Red-Handed

This isn’t a dream. Cristiano Ronaldo really did see a red card on his Champions League debut for Juventus. After a consultation with his assistant, Doctor Felix Brych has ruled CR7’s elbow in Jeison Murillo’s face as premeditated. Then, the main culprit proceeded to cry in despair. Strange, considering that this was the 11th early bath in his career. And it’s about time to remember the previous ten:

 

15 May 2004, Birmingham

Final day of the 2003/04 season saw Manchester United visiting Villa Park. Four points behind second-placed Chelsea and thirteen points ahead of Liverpool, Red Devils had no business winning the match while Aston Villa needed the result not worse than Newcastle’s in order to secure themselves the fifth place and UEFA Cup spot.

Ronaldo struck inside just four minutes, bagging a right-footed long shot at the near post to settle all the debates about his teams’ motivation once and for all. Ruud van Nistelrooy effectively ended the match six minutes later and the fans’ focus shifted towards Anfield, where Newcastle soon took the lead, putting themselves in a prime position to surpass Villa.

Meanwhile, Cristiano tried and tried to make a further mark on the match. After few botched shots and decent runs, he dived and got booked 37 minutes into the first half. That yellow didn’t stop him from kicking away the ball after the offside whistle was blown and the referee Rob Styles dismissed the Portuguese forward with 5 minutes left to be played.

14 January 2006, Manchester

Chelsea were already running away with the league title when United, haunted by too many draws, turned up at City of Manchester Stadium to contest a derby with their 9th placed rivals. It was an hour of veterans, as 33-years old Trevor Sinclair scored a half-volleyed opener and 36-years old Darius Vassell doubled City’s first-half lead with a one-on-one finish.

66 minutes in, with the scoreline still 2-0 in favour of the hosts, Ronaldo lunged with his right boot in the air and smashed through Andy Cole’s legs, earning himself an instant red card from the official Steve Bennett. Apparently, that idiotic challenge resulted from CR7’s legs not being protected enough in his earlier, risky clash with City left-back, Stephen Jordan.

Eventually. van Nistelrooy and Robbie Fowler added one goal each in the second half, setting the 3-1 scoreline. Defeated United soon found their A form back, winning nine games in a row, but the gap was already impossible to overcome. Eliminated in a Champions League group stage too, Red Devils had to settle for a tiny League Cup trophy that year.

15 August 2007, Portsmouth

When Premier League computer drew Reading and Portsmouth as MUFC’s first two opponents for the 2007/08 season, few people expected United to drop four points. Alas -uninspired, goalless home draw with The Royals and the subsequent 1-1 at the south coast have put Alex Ferguson’s team under immediate pressure.

At Fratton Park, Cristiano didn’t have the most impactful game, testing David James on two occasions but hitting his shots straight into the goalkeeper. His frustration ultimately erupted in a late-game spat with Richard Hughes and Steve Bennett, the same man who produced Ronaldo’s expulsion against City, had to reach for his pocket again.

This time though, both CR7 and United would redeem themselves. After serving a three-match ban, he returned in style and produced his most memorable Premier League season. Scoring in 21 different matches, he’d win the Golden Boot with 31 goals and unstoppable MU would scoop up the league title as well as the Champions League gold.

30 November 2008, Manchester

Having lost both derby matches the previous season, United finally got their revenge during the 2008/09 campaign. Despite being taken over by Emirati billionaires and signing red hot supertalent Robinho, City were easily outplayed in front of a home crowd, losing 0-1 only due to the champions’ ineptitude at finishing the chances.

Ronaldo’s two moments of madness came early in the second half. At first, he hacked away Shaun Wright-Phillips and ironically clapped when Howard Webb showed him a yellow. Eight minutes later, the Portuguese star met a cross from a corner with both of his hands. Webb did not appreciate the joke and promptly issued the marching orders to the offender.

Just like the year before, it ended much better than expected. Cristiano did not receive a suspension for his derby antics and his team went on a 16-game undefeated league streak, stretching from November to March. As a result, Ronaldo was booking a flight to Madrid in June 2009 as a three-time English champion and an author of 84 EPL goals.

5 December 2009, Madrid

That night, against Almería, CR7 was all over the place. He started the match by wasting one of the best goalscoring chances one could imagine. Then, he assisted Sergio Ramos’ opening goal. Late in the match, he badly messed up a penalty but the rebound from his spot kick has been converted by Benzema. And then, Cris finally scored himself to make it 4-2.

Apparently, that wasn’t enough drama for the evening. With a win pretty much in the bag, Ronaldo entered a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge with Juanma Ortiz – and lashed out on the right-back with a horrendous kick to the back of the opponents’ shin. Referee Xavier Estrada Fernández mercifully issued a second yellow in what should’ve been a straight red incident.

