ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) celebrates after scoring during his side's 6-1 drubbing of Galatasaray on Sept 17 in Istanbul. AA photo
Real Madrid might be blessed with some of the most expensive players in the world, but the Spanish aristocrats took an economical approach to dispatching Galatasaray
in the two clubs’ Group B Champions League opener Sept.17, utilizing a potent counterattack before entering another gear to put the Lions to the sword 6-1.
Galatasaray could feel aggrieved to have been down 1-0 at the half following an opening stanza full of energy and purpose in front of their supporters, but they could have few complaints about the ultimate result, as Real demonstrated the sides’ gulf in quality by hitting their hosts on the break before running up the score line once the Lions’ aggression had been tamed.
Cristiano Ronaldo hit a hat-trick, while Karim Benzema added a brace of his own, in what turned out to be a humbling experience for Galatasaray
despite pre-match suggestions that they could spring a surprise on the Spanish giants.Raucous welcome
Given that much of Istanbul is one large building site that has succumbed to “urban renewal,” it is little surprise that even hell – a.k.a. the venerable and intimidating former home of Galatasaray
at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium in Mecidiyeköy – has made way for the city’s latest luxury condos. But what Galatasaray’s new Türk Telekom Arena lacks in tradition, it certainly makes up for in size, and the 52,000 Cim Bom supporters did their best to create an awe-inspiring welcome, staging a giant tifo that featured coach Fatih Terim and his charges in medieval armor.
Terim – who has frequently demonstrated that he did not acquire the nickname of “The Emperor” by coincidence – sent his warriors onto the attack from the off, with Felipe Melo testing Real Madrid just two minutes in with a rasping shot that stung Iker Casillas’ hands, but the unflappable Spanish number-one parried wide for a corner.
The excellent save, however, was to be Casillas’ only meaningful contribution to the game, as the goalkeeper sustained an apparent rib injury that necessitated his replacement by Diego Lopez just 15 minutes in.
Though Real was uncharacteristically garbed in all-blue, they reminded quickly the hosts of their credentials by nearly opening the scoring after Angel di Maria quickly evaded a sliding challenge in the box, only to curl his effort over Fernando Muslera’s bar.
Melo was at the center of the action again on the half-hour mark, when his headed effort off a Wesley Sneijder corner seemed destined for the far corner, only to produce an excellent goal-line save by Lopez. The ever-mercurial Brazilian, however, demonstrated his propensity for picking up bookings within the minute when he was yellow-carded for fouling German
international Sami Khedira.
Gareth Bale’s multi-million-euro transfer to Los Blancos might have stolen the summer’s headlines, but it was another summer signing for Real, Isco, that soon found the sudden opening for the visitors in minute 33. Against the run of play and seemingly covered by at least three Galatasaray
defenders, the Spanish international latched onto a long ball before beating Muslera off his right-hand post.
The Lions were soon struck by their own rotten injury luck, as Champions League great Didier Drogba was forced to leave the pitch grimacing with shoulder pain just before the end of the first half, to be replaced by Nordin Amrabat.
The sides returned to the contest with reckless abandon to start the second half, with Cristiano Ronaldo forcing a fine parry from Muslera, moments before Burak Yılmaz, who scored eight times in last year’s tournament, watched his free header flash agonizingly wide of Lopez’s post.
Despite Galatasaray’s endeavors to find the equalizer in Real’s end, the Lions were soon picking the ball out of their own net again on 54 minutes when Karim Benzema coolly slotted past Muslera after
being put through alone on goal.
The goal opened the floodgates, and Ronaldo added a third and fourth within three minutes just after the hour mark, twice stabbing in from close range – with the second coming off a free kick delivered by Bale just after the Welshman entered the pitch. Ronaldo then turned provider with nine minutes remaining, passing for Benzema to score a second from close range.
Umut Bulut might have earned the home side a modicum of respect by preventing Real from posting a clean sheet with six minutes remaining, but the goal was quickly overshadowed by Ronaldo, who smashed in from close range in injury time to complete his hat-trick and Real’s demolition of Galatasaray.
Cim Bom singularly failed to produce another memorable – if futile – performance like they did when defeating Real 3-2 at home in last season’s Champions League quarterfinals, albeit while falling 5-3 on aggregate. The club will be subjected to another stiff test in its next CL date, when it travels to Juventus on Oct. 2 to meet the “Old Lady,” which was surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw away to FC Copenhagen in the night’s other Group B fixture.