Anatomy of a goal: Cristiano Ronaldo's stunning free-kick against Arsenal

05 May 2021 03:45

Confidence in football translates into the belief that nothing is beyond you, a philosophy that has been the foundation for Cristiano Ronaldo’s journey to becoming one of the greatest of all time.

That was never more true than when Ronaldo lined up a seemingly impossible free-kick against Arsenal in the Champions League semi-final second leg on 5 May 2009.

Ronaldo scored a free-kick few others would even have attempted | CARL DE SOUZA/Getty Images

United had battered Arsenal in the first leg at Old Trafford a week earlier but only had a single goal from John O’Shea to show for it to give them a narrow aggregate lead.

Park Ji-sung capitalised on a slip from Kieran Gibbs to double that advantage just eight minutes into the second leg, also giving United an important away goal.

That early strike meant that Arsenal needed to score three goals to get to the final. It was already an uphill battle for the Gunners, but only a few moments later Ronaldo killed the tie.

He himself won the free-kick, brought down in a clumsy challenge from an overzealous Robin van Persie determined to win the ball back and get his own team going after their shaky start.

Ronaldo & United were on a different level to Arsenal | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

It was over 40 yards from goal and closer to the right touchline than the centre of the pitch. United players trotted forward towards the penalty area and Arsenal held their defensive line on the edge of the box. There was a wall, but a token gesture with only two players because it was so far out.

Despite the setup, it was clear that Ronaldo was intending to shoot. He measured his steps backwards and performed his trademark deep exhale as he set himself.

By this stage, Ronaldo was no stranger to scoring from impossible distance, as it was his long range drive that had made the narrow difference for United against Porto in the previous round.

The Porto strike came in open play, giving it more of an element of surprise. But against Arsenal it was more obvious what was happening and the Gunners still couldn’t deny him.

Ronaldo struck the ball so true and with such venom that it flew past the wall and beyond the reach of a flailing Manuel Almunia in the Arsenal goal. As Ronaldo wheeled away in celebration, the Spanish stopper could only sit up on his knees, wondering how he had been beaten.

The 2-0 lead on the night extended the aggregate lead to 3-0, pushing the demand on Arsenal to four goals and effectively sealing United’s place in a second consecutive Champions League final with almost 80 minutes of the second leg to spare.

Ronaldo later made it 3-0, putting the finishing touches on an iconic counter attack goal involving Wayne Rooney and the aforementioned Park. Van Persie pulled grabbed a late consolation from the penalty spot, but this was Ronaldo’s and United’s night in north London.

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Source: 90min