Real Madrid avoided the embarrassment of losing to minnows Ludogorets in the Champions League on Wednesday night. The defending European champions fell a goal behind in Razgrad and comparisons between their earnings and those of the Bulgarians – a club founded in 2001 – were being made. But after Marcelinho had scored for them, Cristiano Ronaldo responded to missing one penalty by scoring another, before Karim Benzema got a second for a 2-1 victory. Inbetween Ronaldo and Benzema's goals, Real peppered their hosts with Javier Hernandez the lead culprit with a shocking open-goal miss. They were not without worry themselves, with Ludogorets dangerous from distance, but on the whole, Real were just about worthy of a second straight success in their title defence. They did have to ride an early storm, though, with the home side showing their close-run loss at Liverpool was no flash in the pan. Marcelinho's shot was deflected behind and, from the subsequent corner, he gave his side a sixth-minute lead. Cosmin Moti got to the left-wing delivery of Aleksandar Aleksandrov first and flicked it into the path of Marcelinho who did the rest with his head. Real roared straight back, with Gareth Bale's shot going just wide, before Ronaldo had the perfect chance to level. Hernandez was upended in the box by Iordan Minev – the defender perhaps lucky to avoid a last-man red card – and Ronaldo duly stepped up to take the spot kick. He went left, but Vladislav Stoyanov went the right way and produced a stunning stop. Ronaldo's frustration grew as he got clear and opened his body to score across the keeper, only to see the offside flag raised incorrectly. But persistance was rewarded 24 minutes in, with the Portuguese going down in a challenge with Moti, the contact nothing more than a slight bodycheck. A second penalty was given, though, and Ronaldo went back to the same corner with a different outcome. After that Hernandez had a header saved and Sergio Ramos headed wide, while Ludogorets also had a goal chalked out, this one justly as Roman Bezjak failed to time his run before scoring. The traffic remained largely in the direction of the home goal after the break, Ronaldo driving a ball across the six-yard box that no-one followed up. Stoyanov then denied them again, sticking an arm out to the right to repel a Bale header that he had little right to save. Fabio Espinho kept Madrid alert with a long-ranger that Iker Casillas tipped over, before Hernandez missed a sitter from a three yards out, hitting back across an open goal after Isco's cross. Casillas had to be at his best again as Ludogorets once more took aim, Marcelinho curling one in from 30 yards, while Ronaldo went even closer with his close-range stab brilliantly hooked off the line by Minev. Real's weight of possession told in the 77th minute, though. Marcelo whipped in a brilliant cross from the left and Benzema, off the bench, was waiting in the six-yard box to open up and sidefoot in a fine volley. A third nearly arrived on the break in time added on but Stoyanov excelled himself again, tipping over Bale's deflected effort.
Football CHAMPIONS LEAGUE