Cristiano Ronaldo brace shows Real Madrid what they've been missing
Real Madrid eventually racked up the score in a 3-0 Champions League win against an Apoel side who briefly threatened in the opening exchanges but ran out of steam in the second half. Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice, and Sergio Ramos added a third in a comfortable, if not entirely convincing, performance against by far the weakest side in the group.
After two home draws in La Liga, Real could ill-afford another slip-up, and the Bernabeu got behind the side from the outset. Real responded by playing some decent stuff in patches and were rarely short of ideas as they were against Levante last weekend. Ronaldo's return showed that only a clinical scorer was the missing link in consecutive domestic draws, and overall the home side completely dominated the Cypriot champions.
Real hadn't lost a group stage game at the Bernabeu since 2009 against AC Milan, but they laboured to victory against a side that have never won away in the Champions League in 12 attempts. A total of six shots went on target from 26 attempts for a return of three goals, one of them a penalty. Those numbers will be punished by the other two clubs in the group: Tottenham and Dortmund.
7 (out of 10) -- Anything other than three points from this fixture would have screamed crisis. The Levante draw was well-earned by an opponent Zinedine Zidane was guilty of underestimating. He took no chances with his selection against Apoel and got his reward, however uninspiring it might have been.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Keylor Navas, 6 -- Alert to tip over from Roberto Lago early, Navas was a spectator for the rest of the game. Apoel's best chance came from Igor de Camargo in the second half, and the Real keeper chaperoned it past his near post.
DF Dani Carvajal, 7 -- Up against Efstathios Aloneftis, who was more of a handful than Carvajal might have expected, the full-back didn't have too much trouble, but he was caught out of position a couple of times. Incisive going forward, Carvajal was much more crosses than noughts.
DF Nacho, 7 -- Did enough to prevent De Camargo getting a shot off in the area at 0-0 for Apoel's best chance and covered well for Carvajal on the right when his Spain teammate was elsewhere.
DF Sergio Ramos, 8 -- A risky attempt to outplay the Apoel forward line in his own area aside, Ramos was colossal, adding an acrobatic goal to an excellent all-around performance. Booked on 52 minutes for doing what he'd been doing all night in a fairly contested game, you have to wonder if refs are just playing Ramos bingo these days.
DF Marcelo, 7 -- The Brazilian was on his best behaviour after his meltdown at the weekend and got forward regularly to ping in a few teasing crosses, one of which led to Ramos' goal.
DF Casemiro, 8 -- A beautiful dink over the top for Ronaldo showed the velvet glove Casemiro possesses. In the iron-fist stakes, other than Aloneftis gliding past the Brazilian with ease on 70, he put in more than double the number of tackles of any player on the pitch.
MF Luka Modric, 8 -- Modric threaded some glorious balls though the Apoel back line and highlighted the difference between this team with him and without him. Zidane won't be in a hurry to rest him again.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 7 -- Merrily getting stuck in early -- the ref having a little word at one point -- the Croatian limped off on 20 minutes with a knee problem to a chorus of "Mateo Kovacic" from the stands. His night might have ended early, but he has won the Bernabeu long-term.
FW Isco, 6 -- That old tendency to hang on to the ball too long led to it being unceremoniously removed on several occasions. Twice Isco could have picked out Ronaldo in a scoring position but decided to go himself. He might be in form, but he still lacks the occasional bit of nous when not everything is coming off.
FW Gareth Bale, 7 -- Had Isco delivered the volleyed cross for Ronaldo's opener, there would have been calls for a knighthood. But Bale remains a divisive player. Practically a target man, he had a hand in Ramos' goal, but his scant participation in buildup play and a return of zero shots on target will only add fuel to the fire of Marco Asensio's claim.
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 9 -- Opened the scoring with a precision finish for his 106th Champions League goal and added a second from the spot after a questionable decision against Lago. Ronaldo should have had a hat trick, but goal line tech and the inconveniences of the offside rule denied him. He squared for Dani Ceballos in stoppage time but was, again, offside. Still, Ronaldo's goals are what Real have been lacking, and he was decisive on the night.
MF Toni Kroos, 7 -- On for the stricken Kovacic on 25 minutes, Kroos provided his standard midfield mastery.
MF Dani Ceballos, NR -- On his Champions League debut, Ceballos had the ball in the net with the final kick but was denied by the linesman's flag.
FW Borja Mayoral, NR -- On for Bale with 10 to go, you have to wonder when his next chance will come.
Rob Train covers Real Madrid and the Spanish national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Cafc13Rob.