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Ronaldo returns to action after knee surgery

RONALDO made yet another comeback to competitive football by coming off the bench in the second half of Corinthians' Brazilian Cup match against Itumbiara yesterday.

Ronaldo entered in the 68th minute and was loudly cheered by most of the 30,000 fans who packed Juscelino Kubitschek Stadium in central Brazil.

It was Ronaldo's first official match since undergoing surgery after a left knee injury sustained with AC Milan in February 2008.

The three-time world player of the year was surrounded by photographers and reporters from the moment he arrived at the stadium, and even on the sideline he struggled to avoid reporters.

He left the field without talking to the media after apparently being hit in the eye by a microphone.

"It was a good debut for Ronaldo," Corinthians coach Mano Menezes said. "He moved well and even tried some of the moves that are typical of him. It was a first step important to overcome and with time things should become easier."

Corinthians was already leading 2-0 when Ronaldo entered the match, which ended with Corinthians' victory behind goals from defenders Chicao and Andre Santos. The result allowed Corinthians to advance to the second round of the Brazilian Cup.

The 32-year-old Ronaldo touched the ball for the first time after less than a minute, and in the 74th he just barely failed to reach a ball crossed into the area.

He claimed being fouled while trying to get past two defenders in the 75th near the top of the area, but the referee said he dived.

Ronaldo was free from markers in a counterattack in the 77th, but teammate Douglas chose to take a shot on goal instead of passing to the striker, drawing jeers from the crowd.

He had one final chance in injury time, but again the referee called a foul on him when he tried to overcome a defender inside the area.

Ronaldo, who has scored a record 15 goals in World Cups, had been expected to debut on Sunday against Corinthians' archrival Palmeiras in the Sao Paulo state championship, but the striker's recent performances in practice led Menezes to bring forward the debut.

The coach said he hadn't yet decided if Ronaldo would play on Sunday.

"We will talk to him and see how he felt," Menezes said.

Ronaldo had to come back from serious knee surgeries two other times in his career. In 1999, he tore up his right knee with Inter Milan and needed surgery, and a year later he twisted the same knee and was sidelined for several months after another surgery.

He recovered brilliantly, however, helping Brazil win its fifth World Cup in 2002 in South Korea and Japan. He was the tournament's top scorer with eight goals in seven matches - including two in the final against Germany.

Ronaldo hadn't played a match with a Brazilian club in Brazil since 1994, when he was still with Cruzeiro.

He transferred to PSV Eindhoven that same year, then eventually moved to Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan in 2007.


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