Ronaldo scores at the death to rescue Bale-less Real Madrid

The Portuguese striker was so excited at snatching a late winner that he lost his shirt.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, right and topless, is congratulated by teammate Jese Rodriguez.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, right and topless, is congratulated by teammate Jese Rodriguez.
Image: AP Photo/Alberto Saiz

REAL MADRID SALVAGED their faltering title hopes with two goals in stoppage time to win 3-2 away at Levante. With Gareth Bale once again omitted through injury it was left to Cristiano Ronaldo to rescue three points for Los Blancos.

After a flat first-half from the visitors, Baba Diawara fired the hosts into a deserved lead 12 minutes after the break. Sergio Ramos levelled four minutes later for Carlo Ancelotti’s men, but Nabil El Zhar looked to have clinched all three points for Joaquin Caparros’ men when he finished brilliantly four minutes from time.

However, substitute Alvaro Morata slotted home the equaliser as the game entered stoppage time and Ronaldo’s effort deflected in off the inside of the post with virtually the last kick of the game to hand Madrid victory.

YouTube credit: CrownMessi

Real were again without world record signing Gareth Bale due to a thigh injury, but Ancelotti did make five changes to the side that had beaten FC Copenhagen 4-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday. The raft of changes certainly seemed to affect the visitors as they made a very slow start.

It took half an hour for Madrid to force Keylor Navas into a save and even when they did the Costa Rican comfortably turned behind Ronaldo’s deflected free-kick.

Baba was the main threat for Levante and the Senegalese was unfortunate when his rasping drive from the edge of the area flew just over moments later.

Luka Modric then had Madrid’s best opening of the half when he skewed wide after his initial effort had been blocked by David Navarro. However, it was the hosts who came closest to opening the scoring just before half-time when another piledriver from Baba this time forced Lopez into a stunning save a minute before the break.

Lopez had to be alert again at the start of the second period to turn Pape Diop’s fierce effort from outside the area over. Ronaldo then clipped the outside of the post as the game became increasingly stretched. With their next attack Levante caught Madrid short at the back on the counter-attack as Jordi Xumetra’s floated cross was swept home by Baba at the back post.

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The lead only lasted four minutes as Ramos outmuscled Xumetra to bundle home Angel di Maria’s corner. Navas then parried Karim Benzema’s drive from the edge of the area and Marcelo somehow turned Di Maria’s cut-back over as Madrid piled on the pressure.

Ancelotti threw on young strike duo Morata and Jese Rodriguez in a bid to find a winner. Instead it was Levante who retook the lead on 86 minutes remaining when El-Zhar withheld pressure from a number of Madrid defenders to turn and fire across Lopez into the far corner.

Madrid responded moments later with another equaliser when Jese teed-up Morata to slot low past the helpless Navas.

The comeback was complete deep into added time when Ronaldo received Modric’s pass at the edge of the area and saw his left-footed strike deflect off Juanfran and into the net via the woodwork.

© AFP, 2013

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