Real Madrid all but secured their place in the semi-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday with a 3-0 defeat of Galatasaray in their quarter-final first-leg match, while Malaga and Borussia Dortmund played out a goalless draw.
Jose Mourinho’s side were just too strong for the Turkish league leaders, opening the scoring through Cristiano Ronaldo in the ninth minute and never looking back on a wet night at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.
Ronaldo neatly chipped visiting goalkeeper Fernando Muslera for his ninth European goal of the season, before Karim Benzema justified Mourinho’s decision to select him in the starting lineup by sweeping home a cross from Michael Essien — a surprise starter at rightback — to double Real’s lead just before the half-hour mark.
A Galatasaray side containing former Champions League winners — and Mourinho proteges — Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba, as well as on-form striker Burak Yilmaz, could offer little for their huge group of supporters to shout about, and the concession of a third goal in the 73rd minute ended their hopes of turning the tie around.
Gonzalo Higuain, who had replaced Benzema, neatly headed in a Xabi Alonso free-kick to put the seal on a highly satisfactory evening for the nine-time European champions.
“I think we put in a serious performance,” Mourinho said. “The Spanish press were not so respectful of Galatasaray before the game, but we respected them. We knew they had fantastic strikers, so we prepared well and defended better than we attacked.”
The Portuguese insisted that bookings picked up by Alonso and Sergio Ramos, ruling both out of the second leg, were not deliberately provoked in order to make them available for the semi-finals.
He also insisted that the tie is not yet over, despite the comfortable cushion.
“The result is very good, but I’ve seen so many incredible things in football that nothing can surprise me,” he added.
Galatasaray manager Fatih Terim admitted that his side were punished for basic errors and took out his frustration on the referee, Norwegian Svein Oddvar Moen.
“You cannot make mistakes at this level, but we made very basic mistakes at the first and second goals,” he said. “I don’t like to talk about referees, but this one made mistakes, like missing a stamp by Ramos on Yilmaz in the box. Everyone saw it except him.”
Meanwhile, Malaga’s tie with Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund remains on a knife-edge after the teams drew 0-0 at La Rosaleda.
Dortmund, the 1997 European champions, dominated in southern Spain, but could not find a way past Willy Caballero in the home goal, with the Argentine making notable saves from Mario Goetze and Marco Reus shots in the first half.
Goetze and Robert Lewandowski squandered the German giants’ best chances in the second period, while a first-half Weligton header and a second-half Isco piledriver were as close as Malaga came to scoring on the night.
They remain in the tie, especially with Dortmund failing to score a potentially vital away goal.
However, the suspicion remains that the tie is Borussia’s to lose, with the return to come on Tuesday next week.
“I can live with this 0-0. It was a good match against tough opponents,” Dortmund manager Juergen Klopp said. “We played well from the first whistle to the last, but this is the highest level. We know what we have to do in the return.”
Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini, who took Villarreal to the Champions League semi-finals in 2006, believes the tie is wide open.
“I don’t think the game in Germany will be too different from tonight, only an early goal for either team could change things. Both sides went for it tonight and it made for a good open game,” he said.