Malmö coach Åge Hareide had spoken of the importance of keeping Ronaldo facing towards his own goal in this matchday two contest – the theory being it would also keep the Madrid No7 off the scoresheet. In practice, the tactic failed blatantly as the Portuguese international netted on 29 and 90 minutes to clinch the points. The landmark first was his 500th career goal for club and country; the second brought him level with the great Raúl González in the Madrid scoring charts.
Understandably the prospect of taking on arguably the most glamorous side and player in the competition had excitement levels soaring among Malmö fans right from kick-off – and just a few seconds in, Anton Tinnerholm provoked a celebratory roar by winning the ball ahead of Ronaldo.
Eight minutes later the Malmö full-back also had the first shot on target, though Keylor Navas was not unduly troubled. At the opposite end, the Merengues took until the 15th minute to force Malmö keeper Johan Wiland in action, albeit with an innocuous-looking cross.
Wiland’s night quickly got more complicated, however, and Ronaldo in particular tested his range with three attempts inside two minutes. Soon enough the Portugal captain was ready to make it 1–0. The goal came from a fast break, Isco providing the final ball which allowed Ronaldo time and space to pick his spot.
Dani Carvajal came close to doubling the lead before half-time, the defender’s sliced volley bouncing off the underside of the crossbar.
The second half largely saw Rafael Benítez’s men control their advantage. Even so, they might have been punished when Markus Rosenberg’s glancing header skidded past Navas’s post. As it was, the last word went to Ronaldo.
After seeing an effort palmed away by Wiland, the 30-year-old slid his second past the keeper in the 90th minute after a move involving Carvajal and substitute Lucas Vázquez. The forward duly had his 323rd Merengues goal, level with Raúl’s all-time record for the club.
Key player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Malmö, like so many before them, had a plan for containing Ronaldo. But as with so many of the Swedes’ predecessors, ‘CR7’ had the last laugh. A goal in each half settled an otherwise evenly matched affair. Of course, as explained above, both goals also came freighted with personal significance for Madrid’s irresistible front man.
Benítez’s trust in his squad pays off
Madrid were without several of their brightest stars. Injuries to Gareth Bale, James Rodríguez, Sergio Ramos and Pepe would be felt in any team. Even so, Benítez left healthy regulars Marcelo and Luka Modrić out of his lineup, giving the nod instead to the comparatively untested Nacho, Casemiro and Mateo Kovačić. These players repaid that faith with solid contributions to the win.