Ruud van Nistelrooy became only the third player to score 50 goals in the European Champion Clubs' Cup with an astute chip as Real Madrid CF moved to within striking distance of a place in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League with a commanding victory at FC Steaua Bucuresti.
Madrid took an iron grip on the Group E game with first-half goals from Sergio Ramos and Raúl González before Robinho effectively settled the match as a contest shortly after the restart. Valentin Badea offered Steaua faint hope when he reduced the deficit on 64 minutes but Van Nistelrooy crowned an excellent performance from the visitors when he chipped superbly over Carlos Fernandes with 14 minutes remaining.
The Steaua Stadium was packed long before kick-off and the expectations of a raucous home crowd were close to being met straight from the start as Iker Casillas rushed from his line to punch clear from Banel Nicolita. Madrid, though, soon took the game to the Romanian champions. Robinho, in for the injured José Antonio Reyes, forced Carlos into a save before the visitors produced the riposte they so needed following Saturday's defeat by Getafe CF. Guti sent in a corner from the left on nine minutes and Ramos climbed highest to head Madrid in front.
Somewhat surprisingly this was the first meeting between these two illustrious sides and they were putting on a show worthy of the occasion. Carlos again saved well from Robinho before Casillas produced an even better stop at the other end, spectacularly clawing away Nicolae Dica's curling shot. Robinho's deft touches and clever flicks were a joy to watch and it was the Brazilian's delicate pass infield to Emerson that led to Madrid's second goal eleven minutes before half-time. His compatriot fed Van Nistelrooy and though Carlos again blocked his effort, Raúl was on hand to turn the rebound into an open goal.
Even Steaua fans stood to applaud when Robinho curled in Madrid's third eleven minutes into the second half. Coach Fabio Capello's decision to leave Ronaldo on the bench was thorougly vindicated as the 22-year-old calmly sidestepped Rahamin Klemi Saban before firing beyond Carlos, albeit with the help of a deflection off Dorin Goian. Eight minutes later Badea had the home support back on their feet, this time in celebration of a Steaua goal as he made the most of some uncertainty in the Madrid defence to turn in substitute Cyril Thereau's low cross.
Unexpectedly Steaua were back in contention, but their hopes were dashed by Van Nistelrooy, the Dutchman somehow digging the ball up and over Carlos from eight metres to join Raúl and Andriy Shevchenko on 50 European Cup goals. On a night of milestones, David Beckham came on to make his 100th UEFA Champions League appearance as Madrid rounded off the evening in style. They have now scored nine times in two continental outings and will qualify with another victory against Steaua in a fortnight's time.