.
In the stands, you can spot a few Schalke fans laughing and shaking their heads. What else to do? There’s no point getting annoyed, Real are just too good, though life is being made exceedingly easy for them now by their exceedingly hospitable hosts. Benzema dashed inside from the right and laid off to Ronaldo, who lazily flicked the ball back into his path. Benzema had a bit to do but took the ball away from a wheezing Santana, rounded Fahrmann and then rolled the ball into the empty net from a tight angle.
56 min: You know, Schalke look like a perfectly competent side. But that’s not enough at this level.
55 min: Schalke look sorry for themselves and understandably so. Their big night is ruined. Di Maria sashays in from the left and delicately chips a cross to the far post, where Benzema slashes over from a tight angle. The defending was non-existent there.
As I was saying. This is absurd. Schalke were caught horribly short at the back as Real countered again. Bale cut in from the right and found Ronaldo to his left. Ronaldo was one-on-one with Matip and an array of stepovers left the defender with twisted blood, soul, spirit, arms, legs and balls. It looked like Ronaldo had forced himself a bit wide but let’s not be silly - he just let rip with his left foot, absolutely battering the ball past Fahrmann and into the far corner. Have some of that.
51 min: Real have been a bit sloppy at the start of this half, taking too long with their passes and generally giving the ball away too easily.
49 min: Looking at the Bale goal again, by the way, there’s a hint of Santana’s last-ditch tackle knocking it against Bale’s foot - not to take anything away from the finish.
47 min: This, at least, is encouraging for Schalke. Boateng takes a touch and then pings one goalwards from 25 yards. Casillas dives to his left and palms it away. The ball is eventually worked to Meyer in the area, Marcelo failing to clear, but he elects for an air-shot rather than a shot.
46 min: Here we go again. 45 minutes more misery for Schalke to go.
I’m not sure there’s much point playing the rest of this tie. The gulf in class is wider than a character in a Guy Ritchie film.
45 min+1: Schalke are going to lose, we know this, but at least they can derive pleasure from winding up Ronaldo, who is getting irritated at his failure to score. He has failed to take three chances. Here’s the third: He was slipped through by a deft touch from Benzema but once again Fahrmann saved with his feet, much to Ronaldo’s obvious annoyance. Ho ho.
45 min: There will be one more minute.
44 min: Real should be out of sight. Marcelo, who has been granted the freedom of the left and quite possibly the city, sends a cross to the far post. A sliding Benzema, though, turns it over the bar from close range. One of those that arrived at his feet quite sharply and found him on the stretch, meaning he couldn’t control his effort.
43 min: Bale’s precise low cross from the left is just about cleared by Santana with Real players queuing up behind him to apply the finishing touch.
40 min: The free-kick is slightly to the left, around 25 yards out. Ronaldo begins that familiar run-up but fires straight into the wall. The ball rebounds to him on the volley, and a fierce effort is deflected wide. I wonder if Ronaldo buys lottery tickets.
39 min: Ronaldo is left in a heap by Boateng, who had been left dizzy by the Portuguese’s stepovers. Real have a free-kick in Ronaldo Territory.
37 min: Ronaldo is getting closer. Real pick off Schalke again, Ronaldo streaking clear on the left after the Germans had been pulled apart by some intricate passing in midfield. He was slightly wide but shot anyway with his left foot, forcing Fahrmann to divert the ball over the bar with his feet.
36 min: As good as Real have been going forward, their defence is suspect. After all, Schalke could easily have scored at least once and Farfan has just fluffed another presentable chance. He instigated this move with a burst on the right. He then played a one-two with Howedes but completely miskicked when presented with a clear sight of goal.
35 min: Draxler, an undignified tissue stuffed up his nostril, is back on.
33 min: Schalke are down to 10 men while Julian Draxler gets treatment for a bloody nose.
32 min: Cristiano Ronaldo hits the post. Real broke at terrifying speed after a Schalke attack fizzled out. Di Maria drifted a pass out to the right to Ronaldo, who was one-on-one with a furiously backtracking Matip, who would rather have been anywhere else in the world than forced to deal with this situation. In the end, all he could do was flail and flounder in the face of a bewitching Ronaldo stepover - but having worked the space for the shot from the edge of the area, Ronaldo drilled a low one past Farhmann and against the base of the right post, the ball rebounding back into the arms of the relieved Schalke goalkeeper.
30 min: Manchester United are the only away team not to score in the last 16.
29 min: Marcelo, on the overlap, wins a corner for Real. Before it’s taken, Di Maria is booked for an earlier foul. He gets over the disappointment to take the corner and his delivery slithers right the way through the six-yard box, Schalke’s defence a hapless mess. The ball is eventually hacked clear.
27 min: The state of these last 16 ties, though. With the exception of David Moyes’s recordbreakers, they’re all going the way of the group winners.
26 min: This is going to be a rout. Di Maria diddles inside from the left, reaching the edge of the area. He tries to slide a pass through to Ronaldo but he’s offside. “Bob Paisley?” says Gary Naylor. “Charm? Depends, as PG Wodehouse remarked about shooting, on which end of the gun you find yourself. How about this zinger? “This is the second time I’ve beaten the Germans here... the first time was in 1944. I drove into Rome on a tank when the city was liberated.” Now that’s mindgames.”
23 min: Bale is bang in the mood now. Now he has a dig from 25 yards but his effort whistles over. Worryingly for Schalke, Ronaldo hasn’t scored yet. And he will.
22 min: And how big that Julian Draxler miss looks now.
Sure, this was oafish defending from Felipe Santana, but pure genius from Gareth Bale and this tie may already be over. What a goal, though. What. A. Goal. There looked to be no danger when a harmless pass was pumped up the right flank. The matter should have ended there. Instead Santana faffed around and allowed Benzema to nip in. Santana then nodded off and allowed Benzema to prod a pass inside to Bale, who suddenly had a huge amount of space to run into. He still had a lot to do, though. Faced by Santana, he dropped a shoulder and ducked back from his left to right. Kolasinac then tried to stop him but why bother? Even though it looked like the ball was going to get stuck under his feet, he kept zigzagging through and then, as Santana lunged in the area, Bale somehow stabbed a beautiful shot inside Fahrmann’s near post from 15 yards out. Good lord. So that’s what you get for £86m.
19 min: Modric slips a gorgeous pass inside Kolainac, releasing Carvajal on the right. However his cross is appalling. “I just wish he still played for Spurs, oh we miss him so,” weeps Gabriel Harry, dreaming of the days when Tottenham had Gareth Bale instead of Andros Townsend rampaging down the flanks.
17 min: “Regarding your mention of the stadium, underneath the pitch is stored the beer, all 52,000 litres of it (and a 5km pipeline to serve it up.) ,” says Sebastian Welton. “During Schalke games its Veltins but when the national team play then its changed to whoever is the sponsor, sometimes Krombacher. So what do they do with the beer in the tanks, well all the locals from Gelsenkirchen used to go up with plastic bottles and the like and it was given away, not too sure if they still do that though...”
15 min: Di Maria, an unlikely hatchet man, is booked for a filthy reducer on Boateng.
14 min: What a save! What a miss! Incredible! How are Schalke not level? This is unbelievable. What an astonishing sequence of football this was. This really should have been the equaliser - and yet. Farfan romped forward from midfield, breaking behind Real’s defence on the right. He then hooked a cross into the six-yard box from the byline and a slight deflection took it into the path of Draxler, who was no more than four yards out, right in front of goal. I shouted GOAL! And the net never billowed. Instead Draxler was too casual with his cushioned finish and Casillas somehow made himself big enough to parry it out! But only as far as Meyer - I think - who blootered the rebound over the bar. My word!
And there we go. The commentator on Sky was just talking about how Bale hasn’t really seen much of the ball yet, which turned out to be a mistake. Instantly he was in possession on the right. Bale quickstepped past his marker, before driving inside, ominously on to that fearsome left foot. However instead of shooting he played a pass inside to Ronaldo, who was in the D with his back to goal. He tried a backheel, possibly intended for Bale, but it hit the unwitting Santana and deflected through to Benzema. He was onside and he swept a confident, firm finish past Fahrmann with his right foot.
