Ronaldo and Marcelo secure Real Madrid's comfortable win at Schalke
Three points on Real Madrid's 2-0 win vs. Schalke in the Champions League round-of-16 first leg.
1. Easy for Real Madrid
They may have been in pink, but Real Madrid's 2-0 win at Schalke wasn't pretty -- at least until Marcelo's brilliant 79th-minute clincher. The Brazilian's gloriously curled effort with his weaker right foot was one of few moments in this game that lifted the fare above the atrociously dull, but it also virtually ensures that the second leg of this tie will be even less interesting.
Real Madrid are almost certain of qualifying for the Champions League quarterfinals, but then again, that never felt in any doubt.
From the start of this game, it had the feel of a procession. It certainly didn't involve the typical tension of a European knockout tie, even if it fits what has been an underwhelming Champions League round of 16 so far.
There was an odd lethargy to the occasion in Gelsenkirchen, with Real always far too good for Schalke without having to be too good themselves. Sometimes it felt like a training session, to the extent you can easily track the game's key moments, given there was no real flow.
On 26 minutes, Cristiano Ronaldo scored to sap any confidence Schalke had.
On 33, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar went off injured to eradicate any attacking thrust the Germans had.
On 76, Felix Platte briefly brought the game a lift with a supreme strike off the bar, only for Marcelo to then immediately kill it with his fine goal.
This was a flat game that will not linger long in the memory.
2. Ronaldo rounds into form
The one big positive for Real Madrid, beyond the actual win and the ongoing integration of new midfielder Lucas Silva, was the performance of Ronaldo and the fact that he finally scored again.
Of course, it's a testament to the standards that he and Lionel Messi have set that the Portuguese's past month can be considered anything like a slump or poor run. In the time between winning the Ballon d'Or and this match, Ronaldo played five games, scored three goals and got one red card.
By his standards, it's not great, but a 60 percent scoring record is the type of thing so many of the great strikers of the past two decades were lauded for.
Granted, Ronaldo hadn't scored in three games -- his longest drought since November 2012 -- and there were a few signs of rustiness early. He tried one of his usual long shots, only to slightly scuff it and see it sail wildly wide, almost for a throw-in.
That, as well as any concerns, was soon rendered irrelevant. Shortly before the half-hour, Ronaldo nipped in to head home Dani Carvajal's right-wing cross. It has become something of a trademark goal and was similar to the effort he got against Internazionale for Manchester United at this exact stage in 2009.
It was a goal that might also point to his future. Ronaldo is increasingly playing as a more natural No. 9, as might be expected given his style, although there's no need for him to be so fixed yet.
Madrid's second goal proved that. Even if he wasn't at his best overall on the night, he still proved the difference-maker again. Ronaldo roared down the wing and dribbled past a few defenders before setting up Marcelo.
He's also set himself back up.
3. Schalke fail to show anything
For the vast majority of the 90 minutes, there were a number of key questions about Schalke.
One: How could a team so tepid rise to fourth in the Bundesliga, especially given the exciting nature of some of the sides in the division?
Two: Does that mean the league is overrated?
Three: How could a manager like Roberto Di Matteo take them from 11th to fourth?
Four: How did a manager as limited as Di Matteo win the Champions League with Chelsea in 2012?
Schalke's performance was that poor, and offered so little action, that there was enough time to ponder all of the above.
Sure, the final score wasn't ultimately that bad -- even though it almost guarantees their elimination -- but that has almost as much to do with Real Madrid keeping on the proverbial handbrake.
Throughout, Schalke gave them the space to drive into. There was absolutely no sense of plan about Di Matteo's team and no apparent tactical system to try to out-think Real if they couldn't outplay them.
Those shortcomings could be seen with the way Ronaldo was allowed to so easily drift into the box and head home the opening goal.
Then there was the bizarrely tepid nature of the game after the goal, as the likes of the Portuguese and Gareth Bale kept running at Schalke, which apparently didn't see the need to inject that much intensity into proceedings.
This so often had the feel of a friendly, which is the biggest criticism you could have of Di Matteo's side. They are one of Germany's richest clubs, but this was a performance of little value.
Miguel Delaney covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MiguelDelaney.