On This Day in 2005: Ronaldinho Earns Standing Ovation From Real Madrid Fans at Santiago Bernabéu

?The rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona is well-documented. Real fans will boo you if you went to Barcelona on holiday as a child, let alone if you actually play for La Blaugrana.

So why, on 19 November 2005, did Ronaldinho receive a standing ovation from the Santiago Bernabéu after scoring against Real in Barcelona’s 3-0 win? 

Easy. That’s because they had just witnessed something truly spectacular.


At the time, ?Barcelona sat second in ?La Liga, just one point ahead of ?Real. After an inconsistent start to the season which had seen them drop as low as 11th, Ronaldinho had found his best form once more and fired them back up the table.

Throughout the first half, the Ballon d’Or winner was his typically dangerous self. When in possession, Real could get nowhere near him as he weaved and bobbed his way into the box with terrifying ease.

A ludicrous no-look pass should have led to a goal from Samuel Eto’o, but the Cameroonian did open the scoring soon after. Eto’o ran to the Real director’s box to point at the badge on his shirt, reminding his former side where his loyalties lay these days.

Real fans were riled up. They were furious at everything to do with Barcelona. However, after the break, Ronaldinho took over and changed their minds.

Around the hour mark, the Brazilian picked the ball up on the halfway line. He embarked on a trademark run forwards, skipping past ?Sergio Ramos like he wasn’t even there. Finding a gap between two defenders in the box, Ronaldinho left Iván Helguera for dead and wrong-footed Iker Casillas to fire home. 

This was Ronaldinho’s world. Everyone else was simply living in it.

Ronaldinho

The moment of the match came 17 minutes later, and it was always a carbon copy of Ronaldinho’s first effort. 

Ramos was powerless to stop the Brazilian maestro once more as he breezed into the box, before slotting underneath Casillas to make it 3-0. Everything which we have been told is difficult to do, Ronaldinho was doing without even breaking a sweat.

Real’s defence didn’t often get torn apart, so fans knew they were watching something special. As a mark of their respect, thousands stood up to give Ronaldinho the round of applause which he deserved, in what was one of the most powerful moments in football history.

Ronaldinho

Two weeks later, Ronaldinho was awarded the Ballon d’Or, and few had any complaints with that decision.

His brilliance helped steer Barcelona to La Liga and ?Champions League glory that year, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest to ever play the game.


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Spain 5-0 Romania: Report, Ratings & Reaction as La Furia Roja Secure Top Seeding in Style

A rampant Spain side guaranteed themselves a top seeding for Euro 2020 with a comfortable 5-0 victory at the Wanda Metropolitano on Monday night.

The hosts looked in the mood right from the off and had a Jose Gaya goal ruled out for a foul before Alvaro Morata and Santi Cazorla went close.

Fabian Ruiz then opened the scoring on just seven minutes with his first international goal after Ciprian Tatarusanu couldn’t keep out Dani Carvajal’s stinging drive.

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Despite being thoroughly outplayed, Romania then had a chance to equalise when Reading striker George Puscas fired straight at Kepa Arrizabalaga after an Inigo Martinez mistake. The visitors also saw a decent shout for a penalty turned down before the floodgates opened.

Gerard Moreno netted his first of the night by delicately heading in the majestic Santi Cazorla’s cross before finishing off a sumptuous team move to add his second and Spain’s third. 

Things then went from bad to worse for Romania as Adrian Rus diverted the Villareal forward’s cross into his own net to make it 4-0 before half time. Spain then coasted through the second half before substitute Mikel Oyazarbal rounded off the scoring in injury time.

Here’s 90min’s review of the game.


SPAIN

Key Talking Point

While the ability of Spain’s world class midfield to continually create chances against any team is not in question, whether they have an equally talented centre forward to finish them has been more of a contentious issue.

Robert Moreno has not been afraid to try different options in the role throughout his short tenure in charge but he’s thus far failed to find a player willing to take the role by the scruff of the neck.

