Five hundred and one and counting.
Cristiano Ronaldo went past the half-thousand mark with his two goals in Los Blancos' 2-0 victory against Malmo on Wednesday night and also drew level with Raul on 323 strikes for Real Madrid. "We shouldn't depend on him," Real manager Rafa Benitez said in the buildup to the game. But they need to.
What Benitez had meant was that Real requires goals from elsewhere as well, and he is right in that sense. However, Ronaldo remains the most reliable outlet and he showed just how important he is to the club's UEFA Champions League aspirations with both in this match.
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All of Cristiano's eight strikes so far in 2015-16 had come in two games (five in the 6-0 win at Espanyol and three in the 4-0 victory at home to Shakhtar Donetsk), but he had failed to find the net in his past two matches.
Sensing the opportunity against a Malmo team likely making up the numbers in Group A, the Portuguese was lively from the outset in this match and hit his 500th career goal after 28 minutes when he latched onto an Isco pass and beat Swedish goalkeeper Johan Wiland with a cool finish.
Dani Carvajal hit the crossbar late in the first half as Madrid threatened to build on its lead, but Benitez's side has struggled somewhat for goals recently and had to wait until the 90th minute for the second. And again it was Ronaldo, this time as he poked home a cross from Lucas Vazquez.
That was his 323rd strike for Real Madrid and saw him reach Raul, the club's all-time top goal scorer. The former Spain striker needed 741 matches to net his 323. Cristiano, meanwhile, has managed it in just 308 appearances for Los Blancos. Insatiable.
According to official club statistics, Ronaldo surpassed Raul and now has 324 goals for the Spanish side. However, that tally includes a strike given to Pepe against Real Sociedad by match officials in 2010-11 but which is included in the register recorded by sports daily Marca (who awarded the Pichichi prize).
Be it 323 or 324, it makes little difference -- Ronaldo remains the go-to guy for goals at Real and at the age of 30, that should continue for some time to come.
"I hope that Ronaldo never stops scoring and that we can keep benefitting from him," Benitez said after the match. "I'm happy for Cristiano, I'm happy for the team and I'm happy that we didn't concede."
Eight games into the current campaign and Rafa's reign, Madrid has let in only one goal so far this season and that came in the 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao in La Liga 10 days ago. In the meantime, Madrid has scored 20 and half of those belong to Ronaldo (who now has five in La Liga and five in the Champions League this term).
His double against Malmo on Wednesday means he now leads the scoring charts in Europe with 82 in the continental competition, while he sits at the top of the tree alongside Raul for Madrid strikes and has 501 overall in his career for club and country in just 753 games.
It is a remarkable record and even though Benitez will want others to chip in and help him out as Madrid seeks silverware in 2015-16, their best hopes of trophies this term lie with the prolific Portuguese.
"I'm really happy to become the [joint] record goalscorer in the history of Madrid -- it's not something I expected when I arrived," Ronaldo told reporters after the victory. "I am satisfied with the record and I've already spoken with Raul. He phoned to say congratulations."
So relying on one man may not be ideal, but Madrid's title hopes do depend very much upon Ronaldo. Luckily for them, he's just about as dependable as they come.
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