Cristiano Ronaldo put his domestic frustration behind him by scoring a brace on his Real Madrid return as Los Blancos began their quest for a third straight Champions League title with a routine 3-0 win over APOEL.
The Portugal superstar is still serving the remainder of a five-match ban in Spain for pushing the referee in the Supercopa de Espana, but Ronaldo made up for lost time by once again proving the difference at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Zinedine Zidane’s side, without Karim Benzema due to a thigh injury, have been held to a pair of draws in their two La Liga fixtures at home this season, but Ronaldo ensured there was little chance of a repeat against the Cypriot outfit.
The Champions League’s all-time leading goal-scorer netted the first in the 12th minute and put the result beyond doubt with a second-half penalty, his 107th goal in the competition.
Sergio Ramos’ exquisite bicycle kick capped an untroubled victory and eased any lingering tension from the league stalemates.
With the 4-1 thrashing of Juventus in last season’s final still fresh in the memory, Madrid undoubtedly remain the team to beat in a strong Group H.
Ronaldo wasted little time in getting back on the scoresheet, announcing his return with the opener inside 12 minutes.
Spain star Isco led a quick counter-attack down the left and linked up with Gareth Bale, who supplied a superb low cross for Ronaldo to clinically fire home at the far post.
Wales winger Bale looked for a repeat assist shortly after, but Ronaldo this time headed the aerial delivery around the post from a narrow angle.
It was not all good news for Zidane early, though, as Mateo Kovacic was forced off with a leg complaint after 25 minutes, the Croatian replaced by Toni Kroos in midfield.
The hosts continued to monopolise possession throughout the half without managing to pile the pressure on APOEL, who set up camp on the edge of the area and were content to have conceded just a single shot on target by the interval.
Ronaldo looked destined to double his tally within seconds of the restart, only to see his volley from Dani Carvajal’s cross come back off the woodwork, with suggestions that the ball crossed the line waved away by the referee.
He only had to wait a matter of moments to make it 2-0 from the penalty spot instead, firing low to Boy Waterman’s right after APOEL defender Roberto Lago was punished for a handball in the area.
The Portugal captain was soon denied claims for a second penalty as Zidane’s side looked to put the contest to bed as quickly as possible.
Ramos ensured they did just that in eye-catching fashion just after the hour, drifting forward and producing an athletic bicycle kick from Bale’s deflected header across goal.
APOEL goalkeeper Waterman did his best to keep the deficit down by denying Ronaldo a second at close range, but by that stage the champions were well and truly on their way to the top of Group H.
Substitute Borja Mayoral looked to have made it 4-0 in the final minute of stoppage time, only for Ronaldo to have been ruled offside for his role in the build-up.
Madrid’s next European assignment is a trip to face Peter Bosz’s Dortmund, while APOEL will host Tottenham in Nicosia.
Meanwhile, in other Champions League encounters:
Liverpool’s Champions League group-stage campaign got off to a frustrating start as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Sevilla at Anfield, finishing the match with 10 men.
Manchester City ensured that Feyenoord’s long-awaited Champions League return turned sour swiftly with a dominant 4-0 Group F win at De Kuip.
Taison and Facundo Ferreyra were on target as Shakhtar Donetsk beat Napoli 2-1 at Metalist Stadium to start their Champions League group stage campaign in style.
Harry Kane scored twice as Tottenham Hotspur brushed aside their Wembley curse and opened their Champions League group campaign with a 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund.
Spartak Moscow are likely to face a Uefa investigation after supporters fired a flare that narrowly missed the referee during their 1-1 draw at Maribor in the Champions League.
Besiktas started their quest to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League in fine style as they claimed a surprise 3-1 win at Porto.
This story originally appeared on FourFourTwo.co.za