SINGAPORE - Such is Cristiano Ronaldo’s appeal that even without saying a single word, he was able to make some 50,000 people at the National Stadium in Kallang roar in unison with him. In Spanish.
That moment arrived in the 60th minute of the International Champions Cup game on Sunday night (July 21) between his Italian Serie A side Juventus and English Premier League outfit Tottenham Hotspur.
Having come close earlier in the game, Ronaldo blew the roof off the stadium after smashing Juventus into a 2-1 lead, albeit thanks to a heavy deflection off Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen.
Cue his famous celebration: a jog to the corner flag, that jump, turn, and war cry of “Siiii!” (yes in Spanish), which was echoed by most of the 50,433 in attendance - even those in Spurs tops.
Having sent the crowd into delirium, Ronaldo took his leave to a standing ovation soon after, as he was substituted by new Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri in the 63rd minute.
But an eventful night was far from over.
Lucas Moura scored three minutes after Ronaldo left the pitch to level the score to 2-2 - Gonzalo Higuain had cancelled out Erik Lamela’s first-half goal for Spurs - before a stupendous wonder goal deep in injury time by Harry Kane gave Spurs a memorable win.
With the game seemingly headed for a penalty shoot-out, Kane struck from near the halfway line, after Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot lost possession cheaply.
Even without looking at goal, the England captain’s instincts were spot on as the ball looped over Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and nestled in the back of the net.
The fantastic strike capped a marvellous game of football, and Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino could only chuckle when asked about the incredible winner.
“This type of situation happens because of the quality of the player,” said the Argentinian.
“Sometimes you try, the ball touches the net. Sometimes it goes out. I cannot say it was our plan to win that way.”
A beaming Kane said the goal was “up there” as one of the best he has scored, and said: “It just one of those things where it was the last minute of the game, you have loads of defenders around you, why not have a try? And, once I hit it, I knew it was going in.”
All the pre-game buzz had surrounded five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo, named in the starting line-up for what was Juventus’ first pre-season game.
The 34-year-old became only the third winner of the world’s best player award to play at the National Stadium, after Franz Beckenbauer (1979) and Ronaldinho (2008).
While Manchester United fans had turned Kallang into Old Trafford a night earlier in their 1-0 win over Inter Milan, last night saw a much more even split of fans between the two sides.
The Juventus fans turned the North stand into a “Curva Nord” with a black-and-white tifo display, but the Spurs supporters at the opposite end of the stadium certainly made themselves heard as well.
Aside from the action involving the players, there was also security concerns after a pitch invader, a young boy of no more than 12 years old and wearing a Juventus jersey, darted across the pitch and headed for the bench.
Perhaps it was a surprise then, that gristly Juventus manager Sarri – who allowed the boy to sit on the bench and take a selfie with Ronaldo before he was escorted out by security – brushed aside the incident.
“For me, when such a young fan goes onto the pitch, it’s not an invasion but a joyful occasion,” said Sarri in his gravelly voice.
One thing is for certain – the fans who turned up last night went home happy.
Spurs fan David Tay, 35, said: “I’ve been a fan for more than 20 years and it felt surreal watching the team ‘live’ for the first time.
“Son was amazing, and it’s nice to see Ronaldo play as well. I respect him as the best player in the world.”
For 74-year-old Spurs fan Phillip Peters, being in the company of his family made his experience that much more memorable.
Peters had taken eight family members to watch Spurs play at the old National Stadium 24 years ago, and he returned with 10 family members to create new memories last night.
He said: “When I watched my first Tottenham game back in 1978, I watched it alone. It’s always been on my bucket list to watch a Spurs game with my family.”