Real Madrid are through to the knockout round of the Champions League thanks to a 6-0 hammering of APOEL in Group H action on Tuesday night at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia.
Braces from Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, plus goals from Luka Modric and Nacho paved the way for the three points and a berth in next February’s Round of 16.
Following Saturday’s 0-0 slugfest in the Madrid derby, Real boss Zinedine Zidane needed a dominating performance from his men, and they delivered with four goals in the final 25 minutes of the first-half to seal the victory.
Most importantly for the Zidane was the return to form of striker Benzema, who doubled his season total of goals from two to four. For a player who had been suffering from low confidence, this could mark the start of a warmly welcomed hot streak.
Zidane opted to include Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio in his starting XI aligned in a 4-4-2, while Casemiro and Isco took up places on the bench. Los Blancos were slow out of the gates. While they enjoyed the bulk of possession, their play was far too slow and it allowed APOEL to swarm and clamp down on Zidane’s attackers.
But one thing Real can always count on is their quality to rise to the surface in a time of need, and Modric answered the call midway through the half with an absolute bullet to give Real the 1-0 lead. Dani Carvajal sent in a cross that was poorly cleared by the APOEL’s Vinicius, and it fell perfectly for the Croatian, who smashed in a volley from outside the area that went searing past APOEL goalkeeper Nauzet.
APOEL could only withstand the Real pressure so much, and a smart one-two combination between Toni Kroos and Ronaldo opened up the hosts’ defence, allowing the German to play into Benzema, who fired home to double the lead 2-0 shortly before half-time.
The Frenchman’s goal broke the dam, and in the blink of an eye it was 3-0 to the visitors. Asensio swung in a corner kick, which was headed toward goal by Raphael Varane, and Nacho smartly continued his run and redirected the ball in past Nauzet for the score.
The rout was on and Benzema added a second goal right before the break for good measure. It was a classic counter-attacking goal from Los Blancos, as Kroos found the galloping Benzema, who found Cristiano Ronaldo on the left. The Portuguese then unselfishly deked and danced his way past three APOEL defenders before laying a ball back to Benzema, who had the easiest of sweeps into net for the 4-0 half-time scoreline.
The only thing missing from Real in the first-half was a goal from Ronaldo, but in the second-half it took less than three minutes for him to strike, as he thumped in a Marcelo cross to extend the lead to 5-0.
APOEL were doing themselves no favours, and a horrific defensive miscue set up another Real goal, as Ronaldo pounced on a loose ball with Nauzet well off his line and scored to make it 6-0.
The tempo of the contest slowed considerably in the final half-hour, with the outcome certain. The only question was whether Real would add any other scores or if APOEL could muster a consolation score. Neither was to happen though, as Real will now turn back their attention to LaLiga play with a Saturday home clash versus Malaga.
– Match facts:
0.- APOEL: Nauzet; Vouros, Jesus Rueda, Carlao, Roberto Lago; Morais (Ebecilio, min. 66), Vinicius (Farias, min. 59), Sallai (Efrem, min. 60), Zahid; Pote, Aloneftis.
6.- Real Madrid: Casilla; Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo (Theo, min. 58); Lucas Vazquez, Modric, Kroos (Dani Ceballos, min. 58), Asensio; Benzema (Borja Mayoral, min. 64), Cristiano Ronaldo.
Goals: 0-1, min. 23: Modric; 0-2, min. 39: Benzema; 0-3, min. 41: Nacho; 0-4, min. 45: Benzema; 0-5, min. 48: Ronaldo; 0-6, min. 54: Ronaldo.
Referee: Artur Soares Dias (Portugal).
Yellow Cards: Carvajal (Min. 90) for Real Madrid.