11 min: Real look to release Benzema again. The ball skips away from him, though, and Farhmann gathers. Schalke then have a couple of sorties down the right flank. First Boateng sweeps a cross into the area from the right, leading to a hurried clearance from Ramos, before another cross this time finds Boateng in the middle. His header loops straight at Casillas, however. This has been a promising start from both sides actually, all the makings of an enjoyable game, but one that Real are probably going to win.
10 min: The crowd roars as Matip steams in to dispossess Ronaldo on the halfway line. They enjoyed that.
9 min: Schalke are finding themselves pinned back. Marcelo finds space on the left but his cross is blocked. He gets another chance. This time he seeks out Ronaldo on the right but he can’t gather the ball after controlling it on his chest.
8 min: Real continue to stroke the ball around midfield, without really going anywhere. Who do they think they are? Barcelona? Don’t tell them I said that. But Schalke are struggling to maintain possession and get out of their half.
7 min: Real are dominating possession in these early stages, as you’d expect of a team dressed like the Dutch. Presumably it’s in tribute to Madrid legend Johan Cruyff. “What more can you ask for?” says Paul Ewart of Carlo Ancelotti. “Good football, winning, little controversy, charm. The great Bob Paisley won without fuss too. Isn’t there a rather obvious conclusion? You don’t have to be an arse to succeed. You should, perhaps also mention the unceremonious dismissal of his assistant whilst at Chelsea. That’s when things started to go seriously wrong.”
6 min: Bale hasn’t touched the ball yet. Dearie me, what a waste of money, Wales’ shame. “So Gareth Bale did what every footballer should do?” says Gabriel Harry. “Just leave the club that nurtured them for the bigger club? Maybe all good players should just request to be transferred to Barca Real or Bayern? You’d like that wouldn’t you Jacob, YOU’D LIKE THAT.” I’ll level with you, I’m not entirely sure what you’re on about here.
4 min: Marcelo pings a pass over the top from deep, looking for Ronaldo down the inside-left channel. He would be through on goal - there’s no catching this guy - but the flag goes up for offside. Incorrectly. Oh England! Moments later, Schalke are carved open again, Benzema played through by Di Maria. Again the flag goes up, this time correctly. But Schalke might want to re-evaluate that high line. They won’t get away with it for long, trust me, that’s a Steinberg Guarantee and you can take that to the bank.
2 min: Welcome to Germany, Cristiano. He receives the ball on the halfway line and is immediately flattened from behind, a zesty reducer from Howedes. Ronaldo dusts himself down and grins. They’ll have to do better than that to stop him.
And we’re off! A zesty toot of Howard Webb’s whistle and it’s full steam ahead. Schalke, in blue shirts and white shorts, get the ball rolling, kicking from right to left in the first half. Real Madrid are dressed as Holland - which must be troubling for Xabi Alonso - and they’re on the back foot immediately, Boateng winning a corner on the right. And, would you believe it, Real are all over the place when the ball is flung into the box! Howedes is unmarked around 12 yards and guides a header just past the far post!
And here come the teams, walking out into a boisterous Veltins Arena. A stadium named after beer - gotta love those crazy Germans. There are a lot of camera flashes going off. And flags. There are a lot of flags.
“Bale,” begins Simon McMahon. “Yeah but is he happy?”
I’m still staggered that anyone could choose to leave Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspurs and join Real Madrid. Imagine such a thing!
Gareth Bale, then.
Schalke: Fahrmann; Howedes, Matip, Felipe Santana, Kolasinac; Boateng, Neustadter; Farfan, Meyer, Draxler; Huntelaar. Subs: Hildebrand, Hoogland, Goretzka, Papadopoulos, Obasi Ogbuke, Fuchs, Szalai.
Real Madrid: Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Alonso, Di Maria; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo. Subs: Diego Lopez, Varane, Fabio Coentrao, Arbeloa, Jese, Isco, Illarramendi.
