Apoel put in a brave display against Real Madrid but eventually went down to a 3-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu courtesy of a Cristiano Ronaldo brace and a Sergio Ramos bicycle kick.
After resting a number of key players in his side’s disappointing home draw to Levante on the weekend, Zinedine Zidane restored his big names to the starting line-up for the visit of Giorgos Donis’ men.
The Greek boss, meanwhile, gave starts to new boys Praxitelis Vouros and Roland Sallai at right-back and right wing respectively, who had the unenviable task of attempting to stop Marcelo and Gareth Bale.
The first ten minutes gave a clear image of how the game was going to go, with Apoel camped out in their own half and the hosts launching attack after attack.
Apoel’s first venture forward would prove their own undoing as Roberto Lago’s attempted cut-back for Lorenzo Ebecilio was snuffed out and Real broke quickly to get the breakthrough.
Isco laid the ball out wide to Gareth Bale, who then perfectly drilled a cross between goalkeeper and defence, so when it arrived at Ronaldo’s feet there was only going to be one outcome. 1-0 on 12 minutes.
Madrid continued to dominate, but Apoel’s defensive discipline kept the hosts at bay for the remainder of the half.
At the start of the second period however, a contentious decision saw Apoel’s chances of getting anything from the game vanish. Lago was adjudged to have handled in the area when replays showed it hit his shoulder.
Ronaldo made no mistake from the spot and Apoel’s defensive discipline took a dent. Madrid had a stronger penalty shout turned down moments later featuring Lago and Ronaldo once again, while Isco was unable to dispatch the loose ball that fell his way after the challenge.
The game was wrapped up just after the hour mark – Marcelo clipped a cross to the far post for Bale who nodded the ball back for Sergio Ramos who acrobatically converted. Boy Waterman, anticipating a powerful strike, made a step to the right, allowing the Madrid skipper’s tame effort to creep past him.
Apoel stuck to their gameplan and almost got rewarded on 75 minutes as Igor de Camargo attempted a strike on the turn but his effort went harmlessly wide
Ronaldo thought he had bagged his hat-trick late on, tapping in a Luka Modric cross from close range, but the forward was rightly called offside.
Despite the 3-0 scoreline, Donis and his men will be content with their display, and will look to take the positives into the rest of their challenging European campaign.
In the group’s other game, Tottenham Hotspur defeated Borussia Dortmund 3-1 at Wembley, and Apoel’s next Champions League game sees them host the North London club at the GSP Stadium on September 26.