Alvaro Morata has filled the position for most of this qualifying campaign, but still does not look clinical enough to win a tournament while Rodrigo is not really a natural striker. Paco Alcacer is only a bit part player at Borussia Dortmund, and Diego Costa and Iago Aspas may well have missed the boat on the international stage.

However, in Gerard Moreno they may well have just found the man they were looking for. At 27 years old, he may have come slightly late to the international stage – but he is more than making up for lost time and has been involved in six goals in his three international caps so far.

The Villarreal forward also has eight goals in 13 games in La Liga this season, and with Santi Cazorla, Fabian Ruiz, Sergio Busquets, Saul Niguez, Dani Ceballos and many, many more all competing to create chances for the Spain side, you would back him to get many more in the coming matches.

Robert Moreno may have found the missing piece of the jigsaw in his namesake ahead of Euro 2020 next summer. If Gerard continues this form, Spain will definitely be among the favourites.


Player Ratings

Alvaro Morata,Santi Cazorla,Saul Niguez

Starting XI: Kepa (7); Carvajal (6), Ramos (7), Martinez (5), Gaya (7); Busquets (6), Fabian (7), Saul (6); Moreno (8), Morata (6), Cazorla (9*)
?
?Substitutes: Oyarzabal (6), Albiol (6), Alcacer (N/A)


STAR PLAYER – 

Nicolae Stanciu,Santi Cazorla

At 34 years of age, Santi Cazorla is the Peter Pan of football. The little magician pulled the strings from the right wing, getting an assist for Moreno’s first, and generally running the game before going off in the 68th minute.

He almost scored a wonderful goal as well, chopping back onto his right foot after feinting to shoot on his left, before curling onto the bar from just inside the box.

After two years out injured it would have been easy to write off the former Arsenal man, but his comeback since rejoining Villarreal last summer has been stunning.

He is – fitness permitting – nailed on to get a seat on the plane for Euro 2020, and with the Gunners’ current midfield woes, fans will be asking what might have been.


ROMANIA

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Tatarusanu (4); Benzar (5), Rus (3), Nedelcearu (4), Tosca (5); Baluta (5), Marin (6); Hagi (6), Stanciu (6), Coman (5); Puscas (4)

Substitutes: Mirita (5), Cicaldau (5), Nistor (5)


Looking Ahead

Spain will now look ahead to November 30 when they find out which nations they’ll be sharing Group E with at Euro 2020. 

They will go into the draw as a top seed, and therefore will most likely avoid a tough group. Following the draw, the RFEF (Spanish FA) will start looking for suitable opponents to play in friendlies which will be announced in due course.

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Gareth Bale Says ‘Euphoria’ of 2016 Drives Wales Forward as Ryan Giggs’ Side Aim for Euro 2020

Gareth Bale has said Wales are looking to use the ‘euphoria’ they experienced during their first ever European Championship campaign back in 2016, as well as the disappointment of missing out on the last World Cup, as they attempt to take the final step towards qualification for Euro 2020. 

Bale’s side face Hungary in Cardiff on Tuesday knowing a win or a draw will be enough to take them to a second successive Euros, having ran as far as the semi-finals before losing out to Belgium in a fairytale story four years ago. 

They followed that up with an unsuccessful World Cup campaign in 2018, in which they lost out to the Republic of Ireland, but ?Bale says the positive memories of 2016 – coupled with the harsh lessons learned two years later – puts them in the ideal mental state, ahead of a huge game for his side. 

Gareth Bale,Borna Barisic

“I think we can use both of [the experiences] to our advantage,” the ?Real Madrid star said, as quoted by the ?BBC

“We have got the kind of euphoria of qualifying for our first Euros and doing so well at the competition that we really want to do that again.

“We’ve also got the negatives of knowing how it feels to miss out on qualifying for a tournament like we did with the World Cup.

“Looking back on that [Republic of Ireland match] now I think we can use that as a positive.

Gareth Bale,Luka Modric

“We can see how we don’t want to feel after the game. We know prior to this game we can push and push not to feel like that again, because it’s not a feeling you want in the dressing room after the game.”

