Thursday 13 December 2018

Isco free-kick sets tone as Real begin defence in style

Real Madrid's Isco celebrates. Photo: Juan Medina/Reuters
Real Madrid's Isco celebrates. Photo: Juan Medina/Reuters newdesk

Isco stepped into the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo as Real Madrid began their quest for a fourth consecutive Champions League crown with a 3-0 victory over Roma.

On the same night that their former talisman Ronaldo was given his marching orders in Valencia in his first European outing for Juventus, Isco curled home a magnificent free-kick on the stroke of half-time at the Bernabeu.

Up to that point, Real had been frustrated by a combination of poor finishing and some fine saves from Robin Olsen but second-half goals from Gareth Bale and substitute Mariano gave them a winning start to the defence of their crown.

Bayern Munich midfielder Renato Sanches made a memorable return to former club Benfica Lisbon, scoring once and helping set up the other goal in the Germans' 2-0 Group E opening win.

The 21-year-old Benfica youth product, who joined Bayern in 2016 but hardly played before being loaned out to Swansea City last season, earned a rare start due to the injury of Thiago Alcantara.

He made the most of his chance as Bayern cruised to a comfortable victory despite a string of injury absences that also include World Cup winner Corentin Tolisso, Kingsley Coman and Rafinha.

Talented and lightning-quick, Portugal international Sanches emerged as a teenage sensation following their Euro 2016 victory, but Bayern fans had seen little of his abilities until last night.

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