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UEFA-CL: Ronaldo has Madrid up and running

Posted by on Sep 15th, 2009 and filed under Latest News, Soccer. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Real Madrid CF to make a winning start in Group C but they had to withstand a determined fightback from hosts FC Zürich before wrapping up the victory.

Late drama
Ronaldo opened the scoring with a 27th-minute free-kick, Raúl González added a second from close range seven minutes later and Gonzalo Higuaín fired in the third in first-half stoppage time to seemingly kill the game off. Instead, after Xabi Alonso had left the field injured, Zürich hit back with two goals in as many minutes. Xavier Margairaz scored from the penalty spot and Silvan Aegerter converted a 65th-minute header to reopen the contest until Ronaldo’s 89th-minute set-piece sealed the points and Guti iced the cake.

Bright start
Zürich had hardly been overawed by their illustrious visitors on their group-stage debut. They showed plenty of early initiative – notably with captain Hannu Tihinen trying a cheeky back-heel in a goalmouth mêlée which forced a save from Iker Casillas – before settling for a containment strategy in their own half as the match developed. The only problem with such a policy is making it work against some of the world’s leading players. Ronaldo, who had already ballooned a free-kick over the bar, made no mistake midway through the half with a 25-metre stinger that flew over the wall before dipping viciously into the roof of Johnny Leoni’s net.

Double strike
The Portugal winger followed that up in the 34th minute by directing a header towards Higuaín, who scampered down the right flank before squaring the ball for Raúl to steer in from point-blank range. The Madrid captain returned the favour in first-half stoppage time, slipping a defence-splitting ball through for his partner Higuaín who skipped round Tihinen before placing a right-footed shot beyond Leoni. Madrid left the field with Simply the Best playing over the tannoy; Zürich could not really argue.

Zürich comeback
As with the first half, Zürich began the second brightly and conjured their best scoring chance yet in the opening exchanges, with Johan Vonlanthen curling a free-kick over to the far post where the waiting Margairaz could only direct his header wide of the target. It was a taste of things to come. More Zürich pressure ensued as Casillas did well to keep out Philippe Koch’s free shot from near the penalty spot. Madrid’s luck ran out soon after, though, when Alexandre Alphonse burst through their defence and was brought down by Casillas for a penalty which Margairaz gratefully converted in the 64th minute.

Madrid’s points
The goal gave the Swiss champions a huge lift and a minute later they were just one behind as Vonlanthen’s corner was met at the near post by Aegerter with a glancing header that gave Casillas no chance. Madrid soaked up the resulting pressure and got an unexpected reward late in the game when Ronaldo’s tame free-kick was punched by Leoni into the roof of his net. Substitute Guti added further gloss, collecting the ball just inside the Zürich half before surging through to chip the keeper.

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