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Dublin: 8°C Friday 15 January 2021

Ronaldo leads comeback as Real scrape past Ludogorets

Atletico enjoyed a more noteworthy victory, also becoming the first side in 11 games to breach the Juventus defence

Real Madrid's Ronaldo celebrates his goal against Ludogorets.
Real Madrid's Ronaldo celebrates his goal against Ludogorets.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated at 23.15

CRISTIANO RONALDO HELPED Champions League holders Real Madrid survive an early scare in Bulgaria and come away with all three points from a 2-1 win over Ludogorets Razgrad in Sofia on Wednesday.

Ludogorets, a modest provincial club who have only been in existence for 13 years, stunned the 10-time European champions with a sixth-minute strike and threatened throughout despite Ronaldo taking a hand.

The Portuguese star missed one penalty and had a goal disallowed before scoring from a second spot-kick to spare Real’s blushes — all in the first 25 minutes.

French striker Karim Benzema made sure Real’s reputation remained intact with the winning goal 13 minutes from time.

The home crowd went wild in the sixth minute when the normally-composed Sergio Ramos made a mess of Fabio Espinho’s corner and Marcelinho nipped in to head in from two yeards out.

Four minutes later, Luka Modric slid a ball in behind the Bulgarian defence and Yordan Minev mistimed his tackle to concede the penalty, only for Ronaldo’s effort to be saved by goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov.

On 14 minutes, Ronaldo fired home into the bottom corner, but he was flagged for offside.

But he finally made amends 10 minutes later after he was brought down by Alexander Alexandrov and stepped up to knock the penalty home.

Ronaldo could have added a second on 35 minutes but just failed to get a head to Javier Hernandez’s cross and had and had another gilt-edged chance early in the second half.

In between Ludogorets fans were sure their side had taken the lead when Roman Bezjakl rounded off a crisp move with a clinical strike only for the offside flag to be raised again.

The wild scenes in the stadium meant Bezjak celebrated for almost half-a-minute before realising his strike had ruled out.

In an end-to-end encounter, Real’s class finally told 13 minutes from time when substitute Karim Benzema killed the tie off to give the Spanish side six points from their two games.

Marcelo’s pinpoint cross was met by the Frenchman with a clinical volley to silence the Sofia crowd.

Ludogorets have to play their matches in the capital as their own stadium holds just 6,500.

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund, who outclassed Arsenal in their opening game, top their group as they eased to a 3-0 win away at Anderlecht, Adrian Ramos scoring a double after Italian international Ciro Immobile had given them an early lead.

Real’s neighbours Atletico enjoyed a more noteworthy victory, not only putting behind them a surprise opening defeat by Olympiakos, but also becoming the first side in 11 games to breach the Juventus defence as Arda Turan scored the only goal of the game in Madrid.

Atletico’s group looks like being a really tight affair as, with Olympiakos slipping to a 2-0 defeat to Malmo in Sweden, all four sides are on three points.

“I am happy with the sacrifice shown by the guys,” said Atletico coach Diego Simeone.

“Commitment is not negotiable amongst this group and they have put in a huge effort against a great team.”

Group C, too, could go down to the wire as Zenit St Petersburg and Monaco top it with four points after they played out a 0-0 draw in Russia but German side Bayer Leverkusen are in the mix after beating last season’s Europa League finalists Benfica 3-1 with Korean star Son Heung-min their inspiration.

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