Aitor Karanka praised Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance in Real Madrid’s win at Athletic Bilbao, brushing off fears of the Portuguese picking up an injury.
It was speculated before the weekend that the No 7 would be rested or at least start from the bench for the weekend’s trip to San Mames, with one eye on Madrid’s Champions League semi-final coming up soon.
However, Ronaldo played 80 minutes, during which time he took his season’s goal-tally to 50, with two strikes in a 3-0 win for Los Blancos.
It was a performance that Karanka took note of, in a difficult playing climate.
“Cristiano was limited in his play and had to endure many things,” Karanka responded post-game.
“And no, we have not substituted him for fear of injury. Not at all.
“Football is for men and even more in San Mames. Cristiano had the match he had and scored twice
“Athletic's players did what they needed to do. Cristiano did well in a tough atmosphere and has once again shown the type of player he is.
“He did what he had to do and scored two goals that won us the match.
“The reception towards him? Those who know him know how he is. There are ways of being that some people like more than others.
“He is dedicated to playing and scoring goals, that is what he does, and that is what he benefits from and that is that.”
It is the last occasion that Madrid play Athletic at San Mames, with the Basques moving to the new San Mames for next season.
“Clearly it is always special to come here and even more when you know it is the last time.
“These matches and these atmospheres give this stadium the history that it has and those of us that have played here know that and know it’s special.”
Sergio Ramos was pushed out to right-back for this match.
“Today there was no another choice with Essien injured and Arbeloa also unable to travel. Sergio played at wing-back for many years.
“With us he did so in his first year and is a more than sound option for the semi-final.”