By Ian Chadband
Real Madrid earned their first-ever win over Liverpool with a wondrous Cristiano Ronaldo goal spearheading a 3-0 Champions League victory at Anfield on Wednesday which appeared as classy as it was dominant.
The roar of one of Europe’s most vociferous crowds was muted when Ronaldo, combining with James Rodriguez, scored the most brilliant of openers in the 23rd minute, his 70th Champions League goal moving him within one of Raul’s all-time record.
Poor Liverpool defending then contributed to Karim Benzema striking twice more for the champions before half-time and left the hosts to try to overturn a three-goal deficit in the Champions League for the first time since the 2005 final.
Carlo Ancelotti, who was in charge of the AC Milan side which threw away that lead in Istanbul, was not about to let history repeat itself in this Group B encounter as his men consolidated to win their third consecutive Champions League game and emphatically put an end to Liverpool’s three-game, 100 per cent winning record over them.
Madrid top the group with nine points, while Liverpool, Basel and Ludogorets are all six points adrift.
Ronaldo, who could easily have equalled the record in the second half only to be thwarted by keeper Simon Mignolet, was taken off with a quarter of an hour left by Ancelotti, who was thinking ahead to Saturday’s Clasico against Barcelona. By that point, Real’s eighth successive win in all competitions was wrapped up.
The closest Liverpool came to clawing their way back into the game was just before half-time when Philippe Coutinho struck a thunderous 20-metre shot against the post with Madrid keeper Iker Casillas well-beaten.
Liverpool looked a little more threatening after the break, once Mario Balotelli, again a grievous disappointment, had been replaced by Adam Lallana.
As the teams went down the tunnel at half-time, Balotelli swapped shirts with Pepe, a gesture which will doubtless not have been greatly appreciated by the home fans at such a stage in the game.
Wednesday’s Champions league results:
Atletico Madrid 5-0 Malmo
Olympiakos 1-0 Juventus
Ludogorets 1-0 Basel
Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Zenit St Petersburg
Monaco 0-0 Benfica
Galatasaray 0-4 Borussia Dortmund
Anderlecht 1-2 Arsenal