x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo lift Real Madrid past Cordoba in Primera Liga opener

It took Karim Benzema 30 minutes to find a way past the second division play-off winners, and Madrid toiled in vain for the best part of an hour with the second goal proving to be frustratingly elusive.

Karim Benzema struck early and Cristiano Ronaldo followed late for Real Madrid on Tuesday night. Sergio Perez / Reuters
Karim Benzema struck early and Cristiano Ronaldo followed late for Real Madrid on Tuesday night. Sergio Perez / Reuters

Real Madrid’s quest to reclaim the Spanish Primera Liga title began with an unconvincing 2-0 victory over promoted Cordoba.

It took Karim Benzema 30 minutes to find a way past the second division play-off winners, and Madrid toiled in vain for the best part of an hour with the second goal proving to be frustratingly elusive.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men had perhaps been lucky to avoid conceding an equaliser to their plucky opponents at a packed-out and restless Bernabeu, but Cristiano Ronaldo eased the pressure and made the points safe on the stroke of full-time.

Madrid may have overcome Atletico Madrid in the Uefa Champions League final, but the ignominy of finishing third-best to their city rivals and Barcelona in the Primera Liga has been hard to swallow. Fuelling that sense of shame will be last Friday’s Super Cup defeat to Atletico.

So on paper, facing Cordoba at home seemed the perfect opportunity to lay down a marker in the race for the title. The Andalusian club had spent 42 years outside the top flight before returning in June.

Albert Ferrer’s men were not at the Bernabeu to be brushed aside, though, and caused Madrid countless problems, particularly in the first half through Japanese striker Mike Havenaar.

After Ronaldo fluffed an early header, Havenaar burst into Iker Casillas’s box to flash a low shot across the goalmouth and wide at the far post.

Madrid heeded the warning and pushed forward in search of a goal to dampen their opponents’ spirits.

Seconds before the half-hour mark, Benzema grabbed his 73rd league goal for the Spanish giants.

Germany’s World Cup star Toni Kroos picked out the France international in the Cordoba box and he rose highest to dart a bullet header beyond the flailing Juan Carlos.

But Madrid failed to kill the game off, and Lopez Silva, Havenaar and Aleksandar Pantic all had chances to equalise. It was not until the 59th minute that James Rodriguez had a chance, but his drilled shot from close range was parried clear by the resilient Juan Carlos.

As time ticked away, Madrid continued to labour in pursuit of the second goal they needed to kill the match off and they looked to have been denied it by the offside flag when Ronaldo stole in to beat Juan Carlos. However, in the final 60 seconds, the Portuguese hitman made amends.

After taking possession deep on the left side, he turned and took a few strides toward the Cordoba box before hammering the ball into the net.

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