Soccer isn't called "the beautiful game" just for Cristiano Ronaldo's looks.
The global pastime is played by skilled athletes capable of astounding fans with unique feats -- and feet -- of genius that can seem every bit as athletic as they are artistic. The sport also produces moments of collaboration in which some of those world-famous athletes combine their talents while sublimating their egos to produce breathtaking sequences of team play. It was such an instance of teamwork that produced the only goal of a tense encounter between European titans Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the opening leg of a Champions League semifinal on Wednesday night in Spain.
Following a spell of Bayern Munich pressure to begin the game, Madrid countered with devastating pace and precision in the 19th minute. Positioned wide, Ronaldo received the ball from Isco just past midfield as Madrid swiftly transitioned from defense to attack. With his third touch, Ronaldo sent a perfectly weighted pass up the flank to a speeding Fabio Coentrao. With his second touch, the Portuguese defender crossed the ball to Karim Benzema. The striker's own run toward goal put him in position to tap the ball past goalkeeper Manuel Neuer with his first touch.
"Madrid thrives off the counterattack. Madrid is the best team in the world on the counter," Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola said after the 1-0 defeat. "They get back as fast as they go forward. They're athletes."
With six deft touches, three Real Madrid advanced the ball from nearly midfield into the back of the Bayern goal. The sweeping movement only seemed simple thanks to the precision, awareness and unified efforts of teammates talented enough to have believed they could have attempted to go it alone. The score gave Madrid a slight edge heading to Munich for the second leg and provided yet more proof that teamwork is part of what makes soccer beautiful.