- Associated Press
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

MADRID (AP) - Cristiano Ronaldo made the difference in his return, scoring twice as Real Madrid began its quest for a third straight Champions League title by beating Cypriot club APOEL 3-0 on Wednesday.

Ronaldo scored in each half in his first match since being suspended for shoving a referee in the Spanish Super Cup final last month.


He’s still suspended for one more match of his five-game suspension, but is cleared to play in European competitions.

“He always scores and I hope it continues this way,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said.

Sergio Ramos scored the third goal at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where Madrid hasn’t lost a group-stage game in almost eight years.

The Spanish powerhouse has won 12 of its last 13 Champions League games at the Bernabeu.

Tottenham defeated Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in the other Group H match.

“We needed this victory,” Zidane said. “It’s important to start this competition well. We can’t be too happy with how we played in the first half, but we were much better in the second.”

It didn’t take long for Ronaldo to show he’s in form.

In the 12th minute, he scored with an angled shot from near the far post after a low cross by Gareth Bale. His second in the 51st was a penalty kick after a handball was called inside the area.

Ronaldo has the most penalty kick goals in Champions League history, with 12, one more than Lionel Messi.

He took his Champions League record tally to 107 goals.

Ronaldo also struck the crossbar, and had two goals disallowed for offside.

Madrid’s third goal came in the 61st when Ramos flicked the ball with an overhead kick while with his back to the net.

“We tried to remain tight at the back and counterattack, but matching their level was really tough,” APOEL captain Nuno Morais said.

APOEL was eliminated by Madrid when it made its surprising run to the quarterfinals in 2012.

The Cyprus team has not won any of its 12 away matches in the Champions League, losing the last six in row.

“We need to be realistic. We knew it would be hard,” APOEL coach Giorgos Donis said. “We are not aiming too high in this group but we feel our games at home will be very different than the ones away.”

Madrid defensive midfielder Mateo Kovacic had to be substituted midway through the first half because of an apparent muscle injury.

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More AP Champions League coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/ChampionsLeague

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