The video you’re about to see shows a neat little Real Madrid sequence capped by a deceptively difficult Cristiano Ronaldo finish. But the goal itself isn’t what we’re here for. What we are here for is all the swag dripping off the Portuguese forward after he scores.
You wouldn’t really gather it from watching how coolly Ronaldo struts to the corner flag after giving Real a 3-1 lead over Valencia, and the insouciant, tongue-accentuated smirk on his face as he wheels around for his trademark spinning goal celebration, but there was real tension before that score. The game was literally a must-win for Real to stay in the running for a La Liga title. A draw or a loss would’ve see them out of the three-team race at the top of the table, and wouldn’t have been a good omen for their impending Champions League final, either.
Real jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but the match wasn’t ever as comfortable as the scoreline made it appear. A shocking João Cancelo miss kept Valencia from the equalizer they deserved when the game was at 1-0, and Benzema was correctly ruled offside by the linesman on Real’s second goal, only for the head ref to overturn the decision. When former Real youth teamer Rodrigo pulled the visitors within one in the 55th minute, it felt like Valencia might kill Madrid’s title hopes for good.
Just a few minutes later, Ronaldo waltzed through the center of Valencia’s defense and spanked the above shot past the keeper, reasserting a lead Real wouldn’t give up. After scoring, Ronaldo’s face was of a man totally unperturbed by a potential collapse he had no intention of letting happen. (Well, with more than a little assistance from the ref; on top of the head-scratching offside reversal, the ref later sent off Rodrigo right after Valencia grabbed their second goal for the apparently unforgivable offense of calling the ref a “wimp.”) Ronaldo’s face was of a man totally at ease with his body after a recent spell of nagging injuries at the worst part of the season. With his face, Ronaldo said, Yeah, some people think we might lose the league today and the Champions League in a couple weeks, but I’m Motherfucking Cristiano Ronaldo, baby. I got this.
With this win, coupled with Barcelona’s win and Atlético Madrid’s disqualifying loss, it’s now something of a head-to-head showdown between the Blanco and the Blaugrana giants of Spain for the league crown heading into the final round of fixtures on Saturday. If Barcelona win, they’re champions. If Real win and Barça drop points, then the title goes to Madrid.
After that comes the all-Madrid Champions League final. With just a couple breaks, Real Madrid could turn what could’ve been a disaster—and frankly has still been pretty unimpressive—into an unmitigated triumph.
This has been a good season for Ronaldo’s domineering competitiveness, as he—at times, alone—has dragged his group from the brink of calamity to the cusp of glory. Judging from his two goals yesterday, and especially his demeanor after getting the second, he doesn’t expect it to end any time soon.