Real Madrid CF began their bid for a tenth European Champion Clubs' Cup with an impressive display against AFC Ajax, an own goal from Vurnon Anita and a Gonzalo Higuaín strike earning a comfortable victory.
New Madrid coach José Mourinho believes success in this competition is possible if he and Los Merengues can combine their respective talents – and the former FC Internazionale Milano boss will have been pleased with his side's opening-night efforts in Group G. Higuaín pressured Anita into inadvertently opening the scoring just past the half-hour and, after Madrid had passed up a succession of chances to increase their lead, tapped in a clinching second in the 73rd minute.
Ajax had been 2-0 winners when handing the hosts a footballing lesson on their last trip to the Santiago Bernabéu in November 1995. This time, however, Martin Jol's team were content to sit back and allow Madrid to set the pace. Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil were repelled by the excellent Maarten Stekelenburg but the goalkeeper was comprehensively beaten by Higuaín's thunderous 17th-minute attempt, needing the crossbar to come to his rescue.
The nine-time winners started to click as the half progressed and, after a wonderful build-up involving Álvaro Arbeloa – in for the injured Sergio Ramos – and Özil, Ángel Di María was clear on goal before being denied by Stekelenburg. When the breakthrough did come, though, it owed little to Madrid's impressive interplay. Instead Anita deflected Xabi Alonso's corner into his own net with Higuaín breathing down his neck.
With Ajax on the back foot, Marcelo's trickery carved out another Madrid opening. On this occasion, though, Higuaín missed his kick, the ball breaking for Di María to shoot over.
Mourinho's side continued to dominate after the restart, increasing their urgency as they sought to seal the points. Cristiano Ronaldo was the next to be thwarted by Stekelenburg, before the keeper beat away a Di María effort with Higuaín – chasing only his third UEFA Champions League goal – again failing to convert the follow-up.
The striker need not have worried. His moment eventually arrived after Özil was cleverly released by Di María's scooped pass; the German squaring for Higuaín after his original shot had been saved by Stekelenburg. Urby Emanuelson almost reduced the arrears soon after with a drive that cannoned back off the bar but it mattered little for Madrid. The home team visit AJ Auxerre next time out, when AC Milan travel to Amsterdam.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.