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'I knew the goals would come'

Last updated on: September 16, 2009 

'I knew the goals would come'

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Real Madrid reaped their first Champions League dividends from Cristiano Ronaldo as the world's most expensive player converted two free kicks to help his team to a 5-2 victory over FC Zurich on Tuesday.

The Portuguese forward, who joined from Manchester United for 80 million pounds as part of the Spanish team's 250-million-euro (222 million pounds) close season spending spree, has averaged more than a goal a game for his new team.

"The most important thing was to win the first game and start well in Europe. The team played well and I'm happy with the result," Ronaldo told reporters.

"They say we're favourites to win the Champions League but we have to take it step by step. I knew the goals would come."

Ronaldo, who scored in his first two La Liga appearances, netted the first goal of the night when he rifled a free kick into the top corner from 20 metres in the 27th minute to silence the home fans, some of whom who were taunting him in Spanish.

The nine-times European champions led 3-0 at halftime before the Swiss champions pulled two goals back.

Ronaldo's second snuffed out the home side's fightback in the 89th minute, hitting a 30-metre free kick which slipped through goalkeeper Johnny Leoni's hands to take his tally for Real to four goals in three competitive games.

"He has showed his importance in all the games he has played," Real coach Manuel Pellegrini told a news conference.

"Today he showed us how good he is at free kicks but he doesn't have to prove anything as a player."


Image: Cristiano Ronaldo
Photographs: Reuters
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'We expected it to be tough and it was tough'

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A late Paul Scholes header earned Manchester United a 1-0 win in their first Champions League Group B match against a stubborn Besiktas side on Tuesday.

The visitors dominated possession but struggled to create many clear scoring opportunities until Scholes pounced on a parry from Besiktas keeper Hakan Arikan in the 77th minute.

Michael Carrick went close for United when he fired in a powerful shot after 12 minutes to force a good save from Hakan but the Turkish side's defence restricted United's scoring opportunities for most of the match.

"We expected it to be tough and it was tough as Besiktas are a very hard team to play against. They are organised and the fans gave great backing to team," United manager Alex Ferguson told Turkish broadcaster Star.

"It required good concentration and patience and I think for most of the game we were quite good at that," he said.

The second half started with more promise for the English champions, who went close in a goalmouth scramble before Hakan retrieved the ball but again United failed to translate their control into goals.

United striker Wayne Rooney made his frustration plain to see when he was substituted in the 64th minute, flinging his boots to the floor in the dug-out.

Winger Antonio Valencia shot wide of Hakan's right post from a narrow angle after 70 minutes and United finally capitalised seven minutes later when winger Nani fired in a crisp shot and former England midfielder Scholes headed in the rebound.

Efforts from Besiktas's Serdar Ozkan in the first half and Mert Nobre in the second gave the passionate home supporters hope.

"When looking at Manchester United's attacks 50 percent were a result of our own mistakes," Besiktas coach Mustafa Denizli told a news conference.

"I'm proud of my players. They fought hard for a result. We expected at least a point from the game."


Image: Paul Scholes
Photographs: Reuters
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Milan tame Marseille with Inzaghi double

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Two goals from Filippo Inzaghi gave AC Milan a 2-1 win at Olympique Marseille in their Champions League Group C opener on Tuesday.

Experienced goal-poacher Inzaghi, carelessly left unmarked at the far post, put the visitors ahead on 28 minutes when he tapped in from close range after a perfect cross by playmaker Clarence Seedorf.

Marseille recovered to level four minutes into the second half, Argentina defender Gabriel Heinze heading home from a Benoit Cheyrou free kick.

Inzaghi, however, was on target again on 74 minutes, converting another fine Seedorf pass with perfect timing to present the visitors with victory on a rainy night in the Mediterranean port city.

Milan coach Leonardo lost his voice and skipped the post-match news conference, leaving assistant Mauro Tassotti to say how pleased he was.

"This was a good show from us, especially in the first half, and this is a good result but it's too early to say we're back," Tassotti said. "What we need is a string of good results."

Marseille, who beat AC Milan 1-0 in Munich in the inaugural Champions League final in 1993, suffered at first against opponents better organised but then woke up and the second half was lively and largely in their favour.

"Tonight we saw the difference between a good French team and a great European side," Marseille defender Souleymane Diawara told reporters.

"We were inattentive twice and they scored two goals. We will learn from this for our next matches," he added, looking forward to matches against Real Madrid and FC Zurich.

