MARSEILLE, France (AFP) – Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo turned on the style with Real Madrid Tuesday as the Spanish giants advanced with ease to the knock-out round of the Champions League with a 3-1 victory at Marseille.
A double from Ronaldo and a Raul Albiol goal ensured the nine-time European champions lead the way in their Group C and go through to the second round after their 3-0 reverse fixture win.
|Cristiano Ronaldo takes a free-kick to score against Marseille during their UEFA Champions League football match in Marseille, southern France (AFP photo)|
The win spelled the end of Marseille's Champions League dream with their coach Didier Deschamps paying tribute to their opponents.
"There is a difference between Marseille and Real Madrid. I knew it before and I know it even better now," said the Marseille coach.
"They are better technically, there's no doubt about it. We could only hope and admit it's a pity we missed out on chances."
Ronaldo showed he was back at his best after his two months on the sidelines with an ankle injury following a tackle by Marseille defender Souleymane Diawara at the Santiago Bernabeu on September 30.
And the striker, already the author of a double in the reverse leg victory, put his side on their road to victory after just five minutes at the Velodrome.
Deschamps' side had been given a mountain to climb and their misery was compounded within minutes after Real were awarded a free kick following a Djibril Cisse challenge on Dutch midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart.
Ronaldo stepped up and from 30 metres out the world's most expensive footballer fired a curling shot, which grazed the fingers of Marseille goalie Steve Mandanda, into the top left corner of the net.
The hosts refused to be browbeaten, rallying their forces and their persistence paid off six minutes later when midfielder Lucho pulled Marseille level after a Brandao header was cleared by Raul Albiol straight into the Argentinian striker's path.
Brandao looked to have pulled Marseille ahead nine minutes later but his delight was short lived as he was ruled offside.
But Real showed their determination not to sit back on their advantage consistently pushing forward to worry the Marseille defence.
The visitors missed a golden opportunity to add to their tally after 28 minutes when a Van der Vaart corner resulted in a melee in front of the Marseille goal.
Mandanda did well to pull off successive saves following a barrage of efforts from Sergio Ramos, Gonzalo Higuain and Pepe before a Ronaldo shot hit the post.
Six minutes later Real missed another chance after Ronaldo picked up a Ramos centre only for the ball to fly just over the bar.
Marseille were lucky to leave the pitch level at the half-time mark following a scramble on front of their goal in the dying minutes with both Marcelo and Ronaldo missing the target.
After the break the Spaniards continued to push forward and the pressure paid off after 60 minutes when Albiol finished off a Van der Vaart corner.
Marseille's slender hopes dived further five minutes later after missing a penalty awarded for a blatant Iker Casillas foul on Mamadou Niang which resulted in the Senegalese international being stretchered with a shoulder injury.
Lucho stepped up to take the shot which left Deschamps shaking his head in disbelief as it hit the bar.
Ronaldo compounded their misery after 80 minutes after an error from Mandanda allowed the Portuguese player to fire into an empty net with Karim Benzema coming close to a fourth minutes later but his effort went wide.