A win over Azerbaijan, courtesy of goals from Kieffer Moore and Harry Wilson, was enough to put Wales on the verge of qualification, though victory is essential in order to turn dreams into reality.


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Algeria Boss Not Interested in Karim Benzema After Striker Asks France to Let Him Play Elsewhere

?Algeria head coach Djamel Belmadi has revealed he is not interested in Karim Benzema joining his side, after the striker stressed his hopes of playing for another national team.

The Real Madrid star, who is of Algerian descent, was hoping to make a comeback in his international career by joining Belmadi’s squad after his time with France ended in 2015, following a scandal with the team.

He has ?publically tussled with French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet, who again reiterated the national team’s stance on Benzema, insisting the Real striker will not feature again for Les Bleus.

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However, Belmadi has made it clear that Benzema has no place in his Algerian side, having won the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year with the players he currently possesses.

“I have (Baghdad) Bounedjah, Islam (Slimani), (Andy) Delort, (Hillal) Soudani. I’m very happy with the players I have,” Belmadi told Algerian football website DZFoot, as quoted by the ?Mail Online.

The forward expressed his interest in kickstarting his international football career once more by taking to social media and addressing FFF boss Le Graet, claiming his eligibility to play for different countries.

Karim Benzema

Writing on Twitter, he declared: “Noel, I thought you weren’t interfering with the coach’s decisions! I want you to know that I and I alone would end my international career. If you think I’m finished, let me play for one of the countries that I’m eligible for and we’ll see.”

Benzema hasn’t played for France since 2015, when he was arrested for his alleged role in the extortion and blackmailing of compatriot and teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

The Madrid forward has been fighting to clear his name ever since, but he has remained frozen out of the national team squad altogether.

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“There’s really something wrong with him…it’s all part of his story,” Benzema previously told French newspaper L’Equipe in 2017.

“For more than a year-and-a-half I’m his worst enemy, a bad guy, a thug, I have to be punished, dragged in the mud, my name and that of my family, in the dirt.

“I am his enemy, I wanted to take money from him – he really has to stop inventing, it makes me mad he keeps on lying! Sex tape? He just had to tell the truth about what really happened.”

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John Obi Mikel Labels Former Chelsea Team-Mate Eden Hazard as the Laziest Player He Ever Played With

Former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel has labelled Eden Hazard the ‘laziest player’ he has ever played alongside, while also recognising the Belgian’s ‘incredible’ talent. 

Mikel made 372 appearances for Chelsea between 2006 and 2017, spending five years as a teammate of Hazard’s – the duo winning two Premier Leagues and a Europa League together before the former departed for China. 

Now plying his trade for Trabzonspor in Turkey, Mikel remains comfortably best remembered for his time at Stamford Bridge, while Hazard – struggling to adapt to life at ?Real Madrid at present – can also say he played his best football at ?Chelsea.

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The Belgian scored 110 goals and registered 92 assists in 352 appearances for the Blues, and while Mikel recognises this was a result of his near-unparalleled talent, it didn’t stop him highlighting the forward’s ‘laziness’ in training.

?“The laziest player I have played alongside is Eden Hazard,” he told beIN Sports Turkey, later quoted by ?Sky Sports.

“Hazard has an incredible talent, maybe not as good as Messi, but he can do whatever he wants with the ball at his feet.

“He didn’t like to train hard. While we were working he was waiting for us to finish training just standing there. But on Sundays he was always man of the match, it was unbelievable.”

Eden Hazard,Abdoulaye Doucoure

When asked to note the hardest working player he has ever played alongside, there was little doubt in Mikel’s mind, as he bluntly answered ‘Frank Lampard.’

Mikel often partnered the current manager in the middle of the park, and as such will likely not be surprised at the success Lampard is enjoying in the dugout at present. 

Unable to replace Hazard due to a registration embargo, youth prospects such as Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James and Fikayo Tomori have taken centre-stage, as Chelsea have won eight of their first 12 Premier League games under Lampard, while remaining on track to make the ?Champions League round of 16. 


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