When he won his fifth Ballon d’Or recently he said he was the best in history. Some of his critics laughed, but for trophies won and important goals scored Ronaldo continues to make his case regardless. This was his seventh goal in a Club World Cup game equalling Pele’s haul in the competition’s predecessor, the Intercontinental Cup.
He continues to lead his team to silverware. Real Madrid’s record in finals is also very special – last ten finals played, all won.
Speaking after the match, Ronaldo, who has now scored eight goals in his last eight games said:
‘Zidane told us before the game that Madrid had never won five trophies in one year so that is what we wanted to do.’
Ronaldo was given a cynical welcome-to-the-game after a foul by Pedro Geromel inside the first five minutes but he very much had the last laugh to decide the game.
That early scare left him with stud-marks but he was soon flashing his first shot just wide of Marcelo Grohe’s goal.
Madrid had started well. Luka Modric worked his magic down the left and when his cross went out for a corner, Toni Kroos’ kick was headed down by Raphael Varane and almost turned in by Ronaldo.
Casemiro then went to ground with a late challenge on Luan and it earned him the first yellow of the game. Madrid were aggrieved after seeing there had been no yellow for the foul on Ronaldo.
Ederson took the free-kick. It was a long way out and his very long run up sent him as far back as the centre-cirle but although his shot was well hit it did not trouble Keylor Navas.
Gremio were improving and the dangerous Ramiro Benetti was threatening down the left. He had one fine run and cross that ended with Marcelo heading away the danger.
Ronaldo sent a free-kick narrowly over just before the break. And both he and Karim Benzema missed chances. It was all set up for Bale to play a decisive part in the second half. Modric was running midfield, Madrid just needed someone to finish up-front.
At the restart the game turned in the space of a minute. There was a clumsy challenge from Ramos on Ramiro that the Mexican referee Cesar Ramos could easily have given as a penalty.
He waved away appeals and Ronaldo went straight down the other end and won a free-kick, scoring straight through Gremio’s awful excuse for a wall to make it 1-0. Ronaldo deserved his goal. His first shot of the second half had been sliced closer to the corner flag than the goal but his head never drops. And after his goal he could have doubled the lead immediately when he had the ball in the net only for the flag to be raised in error.
It was Ronaldo’s first free-kick goal since January but it had surely won the trophy for Madrid.