PARIS — Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane warned defences around Europe that Cristiano Ronaldo is only just getting started when the Portuguese returned to action after a month by scoring twice in a 3-0 win over APOEL Nicosia on Wednesday.
Ronaldo coolly rolled Gareth Bale’s cross into the far corner to score in the 12th minute and could have scored on three further occasions before he doubled Real’s lead from the penalty spot in the second half, while he was later denied a hat-trick by an offside flag.
"If he had been in better shape he’d have scored four goals," Zidane told reporters.
"He is the best in the world, he is always there when we want him, he always scores goals. We know what Cristiano offers."
Ronaldo was hit with a five-game domestic ban for pushing a referee in the Spanish Super Cup first leg against Barcelona on August 13, preventing him from playing the second leg and league games against Deportivo La Coruna, Valencia and Levante as well as this Sunday’s trip to Real Sociedad.
"He’s a vital player for us and I hope he stays on this run even though we won’t have him on Sunday. I hope that’s the last game this season where he won’t be able to play for us."
Real badly missed Ronaldo in the draws against Valencia and Levante, with Bale looking unsuited to the centre forward role and Karim Benzema being forced off injured early in the latter game, leaving the inexperienced Borja Mayoral as the team’s only fit natural striker at the time.
"We have definitely lacked some sharpness up front recently but we can’t always win every game by loads of goals as football is becoming more equal and every opponent is strong," added Sergio Ramos, who scored Real’s third goal with an overhead kick.
"But we all know that Cristiano always has goals in him and is fundamental to us. His quality is unquestionable and whenever he is around Madrid are always going to benefit from his presence."
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp put a brave face on after watching his side throw away a lead with another poor defensive display in their Champions League encounter with Sevilla at Anfield on Wednesday.
The Premier League side, competing in only their second Champions League group stage in eight years, had plenty of chances to win the game after coming from behind, but defensive lapses -- and a penalty miss from Roberto Firmino -- cost them two points as Sevilla salvaged a 2-2 draw.
Both opposition goals came from defensive mistakes.
Klopp said he was happy with most of what he saw but rued the two goals conceded.
"It was pretty much a winning performance for 85, 86 minutes, and the team played well against a side who play well," he said. "We had answers for everything apart from the goals.
"It is a draw, it does not feel too good but I am fine with big parts of the performance." — REUTERS