Real Madrid CF
APOEL 0-3 Real Madrid: Kaka makes major impact from bench while Benzema nets twice in comfortable victory for Mourinho's men
Three second-half goals handed the Spanish giants a straightforward away win against the hard-working Cypriot champions in Nicosia on Tuesday
By Alex Mott
Real Madrid recorded a 3-0 triumph over APOEL thanks to a second-half double from Karim Benzema and a single strike from Kaka in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie at GSP Stadium.
A diving header from the Frenchman, a side-footed finish from the Brazilian and a late tap-in for the former Lyon striker banished any Cypriot hopes of a famous draw, as the Spanish side's quality eventually shone through.
With APOEL playing the biggest game in their history, it was perhaps no surprise that they came out all guns blazing in front of a partisan home support, and attempted to put Jose Mourinho's side under extreme pressure early on.
It didn't take long, though, before Madrid started to dominate possession and create opportunities.
Within the space of three minutes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Benzema all had half-chances, but it wasn't until the quarter-hour mark until they had their first real opening. A ball from Ozil played in Fabio Coentrao, but the Portuguese full-back snatched at his shot and fired wide from inside the area.
The Cypriots, having already travelled further in the competition than any side in their nation's history were coping well with the relentless wave of Madrid attacks, but they very nearly found themselves a goal down on 33 minutes.
A beautiful ball across the six-yard box from Nuri Sahin evaded APOEL keeper Dionisis Chiotis and found Benzema unmarked at the far post, but the France international somehow missed the target with the goal at his mercy.
The remainder of the half fizzled out, as APOEL failed to offer support to the increasingly isolated Ailton up front, and the nine-time European champions just couldn't find a way past the resolute Cypriot back line.
The teams reemerged for the second half, and whatever Mourinho said to his side at the break seemed to work, as Los Blancos increased their intensity and attacking impetus during the opening exchanges.
Ozil, Sahin and Sami Khedira were creating some intricate midfield triangles, but as with the first 45, Ivan Jovanovic's men were defending at their very best to block any attempts at their goal.
With an hour gone, Madrid had completed 416 passes compared to APOEL's 94, but it took until the 74th minute for the Spanish side's dominance to truly show. Kaka put in a delicious cross from the left, and found the head of Benzema, who got down low to direct the ball into the back of the net from six yards.
The tiring APOEL legs were starting to show, and seven minutes later, it was two. Marcelo this time got to the byeline, played it back, and there was Kaka to coolly pass home and really sink all Cypriot hopes.
And right on 90 minutes, Madrid took the game out of sight. A burst from midfield by Ronaldo took him to the edge of the area, he played it square to Ozil, and the German passed first time across the six-yard box for Benzema to tap in.
The Spanish giants now have a comfortable advantage heading into the second leg next Wednesday at the Santiago Bernabeu, and can concentrate on their stuttering league form, with a place in the last four all but certain.
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