Cristiano Ronaldo Brace Pushes Real Madrid to UCL Win vs. Apoel Nicosia

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2017

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 13: Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid celebrates scoring his sides third goal during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Real Madrid and APOEL Nikosia at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on September 13, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Real Madrid began their campaign to win a third successive UEFA Champions League with a comfortable 3-0 win over Cypriot outfit Apoel Nicosia FC in Group H at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Cristiano Ronaldo, making his first club appearance since August due to an ongoing domestic ban, finished a fine move early on to give Real the lead and then converted from the penalty spot early in the second half.

Skipper Sergio Ramos made it 3-0 in the 61st minute with a close-range overhead kick, and despite numerous further efforts from Ronaldo as he searched for his hat-trick, that is how the match ended in Madrid.

ESPN football writer Dermot Corrigan provided the starting lineups ahead of kick-off:

Real's Keylor Navas was the first goalkeeper called into action as he tipped a swerving long-range effort from Roberto Lago over the bar in the 10th minute. It was as close as Apoel came to netting all night.

Two minutes later, Ronaldo had his first goal of the night as he turned home from a tight angle at the far post following a brilliant Gareth Bale delivery from the left.

Three minutes later, the Portuguese was almost in again, with another fantastic ball from Bale on the left flank setting Ronaldo up for a header, but he could not quite squeeze the effort inside the post.

Real Madrid's forward from Portugal Cristiano Ronaldo drives the ball during the UEFA Champions League football match Real Madrid CF vs APOEL FC at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on September 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS        (Photo cr
GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty Images

The visitors did all they could to frustrate Real and were successful at times as they sat deep and defended in numbers.

But Ronaldo had two further fine chances before the break; the first of which he put wide of the right post on the stretch after another fizzing Bale delivery, the second a dragged shot from the edge of the box.

Six minutes into the second half, the former Manchester United man finally got his second, finishing low and hard from the spot after Lago was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area.

The strike put Ronaldo ahead of Barcelona's Lionel Messi in the Champions League penalty stakes, per Opta:

It seemed only a matter of time before the forward registered yet another hat-trick, but it was an acrobatic effort from Ramos that put Real 3-0 ahead just after the hour.

The centre-back improvised brilliantly with a bicycle-kick on the six-yard line to convert Bale's knockdown, adding to his impressive goalscoring tally, per Squawka:

Real were dominant for the remaining half-hour but failed to add to the score despite having the ball in the back of the net twice in the last five minutes—close-range efforts from Ronaldo and substitute Borja Mayoral were both correctly ruled out for offside.

However, it was still a comfortable win for Zinedine Zidane's side, who will face a tougher test in their next group match at Borussia Dortmund on September 26.