Cristiano Ronaldo delivered the knockout blow for Real Madrid in their aristocratic battle with AC Milan on Tuesday, as Arsenal, Chelsea and Bayern Munich maintained their own perfect Champions League starts.
While Arsenal provided a breathtaking collective display in a 5-1 win over Shakhtar Donetsk, nine-time European champions Real had the individual brilliance of the world’s most expensive player to thank for their 2-0 win at the Bernabeu.
Ronaldo poked a free-kick straight through the wall and set up Mesut Ozil to score a heavily deflected second less than a minute later as Real saw off the seven-time winners with a devastating one-two combination.
Real and Milan make the record of Bayern Munich, the four-time winners, look relatively modest and there was a lot less style about their 3-2 home win over CFR Cluj in Group E, which saw them come from behind to take the lead with two own-goals before Mario Gomez gave them breathing space.
Arsenal, who beat Braga 6-0 in their opening fixture in Group H, rarely struggle for panache at their own stadium and they were altogether too much for Shakhtar in London.
Alex Song, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere and Marouane Chamakh picked off the goals, with former Arsenal player Eduardo da Silva getting a late consolation for the visitors and a heart-warming ovation for himself.
There was another goal-scoring return of a sort as Chelsea won 2-0 at Spartak Moscow in Group F.
Yuri Zhirkov, who spent five seasons with Spartak’s bitter Moscow rivals CSKA, set Chelsea on their way with his first goal for the club before Nicolas Anelka doubled the lead.
Beneath the perfect quartet, Ajax Amsterdam maintained their hopes in Real Madrid’s group by winning 2-1 at home to Auxerre, a result that took them level with Milan on four points.
Goals from Brazilian strikers Lima and Matheus gave Braga their first points with a 2-0 win over Partizan Belgrade that leaves the Serbs bottom of Group H.
Basel sprang a surprise in Group E by winning 3-1 away to AS Roma after two defeats, while Olympique Marseille kept their Group F hopes alive as they laboured to a 1-0 home win against Slovakians Zilina.
The only question mark over Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid early in the season was a struggle to turn their dominance into goals, but that problem is now well behind them.
The Spanish league leaders followed up a 4-1 win over Malaga at the weekend with another performance of energy and guile, capped by goals in the 13th and 14th minutes.
“We needed to impose a strong rhythm from the start, playing with the concentration this type of game deserves, and we were able to do that,” Ronaldo told reporters.
While Real have scored five goals in their three wins in Europe, Arsenal have knocked in a whopping 14 and they were irresistible in taking Shakhtar apart on Tuesday.
“We were sharp and played technically at a good level,” said manager Arsene Wenger, whose side have Manchester United’s group stage record 20 goals in their sights. “I think our goals were down to them becoming fatigued from running after the ball.”
Chelsea, who like Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are dreaming of a place in a “home” final in London’s Wembley Stadium, were efficient rather than brilliant at the Luzhniki Stadium, scene of their painful defeat by Manchester United in the 2008 final.
“I don’t think the players talked about the last defeat at this stadium,” coach Carlo Ancelotti told a news conference. “It was not an easy game for us. We scored two great goals.” — Reuters