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Cristiano Ronaldo make case with 'stunning' display
by Paul Kennedy, November 12th, 2007 7AM
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Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo may lose out to Brazilian Kaka and Argentine Lionel Messi in balloting for the two year-end international player of the year awards, but he is certainly the class of European soccer, as evidenced by his two superb goals for Manchester United against Blackburn on Saturday. Barcelona's troubles on the road continued, while Bayern Munich's slump has put Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld at odds with club president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. In Mexico, the Torneo Apertura's regular season finished, and 10 teams moved into the playoffs.

PLAYER/CRISTIANO RONALDO
Manchester United is temporarily back on top of the English Premier League, where it finished last season, and it owes its place now as then to its Portuguese maestro Cristiano Ronaldo.

With Wayne Rooney again sidelined, the 22-year-old Ronaldo scored two superb goals in the space of 96 seconds to give United a 2-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers and increase his tally for the season to 10 goals in 15 games. Last season he scored 23 goals in all competitions.

Ronaldo is feared for his diabolical dribbling moves, but he is a threat in the air as Blackburn learned to its detriment. Ronaldo headed Ryan Giggs' corner kick to score what United manager Sir Alex Ferguson called a "stunning goal" into the roof of American Brad Friedel's goal and completed what Ferguson called a "marvelous" movement involving Louis Saha and Carlos Tevez to finish Blackburn off less than two minutes later.

MATCH/GETAFE-BARCELONA
Barcelona's problems on the road continued as it lost at Getafe, 2-0, and fell four points behind leader in La Liga. Barca is 6-0-0 at home but has won only once in six games on the road.

The last time Barca played at Getafe was in May when it fell, 4-0, and was knocked out of the Copa del Rey after having won the first game of their semifinal series, 5-2. This time, the game was closer, but goals Manuel del Moral and Uruguayan Juan Albin assured Getafe, coached by former Barcelona star Michael Laudrup, its third straight win.

"Our problem is the difference between our home and our away form," said Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard. "We have created little in attack today, and you are always going to pay for that at some point."

COACH/OTTMAR HITZFELD
[VIDEO] Bayern Munich's 24-game unbeaten streak in all competitions is over, and as far as Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld goes, it's a good thing. Saturday's 3-1 loss to defending champion VfB Stuttgart left Bayern with a one-point lead over Hamburg and Werder Bremen.

"It was good we lost so decisively," Hitzfeld told Bild am Sonntag. "It's better to lose like that instead of through bad luck or with excuses that we don't have this time. Now we've seen success this year won't be automatic. It was an educational experience."

The loss followed three consecutive ties in the Bundesliga and UEFA Cup. After Thursday's 2-2 tie against struggling English club Bolton Wanderers win the UEFA Cup, Bayern president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge criticized Hitzfeld for his rotation strategy. "We can talk about a lot of different lineups," Hitzfeld told Bild am Sonntag. "We've got a big squad and everyone wants to play. We're going to keep trying out different lineups in the future."

RACE/LIGA MEXICANA
The suspense in Mexico's Torneo Apertura went down to the final day on Sunday when UNAM tied Pachuca, 1-1, and edged the winner of last spring's Torneo Clausura on a tiebreaker for second place in Group 1 and the last of six byes into the quarterfinals.

Mexico is the only major league outside the United States that determines its champion in a playoff series. Pumas joined overall leader Santos, Toluca, Atlante, Guadalajara and San Luis as the six teams that are through to the quarterfinals. Club America meets Colombia's Millonarios at home Tuesday in the second leg of their Copa Sudamericana semifinal series, then must face Morelia Thursday and Sunday in the repechaje for a place in the quarterfinals. Pachuca faces Cruz Azul in the other play-in series.

The top four scorers in the 17-game Torneo Apertura were all foreigners. Argentine Alfredo Moreno (San Luis) finished first with 18 goals. Moreno was followed by Venezuelan Giancarlo Maldonado (Atlante) with 15 goals and countrymen Esteban Solari (UNAM) and Daniel Luduena (Santos) with 14 and 13, respectively.

 



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