Antonio Rudiger escaped Real Madrid’s blushing with a late goal as the European champions qualified for the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday, but his reward was a brutal collision that sent him back to the Spanish capital with his head covered in a bandage.
The Germany defender scored in the 95th minute equalizer against Shakhtar Donetsk to tie it 1-1 in Warsaw, and in the process suffered a painful wound to his forehead that forced him to leave the field covered in blood and required stitches.
With the match ending in extra time, Real Madrid were 1-0 down with hosts Shakhtar – forced to play home games in the Polish capital due to the ongoing war in Ukraine – on the verge of a famous victory.
It was Rüdiger’s international teammate Toni Kroos who sent the 6-foot-3 center back into the Shakhtar penalty area, and he knows it. Los Blancos‘His chances of scoring a late goal may depend on his aerial ability. In the 92nd minute, the first chance came, as Kroos fired a quarterback-like pass into the penalty area with Rudiger’s head inches inches.
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It seemed as if the Madrid moment had come and gone. But three minutes later in a carbon copy of the previous move, Kroos played the same ball and Rudiger rose to head it into the net.
But the defender did not get the chance to celebrate.
Shakhtar goalkeeper Anatoly Tropin, 21, ran off his line to try to get to the ball first, and when Rudiger shot it towards goal, Tropin headed him first. It was a disturbing collision.
Rüdiger pushed his fellow revelers away and fell to his knees in a daze, bleeding already evident.
Both players were lying on the grass, but it was the Real Madrid player who seemed to come out worse. Medical staff helped Rüdiger treat his blood-soaked white shirt, and he struggles to see through one eye.
Antonio Rudiger hit a shot when he hit the goalkeeper when he scored the equalizer in the last minute for Real Madrid. pic.twitter.com/4NGMxRbqzi
– ESPN FC (ESPNFC) October 11 2022
The match ended seconds later – and, of course, the focus was on Rüdiger’s condition. Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti was quick to assuage any serious concerns in his post-match television interview.
“He cut his forehead, it’s a very long cut, but he’s fine,” Ancelotti said, before laughing.
Later in his press conference, Ancelotti gave more details: “He’s been stitched up. He’s conscious, he’s talking, he’s smiling, he’s happy to score goals.”
Kroos added: “To be honest, I’ve seen better pictures. It’s tough, there’s a lot of blood, as you’ve seen on the pitch. Let’s hope he’s back as soon as possible.”
Rudiger himself took to Instagram later He assured the fans that he was fine. “What does not kill you makes you stronger!” In a post, the player said, before adding a photo to his story that showed him smiling – while wearing a large bandage covering his forehead and eye – during the team’s trip back to Madrid.
“We are alive” simplified caption said.
🛫 Tweet embed ya está en el avión
🤕 ¡Seguimos vivos!
– El Partidazo de COPE (partidazocope) October 11 2022
Rudiger will undergo more tests on Wednesday, with his participation now in doubt on Sunday Classico With rivals in the League Barcelona (Broadcast live, Sunday at 10:15 a.m. ET on ESPN+ in the US.)
It is not unusual for the 29-year-old to put his head where it hurts. In 2021, while playing for Chelsea, he wore a protective mask in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Madrid after being hit in the face during the first leg, in a 1-1 draw at the Bernabéu.
At the time, coach Thomas Tuchel said Rudiger had suffered a “small bone injury to the side of the face” although it was later reported that he had fractured his jaw, making his phenomenal performance in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge. After eight days everything was even more impressive.
And while Rudiger did not wear the mask when Chelsea beat Manchester City in the Champions League final that season, he did wear it again when he represented Germany at the European Championship that summer.