Real Madrid 3-0 APOEL: Returning Ronaldo Fires Madrid to Victory Over Cypriot Minnows
Real Madrid began their defence of the Champions League crown with a stylish 3-0 victory over a stubborn Apoel Nicosia, thanks to a brace from Cristiano Ronaldo and a solitary Sergio Ramos strike.
After a disappointing draw at the Bernabeu against Levante on Saturday, Zinedine Zidane rung the changes for the home side, with the returning Ronaldo starting in a front three, that was without the injured Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema.
Apoel boss Giorgos Donis was without Cyprus international George Efram who picked up and injury in their qualifying round victory over Slavia Prague, meaning 20-year-old Roland Sallai was given his Champions League debut following his goal on Saturday.
As expected, Los Blancos started the game of the front foot with the first clear chance falling to Gareth Bale - as he headed wide. Roberto Lago then forced Keylor Navas into a routine save as his speculative effort from range was tipped over from the Costa Rican.
The Cypriot side grew in confidence from Lago's effort and committed more men forward, but were caught out in the 12th minute when a Madrid counter attack saw Bale drill a low cross in for the returning Ronaldo to slot home past Boy Waterman.
Two minutes later, Ronaldo went close to doubling the home side's lead when he met another Bale cross but could only direct his effort into the side netting. A stop start next 15 minutes followed after an injury to Mateo Kovacic saw him replaced by Toni Kroos.
Madrid were finding it hard to breakdown a stubborn and disciplined Apoel team with Ronaldo again coming close from Bale's superb first time cross, and Kroos saw his effort from 20 yards deflected wide.
Ronaldo looked the biggest threat in his first match since his three-match suspension and dragged an effort wide following good work from Isco, and then saw his penalty appeal fall on deaf ears moments before the half time whistle.
The second half began in frantic fashion with Ronaldo rattling the bar from a Dani Carvajal cross, before the Portugal captain confidently doubled his side's lead from the penalty spot after Lago was adjudged to have handled Bale's cross.
Isco then saw his effort thwarted by Waterman, with Ronaldo again feeling he should have had a penalty under the challenge of Lago, as Madrid started to stamp their authority.
Following the Madrid onslaught in the opening stages of the second period, the away side began to sit deeper in order to keep the scoreline respectable, allowing Zidane's side more space and time on the ball.
On the hour mark, Ramos added his name to the scoresheet when he acrobatically turned home Bale's header. Ronaldo was then denied his hat-trick by Waterman after Isco fed the four time Ballon d'Or winner, before the Spaniard drilled a low effort wide of the far post.
Igor de Carmago then saw his effort go wide for Apoel following good work down the left hand side from Efstathios Aloneftis as the Cypriot side searched for a unlikely route back into the game with 15 minutes to go.
Ronaldo thought he had his third with five minutes to go after Luka Modric superbly beat his man and fired in a cross, to the forward who tapped home only to be denied by the offside flag. As Madrid comfortably saw out the game, to start their campaign in the best possible fashion.