Cristiano Ronaldo netted twice for Real Madrid in Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final win over Bayern Munich and, in doing so, edged further ahead of Lionel Messi in the race to become the tournament’s first centurion.
The Portuguese international’s second-half double in Los Blancos’ 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena moved him to 97 goals in Europe’s premier cup competition (excluding the play-off rounds), three ahead of his Argentine rival, who failed to register as Barcelona suffered a 3-0 loss at Juventus the night before.
When the season began, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Ronaldo would become the first player to rack up 100 Champions League goals. Although it was Lionel Messi who had broken Raul’s record (71), in 2014, Ronaldo had stormed past his great rival by netting 16 times during Madrid’s triumph last season.
That had taken the former Manchester United man to 93 goals in the Champions League proper, 10 ahead of Messi. However, while Ronaldo had a relatively quiet to start to Madrid’s bid for a 12th European Cup triumph, netting just twice in six group-stage appearances, Messi caught fire again.
The No.10 kicked off his campaign with three of Barcelona’s seven goals in their demolition of Celtic at Camp Nou to take outright possession of the Champions League hat-tricks record that he had shared with Ronaldo.
Messi bagged another treble (his fifth in tournament history) in his next outing, against Manchester City, before scoring again in the return leg at the Etihad. Then, after a double at Celtic Park, and a solitary strike against Borussia Monchengladbach on matchday six, Messi moved to 93 goals, just two behind Ronaldo.
Unusually, both men failed to score when the Champions League resumed after the winter break, with Messi even failing to get a shot on target as Barcelona were sensationally routed 4-0 by Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes.
However, whereas Ronaldo was shut out again as Real defeated Napoli 3-1 at the San Paolo, Messi converted a penalty in Barca’s stunning 6-1 victory over PSG to draw to within one Champions League goal of his great rival.
In doing so, Messi also equalled Ronaldo’s record of 11 converted penalties in the Champions League. Of course, of greater significance was the fact that Barca became the first side in tournament history to overturn a four-goal first leg-deficit.
However, despite Messi’s best efforts, Barca are facing elimination again, after slumping to a 3-0 loss in the first leg of their quarter-final clash with Juventus. Real, by contrast, look well placed to progress thanks to Ronaldo’s double at the Allianz Arena, which means he is now just three goals away from becoming the first man to reach 100 goals in the Champions League outright.