Cristiano Ronaldo would have scored 4 goals with no ban - Zinedine Zidane
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said Cristiano Ronaldo might have had four goals after the Portuguese had to make do with just two in Wednesday's 3-0 Champions League victory over Apoel Nicosia at the Bernabeu.
In his first competitive club game for a month, Cristiano Ronaldo took just 12 minutes to open the scoring by steering home Gareth Bale's left-wing cross, in what was the double competition holders' only shot on target of a quiet first half.
Ronaldo made it 2-0 from the penalty spot early in the second half after a harsh handball call against APOEL left-back Roberto Lago, with captain Sergio Ramos extending Madrid's lead with an untidy bicycle kick just past the hour mark.
As Madrid dominated completely Ronaldo was denied another by an offside flag, had a clear penalty appeal turned down, and hit the bar from just three yards out with the officials rejecting his claim the ball had crossed the line.
"[Cristiano] is the best in the world, he is always there, always scoring goals," Zidane told reporters afterwards.
"If he had been on form today, he scores four. We know what Cristiano can do. We are happy with the second half, and with the clean sheet."
It was a more mixed night for Ronaldo's strike partner Bale, who was involved in two of Marid's three goals and did his best work when drifting to a left-wing position, but was again whistled by some of the more demanding home fans.
"I did not hear whistles, I just heard applause," was Zidane's way of closing down that theme postgame. "Bale can play in many positions. After four months out he needs time to get back to his best. We will all see Gareth at his best, for sure."
Happier for Madrid was Ramos entertaining the crowd with a trademark bust forward in open play and then acrobatic chilena (bicycle kick) finish to the net.
"I was not able to do that, few players can," former galactico Zidane said with a smile. "Sergio normally goes with his head, the chilena was a bit strange."
A downer for Madrid on the night was an early muscle injury which saw midfielder Mateo Kovacic hobble off midway through the first half, with tests now required to see how serious the problem is.
"Kovacic felt something again," Zidane said. "He has told us it is not too bad, but we do not know yet."
Madrid captain Sergio Ramos told BeIn Sports on the final whistle that his acrobatic goal was something he had always been able to do.
"You must also believe, I like to get forward and when you do it something unexpected can always happen," Ramos said. "The chilena has always gone well for me, and the goal helped to calm down the game. I scored a few in Sevilla too."
Ramos also hailed the influence of Ronaldo, who has missed Madrid's last two La Liga games due to suspension, with the team drawing both at home against Valencia and Levante.
"It is true that Cris scoes a lot of goals and is fundamental for us," he said. "You cannot question his level, and while he is in form it will benefit Madrid."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan