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)
MAN OF THE MATCH
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.