24 January 2010, Madrid

Seven weeks after the Almeria disgrace, Cristiano has come up with even stupider, violent dismissal. During the first half against Malaga, everything was going well for him. He’d score a close-range opener from Kaka’s precise low cross; then, he’d double Real Madrid’s lead by smashing an unstoppable long shot past Gustavo Munúa.

And then… With referee Miguel Ángel Pérez Lasa right in front of him, he’d launch an elbow into Patrick Mtiliga’s face, knocking the defender out and picking up a deserved, two-match suspension. His team would pile up 12 consecutive wins but a home, 0-2 defeat to equally dominant Barcelona was too much and they’ve lost La Liga title by three points.

17 May 2013, Madrid

By this point, Ronaldo’s 2012/13 season was nearly over. Robert Lewandowski and Borussia Dortmund have already kicked him out of the Champions League. In La Liga, Barcelona set an impossible pace, scoring 100 points and cruising to yet another domestic gold. The only way to salvage something from the whole year led through a Copa del Rey final with Atlético.

Swarmed by the likes of Özil, Essien, Alonso and Khedira, Ronaldo received plenty of congratulations for his early goal. His header sailed perfectly past Courtois and Real, unbeaten in derby for fourteen years, looked destined to lift the trophy. For nearly two hours, CR7 perform on his normal level, winning a bunch of headers and hitting the post.

Alas, following Diego Costa’s equalizer and subsequent, tactical stalemate, the game totally imploded in the extra time. Fouled by Gabi, Ronaldo flashed a boot near the opponent’s face while falling down and the referee Carlos Clos Gómez interpreted that as a violent conduct. Immediately afterwards, a massive brawl with punches thrown by both sides ensued – and that way, the Portuguese’s unjust dismissal has largely escaped the scrutiny.

2 February 2014, Bilbao

The match against Athletic Club simply didn’t start well for Cristiano. After just 24 seconds, he looked gravely disappointed, as his long-range shot, aimed at exploiting Gorka Iraizoz’s error, missed the goal by a couple of inches. Later, CR7 wasted an audacious volley by a couple of light years and bounced a free-kick off a one-man wall. His teammates were struggling too.

Ronaldo exploded soon after Ibai Gómez’s equalizer. Having been dispossessed by Carlos Gurpegui, he falsely claimed handball from the Basque, provoking his opponent, which resulted with mutual pushing and then, a hit to the face of Athletic centre-back. Mister Miguel Ángel Ayza Gámez had no choice but to reach for a red.

Real Madrid drew that match 1-1. This, combined with other results, allowed Barcelona to surpass them in the league table by the virtue of two El Clásico wins. Champions from Atlético Madrid finished three points ahead. For the first time in nine years, the biggest club in the world dropped out of La Liga’s top 2. However – since Carlo Ancelotti’s men lifted La Décima in the Champions League, none of that really mattered.

24 January 2015, Córdoba

A winter visit at Estadio Nuevo Arcángel in Córdoba normally shouldn’t be a cause of Real Madrid’s concern. Yet, three years ago, the newly promoted Andalusian team pushed the European Cup holders to the limit. After taking early lead through Ghilas’ penalty, Los Califas would waste chance after chance, eventually allowing Benzema to equalize.

As usual, Ronaldo was searching a late winner – and, as usual, his competitive drive pushed him to the brink of madness. His 83th minute kick, aimed at Edimar, might have been the clearest example of a crazy outburst since Pepe’s assault on Javi Casquero in 2009. Ultimately, what CR7 couldn’t do was accomplished by Gareth Bale – and the Welshman scored a penalty to secure Real a tedious, 2-1 victory.

13 August 2017, Barcelona

This red has to be the most entertaining one – and not only because it was shown in El Clásico. With the match being tied 1-1 and only ten minutes remaining, Ronaldo would score a delightful counterattacking goal, finishing in a top corner and then, jubilantly taking his shirt off. That cost him a yellow card. He didn’t care.

Nevertheless, Cristiano started to care about 60 seconds later. His penalty box battle with Samuel Umtiti caused him to go down and the referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea took that as an attempt at diving. The booking was inevitable and the Portuguese didn’t help his case by giving the first official a passive-aggressive nudge at the back.

At least Real Madrid won the game. And the Supercup. And the Club World Cup. And another Ballon d’Or for their most famous forward. And the third straight Champions League later that season. And everything else possible – with the exception of La Liga…

19 September 2018, Valencia

Let’s see it all over again:

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