Referee: Howard Webb (HER MAJESTY’S FINEST)
Hello. With the notable exception of “Piers” and “Morgan”, there is a strong case to be made that no two words in the English language are more annoying when placed next to each other than “yeah” and “but”, its glass half-empty usage by expert pedants making it so. You know the type, the people who look down your school report, see 10 As and then say “yeah, but what about the B in woodwork?” Or maybe they’ll see this solo effort from Lionel Messi goal in 2007, nod their heads as if they’ve fully understood what they’ve just watched and then say “yeah, but it was only Getafe”, at which point it really should be legal for you to start windmilling. Other than that, you can bury your face in a pillow and scream. Thing is, these people are the deep thinkers of our time. Come up with the most watertight argument of all time, have you, one that leaves no room for manoeuvre? Yeah, but have you considered it from this angle? I am clever. Yeah, but I am cleverer. Yeah. But. Yeahbut. Yerbut. The words don’t even carry the unique charm of a Larry David Eh. Yeah, but they can be an effective weapon.
Just ask Carlo Ancelotti, who has been on the end of more yerbuttals than he would care to remember, a manager whose precise quality is extremely difficult to ascertain. Such as:
And so on and so forth. It’s a conundrum: Ancelotti is a talented manager. But how talented? An intrinsically good man, the Italian belongs to an elite list of managers to have won the Champions League twice and now that he’s at Real Madrid, there’s a strong chance that he’ll be winning it again. If he does, it will mean two things. Firstly, he would become only the fifth ever manager to win it with two clubs, gaining entry to a club that currently only counts Mourinho, Jupp Heynckes, Ernst Happel and Ottmar Hitzfeld as its members. But more importantly, it would mean that he would join Bob Paisley as the only managers to have won the European Cup three times. He would be top of the pile - above Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sam Allardici - and it is guaranteed that there would be people left scratching their heads, wondering how that’s happened, wondering exactly what it is that Ancelotti is good at, wondering if he’s a genius or if he’s just been winging it all these years. Perhaps the secret is in that intrinsic goodblokeness. There doesn’t seem to be much ego to him, his teams mostly play attractive football and he doesn’t really fall out with people; he just takes everything in his stride and goes off to have a nice lunch at an excellent Italian restaurant - there is no doubt that out of the all managers in the world, Ancelotti would be the best dinner companion. You would learn a lot about fine wine.
This could be the season, then. Ancelotti might have seen Mesut Ozil and Gonzalo Higuain leave last summer, but he also saw Gareth Bale join up with Cristiano Ronaldo, and while there were doubts about whether the Bernabeu would be big enough to contain their egos, the pair have been getting on famously. Real are top of La Liga. Any side with Bale and Ronaldo, holder of the Ballon d’Or, are formidable opponents, even if Karim Benzema has rarely convinced that he is a elite striker and the defence isn’t up to much. After a difficult start, Bale has hit peak form and teams now know that it’s not just Ronaldo who can unlock stubborn defences with preposterous 30-yard howitzers, driving, slaloming runs and wobblicious free-kicks. Not many teams will relish playing this lot. But we have been here before with Madrid - it is 12 years since they were European champions. They have not even reached a final since then.
Real also don’t enjoy their trips to Germany much. It is not just that they have endured semi-final defeats to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the past two seasons, but also that they have not won a competitive match in Germany since 2000. They have drawn twice and lost 9 times in their past 11 visits. So will Schalke fancy their chances of pulling off a major surprise tonight? Yeahbut. While they have recovered from a poor start to the season to rise to fourth in the Bundesliga and have some useful players such as Julian Draxler, Prince and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, their manager, Jens Keller, doesn’t give them much hope. He thinks they need a miracle and when you think of PSG slicing and dicing Bayer Leverkusen, second in the Bundesliga, you can see why. For Bale and Ronaldo, it promises to be a case of anything Zlatan can finally be bothered do in the knock-out stages of the Champions League, we can also do if everything goes to plan. Catchy.