Champions League: Real Madrid 5 APOEL 2
Real Madrid can boast the highest-scoring trio in Spanish football history as they strolled into the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema have now scored 101 goals between them in the 2011-12 season, beating the 100 goal mark of Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry, set during Barcelona's treble winning campaign of 2008-09.
The 5-2 victory over APOEL in their second-leg encounter at the Santiago Bernabeu was an enticing game from start to finish.
A brace from Ronaldo, alongside further strikes from Kaka, Jose Callejon and Angel Di Maria ended the fairytale run of the brave outfit from Cyprus with an 8-2 aggregate scoreline.
However, Jose Mourinho will likely be frustrated with two lapses in concentration that allowed Gustavo Manduca to finish off a great APOEL move, before Esteban Solari struck from the spot after an infraction by Hamit Altintop.
With a 3-0 deficit to overcome after the first leg, APOEL were always going to need a near miracle to progress, particularly against a Madrid team in imperious form in Europe.
The Spanish outfit had won eight of their nine matches on the continent this season while conceding only four times, the lowest in the competition.
Indeed, Mourinho’s men picked up where they left off after the initial encounter in Cyprus, dominating play right from the start of the match.
Ronaldo sent a towering header just over the bar from Nuri Sahin’s free kick with 20 minutes gone, but the Portuguese forward would not be denied much longer, as six minutes later, he turned home a teasing cross by Marcelo at the far post.
Ten minutes later, and Madrid were 2-0 in front after a goal of undeniable quality from Kaka. The Brazilian received a pass from compatriot Marcelo 25 yards from goal and took one touch before unleashing an unstoppable shot that bent past the helpless Pardo into the top corner.
APOEL gained some encouragement from the lethargic play of the hosts, and grabbed themselves a consolation with a well worked goal after 67 minutes.
Some slick interplay in the Madrid half ended with a clever reverse pass from Ailton to Manduca, who coolly sidefooted home to send the away fans into raptures.
However, Ronaldo brought the visitors back down to earth with a stunning set-piece with a quarter of an hour to go. Taking aim from a tricky angle on the left side of the box, the Portuguese sent the ball past the despairing fingertips of Pardo into the top corner for his first goal direct from a free kick this season.
Half-time substitute Callejon got in on the act in the 80th minute, smashing home Di Maria’s pass at the near post for the home side's fourth.
Madrid were breached once again within two minutes though, after a foul by Altintop was spotted by the referee, allowing Solari the chance to beat Iker Casillas with a composed finish from the spot.
Di Maria added further gloss to the scoreline in the 84th minute with an impudent chip over Pardo, after sprinting in unopposed from midfield.
Madrid march into an enticing semi-final match-up against Bayern Munich, with the first leg set to be played on April 17 at the Allianz Arena in Germany.