Ronaldo hits back with a brace to seal a comfortable win over Apoel
Just under three and a half months after they beat Juventus to win the Champions League for a record-extending 12th time, Madrid werr in action once again as they started the defence of their crown. With three of the last four European titles going to the Spanish giants, they arguably started the competition favourites to win it once again, but being placed in a difficult group had left them needing a positive start to the campaign.
With Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur also looking for a way out of Group H, it was important Madrid didn’t slip up against an APOEL side that had proved themselves capable of causing a few problems for the bigger clubs in recent years. Los Blancos also headed into tonight’s clash on the back of disappointing draws against Valencia and Levante, leaving them in seventh place in LaLiga with three games played.
Despite their less than stellar start to the new season, Madrid should had few problems finding a way past their opponents, who were undoubtedly the minnows of the group. APOEL comfortably won their first game of the domestic campaign on the weekend but were made to work hard in the Champions League qualifying rounds, where they were almost knocked out by Romanian minnows Viitorul last month.
APOEL enjoyed an excellent run in the 2011-12 edition of the Champions League, where they got the better of Zenit, Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Lyon to set up a quarter-final clash with Madrid. That was the last time the two sides met, and it was a two-legged clash that the Spanish side comfortably managed to win 8-2 on aggregate.
Zinedine Zidane had decided to make six changes to the Madrid side that started the 1-1 draw with Levante on the weekend, with Keylor Navas, Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic, Isco, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale all returning to the starting line-up.
Meanwhile, APOEL boss Giorgos Donis had made just two alterations to the team that featured in their last outing, with Agustin Farias and Ghayas Zahid making way for Vinicius and Efstathios.
It didnt take much time for ronaldo to get back on scoring ways as just on the 12th minute the home side counter-attacked quickly and managed to catch APOEL with far too many players at the other end of the pitch. Bale broke down the left wing and into space before firing an absolutely brilliant cross over to the far post, where Ronaldo got the better of Carlao and blasted in from close range.
It really was an excellent low cross from Bale, who perfectly picked out Ronaldo in a pocket of space at the far post. However, the APOEL defence really should had done better to deal with the danger.
Kroos was eventually able to come on in the 25th minute to replace Kovacic, who had gone straight down the tunnel to receive further treatment on what looked to be a nasty injury.
It stayed 1-0 at half-time with huge credit to apoel back-line for showing up a good defensive performance.
But unfortunately real madrid were handed a penalty on the 51st minute due to a handball and Ronaldo stepped -up and coolly fired an excellent strike into the bottom left-hand corner of the net to pick up his second goal of the evening.
Mr real madrid sergio ramos made it 3-0 when a beautiful curling cross from Marcelo perfectly picker out Bale at the far post, and the Welshman rose high to set up Ramos with a deflected header. The defender immediately pulled -off an excellent overhead kick from close range, and it was one of those that left waterman with no chance.
Cristiano Ronaldo bagged up another champions league man of the match honor for his brace and
It wasn’t questionable that he could had easily scored another hat-trick if he had more exposure and game time in the previous weeks.
Madrid weren’t at their best during what was a slightly lacklustre first half for the Spanish giants, but they increased the tempo after the break and were excellent from then onwards. APOEL defended valiantly as they desperately tried to hold on, and in the end they did well to limit their opponents to just three goals. The game was only ever going to go one way though, and the home side would have been certainly pleased with their efforts.