A second-half strike from Ángel Di María was enough for Real Madrid CF to overcome GNK Dinamo Zagreb in their Group D opener.
While Madrid fashioned chances of greater quantity and quality, Dinamo − playing in their first UEFA Champions League group game since 1999 − remained in contention until the death. José Mourinho's side were ultimately too powerful, though, with Di María's 53rd-minute strike, fashioned by Karim Benzema and Marcelo, earning a deserved if narrow victory.
In a frantic first quarter Madrid were forced to defend two corners but quickly responded with a succession of dangerous counterattacks. Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Özil both fired wide from good positions, Fábio Coentrão curled a lob just over and Benzema grazed the top of the crossbar on 12 minutes with a right-footed chip.
The Croatian champions were refusing to sit back but they came perilously close to conceding before the half-hour, when parity was only maintained thanks to two point-blank Ivan Kelava saves. After Benzema had cut dangerously inside from the right and squared for Di María, Kelava's reflex stop rebounded to the unmarked Özil, whose volley was tipped over by the Dinamo No1, who also excelled in the play-offs against Malmö FF
Back came Dinamo and Krunoslav Jurčić's men squandered a presentable chance to break the deadlock when, sent clear by Jerko Leko, Ante Rukavina had only Iker Casillas to beat. The Madrid goalkeeper stood firm to palm the ball to safety and deny the hosts a shock lead.
Few predicted Dinamo would hold out for long but their resistance finally buckled seven minutes into the second period. Benzema was given time on the edge of the area to pick out Marcelo, who in turn teed up Di María for a sweet left-footed finish. The Merengues scented blood and could have had two goals in as many minutes but for the magnificent Kelava, who dived full length to turn a Ronaldo drive around the post before blocking a half-volley from Coentrão.
With Dinamo committing men forward in search of an equaliser, substitute Nikola Pokrivač had a half-chance blocked when in space. The home fans were given more hope when Marcelo was shown his second yellow card on 73 minutes yet a header wide from Tonel with two minutes left was the closest Dinamo came to an improbable draw.
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.