Real Madrid began their Champions League defence with a predictably straightforward victory over Cypriot champions APOEL as Cristiano Ronaldo made a goalscoring return to action.
The Portuguese star, who is serving a five-game domestic suspension, netted his team’s first two goals before Sergio Ramos completed the scoring in a comfortable win which will help restore positivity around the Bernabeu after two consecutive draws in La Liga.
APOEL actually made a bright start and had two early half-chances as Roberto Lago’s long-range strike was tipped over by Keylor Navas before striker Lorenzo Ebicilio had a shot blocked from the edge of the box.
But immediately after that second opportunity Madrid quickly broke through Mateo Kovacic and Isco, whose pass allowed Gareth Bale to deliver an excellent low cross from the left wing into the path of Ronaldo, who finished with typical aplomb from a narrow angle.
The home team, who lost Kovacic to injury shortly afterwards, spent the rest of the first half regularly looking on the verge of adding another goal but, despite their dominance, they created few clear chances until Ronaldo sent a couple of a presentable opportunities wide shortly before the break.
Always at the forefront of his team’s attacking efforts, Ronaldo was denied another goal early in the second half when his close-range volley crashed against the underside of the crossbar and bounced off the goalline to safety.
But he didn’t have to wait for long, with Bale’s deflected cross being handled by Roberto Lago to give the Portuguese ace a penalty which he clinically dispatched into the bottom left corner.
Isco squandered a great chance for number three by seeing his shot saved as Ronaldo appealed in vain for a penalty, but skipper Ramos soon had better luck with an acrobatic overhead volley from Bale’s knockdown.
The chief matter of interest for the remaining half hour was whether Ronaldo would complete his hat-trick, and he was frustrated to be denied that milestone by being correctly flagged offside as he tapped home a low cross from Luka Modric.
In a largely uneventful finale, Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane was able to give youngsters Dani Ceballos and Borja Mayoral their Champions League debuts from the bench, with the latter appearing up front for Bale who was harshly jeered by sections of the Bernabeu crowd as he headed to the sidelines.
Below are the ratings from the game:
Navas – 6
Carvajal – 7
Ramos – 7
Nacho – 6
Marcelo – 7
Modric – 7
Casemiro – 6
Isco – 7 (Ceballos)
Kovacic – 6 (Kroos 7)
Bale – 6 (Mayoral)
Ronaldo – 8
Waterman – 6
Vouros – 6
Rueda – 6
Carlao – 5
Lago – 5
Sallai – 5 (Farias 5)
Vinicius – 7
Morais – 5
Aloneftis – 5
De Camargo – 4 (Pote)
Ebecilio – 5 (Zahid)
Cristiano Ronaldo: 8 – Who else? The Real Madrid legend was the standout.
Zinedine Zidane: 7 – Took a gamble by naming a strong line-up but after recent league disappointments his team needed the confidence boost of a comfortable victory and that’s what they got. One questionable decision was removing Gareth Bale rather than giving him the chance to find a much-needed goal, but generally this was a straightforward encounter.
George Donis: 5 – In the first few minutes Donis’s gameplan looked spot on as APOEL defended well and broke dangerously on a couple of occasions. But then Madrid scored the opener and the game was effectively over, with the outclassed Cypriots forced into damage limitation mode for the remainder of the contest.
Having not played a competitive club game for Real Madrid since being sent off in the first-leg of Spanish Super Cup clash against Barcelona on August 13th, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has served four of his five-match suspension in domestic football, wasted no time to make his mark on his return in Europe.
12 minutes in fact – that was it all took for the Portuguese legend to score. It is the sixth successive time he has achieved that feat on the opening night of the Champions League season.
A subtle check and run left Brazilian defender Carlao for dead – the 31-year-old had no idea where Ronaldo was at the back post as he slotted home. Credit, too, has to go to Gareth Bale who provided a slick through ball across the face of goal.
Perhaps Ronaldo’s hefty five-game suspension for shoving the referee at the Nou Camp has turned out to be a blessing in disguise as he looked as sharp as ever and hungry in front of goal. Valuable rest time for the in-demand star.
His early penalty in the second-half secured the game and from then on it was a practice match for the hosts. Could Ronaldo net a hat-trick, that became the serial plotline. He didn’t get it in the end but he can be happy with his night’s work on a humid evening in Madrid.
Whites fans will next see their hero in action at the Santiago Bernabeu on September 21, when he returns from his La Liga ban and will face Real Betis.
Goals – 2
Assists – 0
Shots – 9 (3)
Dribbles – 2
Passes – 27
Key passes – 2
Pass Accuracy – 84.6%
Touches – 41
Aerials Won – 0
Ronaldo’s movement, quick feet, direct running and killer instinct were all there as normal. Playing as the leader and focal point of Los Blancos’ attack, he was given freedom to drift onto the flanks and cut in, too – much like he did for his first goal.
He is the man Real need to guarantee that things happen on the pitch.
12th minute – On hand to rifle home his first of the match.
45th minute – Close again to adding to his tally at the end of the first-half, but couldn’t quite latch onto a cross from the left.
47th minute – Hits the bar but thinks the ball bounced down and went over the line following Dani Carvajal’s centre. While he had a go at the official operating behind the goal, it proved to be the right decision not to award it.
51st minute – Dispatches penalty with ease after Apoel defender clumsily handled in the area.
67th minute – Spurned a chance to claim his hat-trick, firing straight at goalkeeper Boy Waterman from a narrow angle.
74th minute – Glancing header from Dani Carvajal cross but didn’t quite get the contact he wanted.
85th minute – Slots home following Luka Modric’s pass – hat-trick?! But, no, it was clearly off-side despite Ronaldo’s grievances at the officials.
Lean, mean and just simply a goalscoring machine. 92 goals in 89 Champions League outings for Los Blancos – the incredible statistics just keep coming and coming. 145 appearances in Europe’s premier event in his career – the most out of any outfield player of all time – that takes some doing.
While it wasn’t the 32-year-old’s best game, his sheer presence on the pitch gave Madrid a lift after two consecutive draws at home to Valencia and Levante in La Liga.
With 12 goals in 13 Champions League outings last season, Ronaldo was the main man as Real secured back-to-back triumphs in Cardiff and boy will he be the key once again if Zinedine Zidane’s men are to reach Kiev in May.
Cristiano Ronaldo is no doubt frustrated at having not been able to play a part in Real Madrid’s La Liga campaign so far as he continues to serve a five-match domestic ban for a red card received in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup
But ahead of the European champions’ Champions League opener on Wednesday, the Portuguese star showed he’s as sharp as ever.
Ronaldo bamboozled Lucas Vazquez and Marcos Llorente en route to scoring a superb solo goal in training.
Ronaldo In Training this week🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/DIxjahHNb3
— Coaching Bible (@UKCoachingBible) September 13, 2017
The Real Madrid attacker is clearly raring to go for Wednesday night’s fixture against APOEL Nicosia at the Bernabeu.
And if he’s in this form, the Cypriot side are in for a long night.