Cristiano Ronaldo back in business and other things we learned from Real Madrid's win over APOEL

Andy West 14/09/2017
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Back to his best: Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo wasted no time in showing Real Madrid what they have been missing during his five-game domestic suspension, by scoring twice as the holders began their Champions League defence with a routine 3-0 win over APOEL Nicosia on Wednesday.

Ronaldo, banned for pushing a referee after being sent off in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup, opened the scoring after just 12 minutes from Gareth Bale’s low cross.

The Portuguese doubled his tally from the penalty spot before Sergio Ramos’s overhead kick rounded off the scoring.

Below, we take a look at three talking points from the game.

Ronaldo back in business

Mr Champions League, otherwise known as Cristiano Ronaldo, wasted little time in making his mark. The Portuguese ace, who has scored more Champions League goals than anyone else, netted in the 12th minute and has now registered Real Madrid’s first goal in the competition for six consecutive seasons.

It was an important game for Ronaldo in terms of maintaining his rhythm in the middle of a five-game domestic suspension, and he took advantage by adding another from the spot in the second period.

In a way, his current ban has come at a good time with this game and the recent action providing an opportunity for action rather than enforcing a complete break, and his clinical finish for the opener showed exactly what Madrid were missing in their recent league draws against Valencia and Levante.

Ronaldo now has just one more game of his ban to serve, and it’s a tough one for his team as they travel to face 100% Real Sociedad this weekend. And it goes without saying that his teammates will then be delighted to see their guarantee of goals permanently back in action.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

Zidane takes it seriously

A group stage home game against lowly APOEL might have been regarded by many managers as an opportunity to rest some key players and give fringe players the chance to impress.

But Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane certainly didn’t view Wednesday’s game in that way, instead selecting his strongest possible eleven with the exception of Mateo Kovacic starting in midfield for Toni Kroos.

The seriousness with which Zidane treated the fixture was no doubt a response to the recent disappointments suffered by his team in La Liga, with consecutive home draws against Valencia and Levante leaving Los Blancos four points adrift of eternal rivals Barcelona after just three games.

The line-up selected by Zidane made it clear that he wanted a morale boosting victory and that he was not prepared to take any chances in pursuit of those three points, even with Sunday’s tough trip to San Sebastian on the horizon.

Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane

Kovacic joins list of absentees

Zidane’s decision to field a strong team naturally carried risks, and to an extent it backfired as Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic was forced out of the action with a groin strain and now faces a spell on the sidelines.

Kovacic will join the suspended Marcelo and Ronaldo and injured forward Karim Benzema out of action, and it will be a source of frustration for Zidane that such a routine home win deprived him of another player.

In the short-term Kovacic’s absence is no great loss because Toni Kroos is first choice in midfield and would have played at Real Sociedad on Sunday anyway, but beyond that fixture the loss of Kovacic is certainly significant considering Zidane’s adherence to a rotation policy and Kovacic’s versatility which allows him to cover any position in the centre of the field.

Madrid’s strength in depth is now being seriously tested, and Zidane will be anxious to avoid any more injuries in the coming weeks.

Mateo Kovacic

Mateo Kovacic

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Lionel Messi finally beats Gigi Buffon as Juventus stopper joins long list of top keepers Barcelona star has scored past

Niall McCague 13/09/2017

Lionel Messi scored his 515th goal for Barcelona in their emphatic 3-0 victory over Juventus at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner produced a man-of-the-match display, scoring two against Gigi Buffon to seal a convincing win over the Serie A giants in their Champions League opener.

The 30-year-old has gone on to beat some of the best goalkeepers in the game since scoring his first La Liga goal against Raul Valbuena of Albacete in 2005.

In the gallery above we've updated Sport's catalogue of the top goalkeepers the Argentine has beaten over the years after he broke his drought against legendary stopper Buffon. Which keeper do you think is the best? Share with us your thoughts by using Twitter or via Facebook.

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Unai Emery warns five-star PSG will only keep improving

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Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) coach Unai Emery says his side have learned lessons from the past after they started their Champions League Group B campaign with a 5-0 thrashing of Celtic.

Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani’s double and a Mikel Lustig own goal consigned Celtic to their record home European defeat and propelled PSG to the top of the table on goal difference from Bayern Munich, who they host on match day two.

It was a real statement of intent from this summer’s big spenders who signed Brazilian Neymar and teenage sensation Mbappe in a bid to make a real impression on the competition.

After four consecutive seasons of reaching the quarter-finals, PSG fell at the round of 16 last season when they capitulated against Barcelona after winning the first leg 4-0.

It was a result that convinced their Qatari owners to break the world transfer record to bring Neymar to the French capital.

The 6-1 defeat to the Catalan giants in the second leg was a humbling for PSG but Emery says they are approaching this season’s campaign with a renewed confidence.

“We did learn from the past and what happened last year. We have worked really hard to improve things within the team,” the Spanish coach said.

“I think my team showed a lot of character. What I was really pleased with was the fact we were in control with the ball and without the ball.

“Of course we have added to the team but it is more about all the people working together. As far as this is concerned I am really, really happy.”

The French side’s formidable front line terrorised the Celtic defence and Emery warned they would only get better.

The PSG coach singled out Mbappe, who PSG have an option to buy from Monaco for a fee that could reach 180 million Euros, for praise.

“This is what he needs at the moment. He wants to be a great player and he is going to grow up into that role,” Emery said of the 18-year-old who scored his second goal in two games.

“They have only played a few games together… but the key is that the team is going to improve more and more.”

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