The home side had hardly created a chance until midfielder Cheyrou fired from the edge of the box just before halftime, requiring a perfect save from Milan keeper Marco Storari.

Marseille came close again early in the second half with an angled shot from just outside the area by Argentina midfielder Lucho Gonzalez and levelled just after that.

Looking more and more confident, Marseille went on to create a few more chances but the Milan defence held tight and then Inzaghi lived up to his reputation as one Europe's most-feared marksmen.

The match was tense and marred by a few ugly scenes, notably a dangerous tackle from Milan's French midfielder Mathieu Flamini. The former Marseille player was lucky to escape with just a yellow card for his second-half challenge on Stephane Mbia.


Image: Filippo Inzaghi
Photographs: Reuters
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'Sometimes you have to win when you are below your best'

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A well-taken second-half goal by Nicolas Anelka gave Chelsea a 1-0 win over Porto in their opening Champions League Group D clash at a rain-sodden Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

The Frenchman struck three minutes into the second half but Chelsea had some nervous moments in the closing stages as Porto pushed hard for an equaliser before having Fernando sent off in injury time for a second caution.

With Atletico Madrid being held to a goalless home draw by APOEL Nicosia in the other Group D game, Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti was more than content.

"We couldn't hold on to the ball in the second half and could not control the game but Porto are a good side," the Italian told reporters.

"You can't always play your best and sometimes you have to win when you are below your best, that's an important characteristic for a team."

The last time Chelsea were in European action at Stamford Bridge, their hearts were broken by Barcelona's last-gasp equaliser in the second leg of last season's semi-final.

Didier Drogba and Jose Bosingwa were suspended on Tuesday following their rants about the referee in that encounter.

The hosts seemed to miss Drogba in the first half as strike duo Anelka and Salomon Kalou flitted in and around the box without really establishing a presence as neat midfield passing failed to develop into many attacking openings.

Porto looked dangerous as they broke quickly and kept John Terry and his defence on their toes in conditions made awkward by torrential rain.

Fredy Guarin headed over the bar and, in injury time, Raul Meireles popped a tame header straight at keeper Petr Cech when presented with the best chance of the first half.

Things changed within three minutes of the restart as a Kalou flick sent Anelka through on goal. His initial shot was parried by Helton but the Frenchman reacted smartly to force in the rebound from a tight angle.

The diving Helton did well to save a Kalou header after an hour while Branislav Ivanovic thundered another header inches over from the resulting corner.

Chelsea could not find the second goal and memories of Andres Iniesta's injury-time strike for Barcelona began to emerge as some sloppy play offered the visitors too many sights of goal.

The defence, though, stood firm to set the Londoners off on a journey they hope will end at the final in Madrid in May.

Having reached the semi-finals five times in the last six campaigns, Ancelotti's target is to make this the season Chelsea finally get over the line.

Porto coach Jesualdo Ferreira was not writing off his team's chances of progressing either.

"I think we should look at that game in a positive way," he said. "In the second half we controlled the game for long periods, we had a lot of shots and I think we were unlucky not to score.

"It's just the first game and we are still in a good position in the group. The door is still open."


Image: Nicolas Anelka
Photographs: Reuters
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'After we scored the first goal, it was easy for us'

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Two late goals by midfielder Thomas Mueller and one from defender Daniel van Buyten gave Bayern Munich a 3-0 win over Maccabi Haifa in a fast-paced Champions League Group A match in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

Mueller's strikes proved the breaking point for Haifa, who, even after van Buyten scored the first in the 64th minute, tried valiantly to make inroads into the Bayern defence and came close on two occasions.

Bayern dominated possession save for a 10-minute period at the beginning of the second half and it proved enough as the Germans eventually wore down Haifa's tiring defence.

In the first half, Haifa defended bravely with Bayern's Ivica Olic heading the ball into the net in the 26th minute but it was ruled offside.

Haifa keeper Nir Davidovitch made a fine diving save to keep Bayern at bay in the 57th minute when Arjen Robben shot low and hard after a free kick.

Van Buyten finally broke the deadlock when the Haifa defence failed to deal with a corner which fell to the giant defender who blasted his shot past Davidovitch.

Haifa's Vladimer Dvalishvili had his side's best effort when his shot from the edge of the area in front of goal was tipped over the bar by Bayern keeper Hans-Joerg Butt in the 76th minute.

Mueller was then allowed space on the edge of the area and he blasted the ball in after a cross in from the left in the 86th minute.

He sealed the win two minutes later when a sharp cross from substitute Mario Gomez landed at his feet and he tapped in from close range.

