I find it hard to put the beauty of las noches mágicas de la UEFA Champions League into words. This task is especially daunting when it comes to describing the magical UCL nights that feature my favorite team firing back after going down 2-0 against German opposition.

Last night, against all most odds, Real Madrid came back to defeat VfL Wolfsburg 3-0 (3-2 on aggregate) in order to advance to its sixth-consecutive semifinal appearance.

“Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t score in big games,” they say. “Cristiano se esconde en los partidos importantes,” they add. “Cristiano has dropped his level,” they insist. “Keylor Navas is our *only* hope,” they insist. “Minuto 93,” we remember.

Now, we have another fabled number to write into the history books and gild with gleaming gold: 86 seconds, the mind-bogglingly short amount of time it took Cristiano Ronaldo to net a brace and bring his team level 2-2 on aggregate at the Santiago Bernabéu last night.

It all started in the 15th minute, when we became the open-armed recipients of a blissful master class display, Zidane’s FUT101: “This is why you play Dani Carvajal.”

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If you’re somehow still doubting who deserves to shoot up the right wing from Madrid’s defense (sorry Danilo), we should probably talk.

In the 17th – *86 seconds later* – CR7 struck again, this time with a glorious glancing header to tie the global mark at two apiece. The stuff of dreams, fam, the kinda stuff that makes me jump off my couch and run around my living room silently motioning “CALMAAA!!”

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Cristiano’s extraordinary exploits didn’t end there, of course, nor did his team’s dominance. Real Madrid switched the field with poise and grace, won seven out of every eight 50-50 challenges, retained possession of the ball in the air, and pounded the Wolfsburg box producing corner after corner (after corner.) Toni Kroos showed his professionalism and experience with some superb cuts inside the opposition, Sergio Ramos hit the post on multiple occasions, Zidane ripped his pants, I screamed some more, we saw it all.

Then, it happened. Cristiano Ronaldo – you know, that dude who “doesn’t show up” in crunch time – lined up for a free kick in the 77th minute. 3-0. Hat-trick. Tears. Noches mágicas. The rest is history.

It was Cristiano’s 45th hat-trick of his career. He now has 16 goals this UCL campaign, with an overall tally of 93 in 125 competition appearances. As he put it (and we love him for this), “Goals are in my DNA.” Tell me he’s not the GOAT.

“Una noche perfecta.” You can say that again.

In a season that’s seemed dire and desperate at its worst and dream-inspiring at its best, Real Madrid is still in the running for undécima glory. This Friday’s draw will determine the side’s next opponent, one of Manchester City, Atlético de Madrid, FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Benfica. For now, Hala Madrid y nada más. 🙌🏽

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