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Ronaldo on the double to get European campaign started

Patrick Power by Patrick Power @rfutbol - 0 7,366

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Ronaldo returned for Real with a brace. EFE

Ronaldo on the double to get European campaign started

Patrick Power by Patrick Power @rfutbol - 0 7,366

Real Madrid faced their group underdogs at the Santiago Bernabeu as they welcomed back Cristiano Ronaldo. The match was lacking a certain rhythm at times, but the Portuguese striker made sure there were no upsets in the Spanish capital.

The Champions League returned to the home of the reigning two-time winners. But Apoel were not about to be intimidated by the atmosphere in the stadium. While the financial mismatch was noticeable, Madrid's wage bill ten times larger than all 14 clubs in Cyprus' top division, Apoel put on a brave face as they prepared to represent their country proudly.

It was the champions of Cyprus in each of the last five years who fired the first warning after Gareth Bale squadered his first chance. The forward got a head to Marcelo's cross inside the box but his effort did not trouble Waterman as it flew well over the bar. Roberto Lago then drove a thumping strike towards goal from 35 yards which Navas tipped over.

Real Madrid were without Karim Benzema, but Ronaldo's return to the team saw him settle into that No 9 role nicely. Supported by Isco on the left and Gareth Bale on the right, it was the Welshman who provided the pinpoint low cross to the back post for Ronaldo to redirect the ball across goal and into the opposite corner.

Madrid's dominance was only increased further with this goal, having broken the deadlock allowing them to knock the ball around comfortably. Unfortunately, the night was over soon for midfield man Mateo Kovacic, who strained his hamstring sending a simple pass for Marcelo. The Croatian midfielder limped off the pitch, making way for Toni Kroos.

Bale seemed to enjoy his newly found role of assisting for Ronaldo as he set up the striker at the back post again only for his finish to drift wide of the upright. In the meantime, Isco got off to his usual antics. The little Spaniard showed off his dexterity and skills as he waltzed around Apoel's midfield.

Ronaldo had the chance to give his side a two-goal lead after yet another inch-perfect ball from Bale, but the Portuguese striker was only able to direct his header into the side-netting.

The one-goal difference on the scoreboard remained throughout the first half, with the hosts falling victim to all sorts of unfamiliar imprecisions. Real Madrid pinned Apoel inside their own half, but the 'Blancos' were not working those passes around the box as sharply as usual.

After the break, Real Madrid came out determined to put the game to bed once and for all. Within a minute, Ronaldo had his arm up claiming his close-range finish had bounced in off the bar, though the instant replay showed the ball had not crossed the line in its entirety.

The Portuguese striker was eager to continue his scoring streak and was glad to see a penalty awarded to Madrid when Roberto Lago appeared to hand the ball inside the area. Gareth Bale provided another trademark low cross into the area, and the ball bounced up to hit the left-back's upper arm.

Ronaldo drove the ball straight into the bottom left corner away from Waterman's reach and then dashed to retrieve the ball from the net as his hunt for a hat-trick continued. Only moments later, he had another sight of goal, Lago clipping his standing leg and bringing him down. No penalty was given, but the ball ran onto Isco whose low strike was blocked by the keeper.

The Spaniard was also keen to get on the scoresheet, firing his next effort over the bar. However, Real's next scorer was Sergio Ramos, who raced upfield in typical fashion to find the back of the net with a rather lucky attempt at a bicycle kick from a couple of yards out. The defender scored his 70th goal for Real Madrid in all competitions.

Zidane's team continued to dominate possession as they pushed forward in search of another goal. Ronaldo found the back of the net again but was ruled offside, before he squared the ball for Mayoral, who scored with the same outcome. In the end, the scoreline remained the same as Real Madrid got their European campaign underway with a comfortable win.

 

Patrick Power

Patrick Power

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