Bayern coach Louis van Gaal said he was delighted to get off to a positive start.

"I was very satisfied about the first half. We played at a very high tempo."

He added that Haifa could not keep up with Bayern's pace. "After we scored the first goal, it was easy for us," the Dutch coach said.

Haifa coach Elisha Levy said that the scoreline was not a true reflection of the match.

"After we went 1-0 down we went for broke and tried to equalise but at this level you must be patient to the end. The 3-0 scoreline does not tell the full tale of events during the match," he said.

Despite the convincing defeat, Haifa's players received a healthy round of applause from the almost capacity crowd of 39,000 spectators on a sultry evening at the National Stadium in Tel Aviv.

Haifa are playing their home matches in Tel Aviv, about 100kms south of their home base, because their ageing stadium is not fit to host matches at Champions League level.


Image: Thomas Muller
Photographs: Reuters
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Grafite hat-trick fires Wolfsburg to opening win

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Brazilian striker Grafite grabbed a hat-trick to inspire VfL Wolfsburg to a 3-1 win over CSKA Moscow on their Champions League debut on Tuesday.

Grafite's quality proved the difference between the sides in an entertaining match which put the German champions level at the top of the Group B standings with Manchester United.

"We were solid in defence, we did not allow them to create many chances and we deserved to win," Wolfsburg coach Armin Veh told reporters. "We were very disciplined."

Wolfsburg's Christian Gentner made two early attempts on goal but the hosts, starting with three strikers, had to wait until late in the half to celebrate.

Grafite, last season's Bundesliga top scorer and making his competition debut, chased down a Zvjezdan Misimovic through ball to slot home on 35 minutes.

Five minutes later he converted a penalty he had won, coolly sending keeper Igor Akinfeyev the wrong way to double the lead.

Moscow, largely toothless in the first half, pressed the Germans after the break and pulled one back when striker Guilherme set up Alan Dzagoev on the right to fire home.

New Moscow coach Juande Ramos, who replaced Brazilian Zico only five days ago, ordered his players to pour forward and even added another striker in the final six minutes in search of an equaliser.

Nika Piliev and Dzagoev came agonising close before Grafite sealed Wolfsburg's win three minutes from time, picking up a Marcel Schaefer pass in the box and turning well to beat keeper Igor Akinfeyev for a third time

"We deserved to win," Schaefer said. "We were impressive in attack. It is important to win our home games."


Image: Grafite
Photographs: Reuters
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'We worried Juventus and could have won'

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Jaroslav Plasil grabbed a 1-1 draw for Girondins Bordeaux at an under-par Juventus in a drab Champions League Group A opener on Tuesday.

Vincenzo Iaquinta had given the hosts the lead on 63 minutes when he fired past substitute goalkeeper Ulrich Rame after Fabio Cannavaro's ball forward outfoxed Bordeaux's defence.

Midfielder Plasil then poked in at the far post on 75 minutes after a shaky Juve defence had allowed a free kick to be flicked on.

The home side, in Ciro Ferrara's first European game as coach, were largely flat for much of the contest despite having won their first three Serie A games.

The French champions had just as many chances with Fernando slicing through Juve's backline early on and forcing Gianluigi Buffon into a smart save before again being denied by the Italy goalkeeper in the second period.

Claudio Marchisio rattled the bar for Juve late on but they lacked creativity without the injured Diego and Alessandro Del Piero.

"I'm sorry. We strongly wanted to start with a win but we came up against a well-organised side. The Champions League is always difficult but there is time to put it right," Ferrara told a news conference.

"Buffon has been phenomenal on a couple of occasions. I am a bit worried but it is normal. I don't want to find excuses."

Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc, who media linked with the Juventus job before Ferrara was appointed in May, urged his side forward knowing Juve were not at their best but former AC Milan midfielder Yoann Gourcuff spurned a few chances.

"We worried Juventus and could have won," Blanc said." I'm happy with the result as before the match I would have taken a draw. What gives me more pleasure is how we played."

Before scoring, Iaquinta blazed wide from a tight angle after colliding with goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso, who was substituted, and former Olympique Lyon defender Fabio Grosso soon troubled new keeper Rame with a curling freekick.

A small group of Juve fans made racist noises towards Bordeaux centre back Michael Ciani after an on-field incident but the insults quickly stopped. Juve had to play one Serie A game behind closed doors last season following racist chanting.


Image: Vincenzo Iaquinta
Photographs: Reuters
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