Real Madrid CF 3-0 Panathinaikos FC. It was one-way traffic at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium as Real Madrid CF brushed aside Panathinaikos FC 3-0 to consolidate their position at the top of UEFA Champions League Group C. Iván Helguera opened the scoring late in the first half and Raúl González confirmed his side’s supremacy with two goals after the break.
Panathinaikos coach Yannis Kyrastas decided on a defensive 5-3-2 formation and from the start it was clear his tactics were centred on containment. Madrid were subdued in the opening 20 minutes as they struggled to find a way past a deep-lying Panathinaikos defence but, as the game progressed, Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane became increasingly influential.
The hosts nearly opened the scoring in the 27th minute when Raúl got his head to Zidane’s teasing cross only to be denied by a flying save from Antonios Nikopolidis. Then Figo went close with a free-kick but again Nikopolidis was Panathinaikos's saviour.
The deadlock was finally broken four minutes before the interval when Helguera chested down Zidane’s angled pass and fired a low shot under the scrambling Nikopolidis. The goal proved the catalyst for an intense spell of Madrid pressure. Figo hit the bar with a ferocious stike from distance, while Raúl screwed his shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
Panathinaikos offered very little going forward and Kyrastas decided to change things sooner rather than later. Derek Boateng and Giorgios Karagounis were introduced into the midfield at half-time and the impact was almost immediate. Within seconds of the restart, Boateng was clean through on Iker Casillas, but the Spanish goalkeeper rushed off his line to make a crucial block. The Greek side were visibly lifted and their best moment of the match came five minutes later when Emmanuel Olisadebe broke the offside trap only to see his shot deflected wide by Casillas’s boot.
These two scares stung Madrid into action and they scored a decisive second in the 66th minute. Roberto Carlos's delicious cross bounced off Fernando Morientes and sat up perfectly for Raúl who headed into the net from five metres. The Spanish international collected his second of the night, and fourth of the competition, six minutes later after Nikopolidis failed to hold Figo’s powerful free-kick.
Three points clear
The win, combined with AC Sparta Praha’s 1-0 victory at FC Porto, leaves Madrid three points clear at the top of the group going into the winter break.