Champions League: Ronaldo’s brace helps Real cement last 16 spot


NICOSIA: Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema both scored twice as holders Real Madrid crushed APOEL 6-0 in Nicosia on Tuesday to seal a place in the Champions League last 16.

Luka Modric volleyed Zinedine Zidane’s team into the lead on 23 minutes before Real floored Cypriot champions APOEL with five goals in a 15-minute blitz either side of half-time.

“It was a very good evening for us,” said Zidane, whose side fell 10 points behind Barcelona in La Liga following Saturday’s 0-0 draw away to city rivals Atletico Madrid. “We’re on the right track. We’re doing things well and we’re building in strength. It’s never easy but it was a complete display and we scored quickly. These goals are important for us and very important for Cristiano and Karim because they live to score goals.”

But the European champions could face Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the next round after Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 win at Borussia Dortmund ensured the English side will finish top of Group H.

“We know that whoever the opposition, they will all be good,” said Zidane. “We’re going to play a team that will have finished top of their group which means they will be very solid.”

Real struck first through Croatia midfielder Modric’s dipping 25-yard volley before Benzema burst through the home defence to add a second on 39 minutes.

Centre-back Nacho reacted quickest to Raphael Varane’s flick-on from a corner to increase Real’s advantage two minutes later, and Benzema rolled in his second moments before the break after Ronaldo selflessly squared for the Frenchman.

Ronaldo is favourite to win a fifth Ballon d’Or award next month, matching the record held by Barcelona rival Lionel Messi, but the Portugal star has struggled domestically this term with just one goal in eight matches.

However, he remains the leading scorer in this year’s Champions League and netted Real’s fifth in Cyprus when he connected with a Marcelo cross on 49 minutes.

The 32-year-old completed the rout five minutes later by notching his eighth goal of the group stage to downplay concerns about his poor form amid Real’s faltering Spanish title defence.

APOEL, who go to Wembley to face Tottenham in their final match, must better Dortmund’s result at Real in a fortnight to parachute into the last 32 of the Europa League.