Ronaldo double helps Real thrash APOEL
Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice and Kaka added a first-half goal as Real Madrid completed its easy passage into the Champions League semifinals with a 5-2 victory over APOEL Nicosia on Wednesday.
Madrid reached its second straight semifinal under coach Jose Mourinho after winning the quarterfinal 8-2 on aggregate, with the record nine-time champion`s progression never in doubt at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
APOEL, which stunned Lyon in the previous round after becoming the first Cypriot team to even reach the knockout stages of the competition, was simply outclassed and overpowered in this one as its remarkable Champions League run finally came to an end.
Ronaldo scored in each half to take his season goal tally to 49, while Kaka curled home in the 37th to match Rivaldo`s 27 Champions League goals, a record for a Brazilian player.
Gustavo Manduca netted for APOEL in the 67th, while substitutes Jose Callejon and Angel di Maria added goals for Madrid and Esteban Solari scored a late penalty for the Cypriots.
Madrid, which will face Bayern Munich in the semis, has now advanced 27 of 28 times when winning away in the first leg, and its explosive attack simply overpowered the underdog opponent.
“The objective has been achieved, we won and now we`re in the semifinals,” Ronaldo said. “Now we have Bayern, which is not going to be easy.”
Mourinho`s Inter Milan beat Bayern in the 2010 final before the Portuguese coach joined Madrid, which reached the final four for a record 23rd time.
“A very dangerous rival,” Mourinho said. “It`s a semifinal I want to play, that the players want to play, I think Europe will enjoy this semifinal.”
Defending champion Barcelona plays Chelsea in the other semifinal, with the final being played at Bayern`s Allianz Arena on May 19.
“Barcelona is not favourite, it`s super favourite,” Mourinho said wryly about Madrid`s main rival. “Barcelona will definitely play the final because they are very good.”
Mourinho insisted before the game that he wouldn`t juggle his lineup much, but the Portuguese coach started Turkey international Nuri Sahin in midfield in place of Xabi Alonso, alongside Hamit Altintop and Raphael Varane. Kaka also returned after inspiring the 3-0 first-leg victory, and troubled goalkeeper Urko Pardo early on before the breakthrough.
Gonzalo Higuain missed Marcelo`s cross at the near post but Ronaldo was at the opposite post to open the scoring in the 26th. Kaka doubled the lead with a shot from the left edge of the area, and later hit the post from a similar spot.
Mourinho introduced Callejon and Di Maria soon after the restart, but it was APOEL who scored the next goal. After failing to produce a single shot in the first half, the Cypriots took advantage of Madrid`s lack of concentration as Manduca was played clear through Madrid`s defensive line into the area, where he beat Iker Casillas with clinical finish.
APOEL certainly showed grit — defender Paulo Jorge lost two teeth after a run-in with teammate William Boaventura — but Madrid responded through Ronaldo`s eighth goal of the competition, a perfectly taken free kick that curled over the defensive wall past the outstretched Pardo into the top corner.
Callejon scored from an individual run in the 80th to re-establish the three-goal advantage, but Altintop soon slid into Solari — brother of former Real Madrid player Santiago Solari — as the pair charged into the area to set up the spot kick which he calmly pushed past Casillas.
But Madrid`s explosive attack did not let up as Di Maria lobbed the ball over Pardo for the Argentina forward`s first goal since returning from a long injury layoff.
“We knew we weren`t going to get through to the semifinals after the match in Nicosia. What we wanted was to play the best football possible,” said APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic, whose team`s journey here started with qualifying last summer. “The result wasn`t so bad. I think our fans enjoyed a nice game.
“We`re very proud to say goodbye to the Champions League in this stadium against Real Madrid.”
Before the match, both teams and the 54,627 spectators paid tribute to Jose Maria Zarraga, a member of the Madrid team that won a record five straight European Cups between 1956-60, who died Tuesday.