Real Madrid CF avoided an opening-night upset as they began their bid for a tenth European Champion Clubs' Cup with a comfortable 2-0 victory over UEFA Champions League debutants FC BATE Borisov.
Goals from Sergio Ramos and Ruud van Nistelrooy either side of half-time gave the hosts the perfect start to Group H. The Belarussian surprise package played the last half-hour with ten men following Anri Khagush's dismissal for a second yellow card and, if they did not offer a huge threat, the experience gained by Viktor Goncharenko's men should prove invaluable in their next game at home to Juventus. Madrid are away to FC Zenit St. Petersburg on Matchday 2.
BATE coach Goncharenko may have said in his pre-match news conference that it was a joy to be in Madrid, but it was his team who were providing the opposition with the pleasure of playing in acres of space. Van Nistelrooy had the ball in the net as early as the first minute though his strike was wiped out by an offside flag. Guti was then centimetres away from connecting with an Arjen Robben cut-back.
Next, Robben released Guti for a clear run at goal only for the midfielder to lift his shot wide of Sergei Veremko's far post. Five minutes later Madrid had their opener. Rafael van der Vaart's roll back from a corner found Guti who played the ball to the right from a central position, from where Ramos slammed it in at the near post. Raúl González's left-foot curler from distance almost flew in shortly afterwards, yet as the clocked ticked so BATE gradually came out of their shells.
The team from Borisov should have made more of Madrid's widely reported defensive troubles from set-pieces but Igor Stasevich wasted two opportunities by firing in harmless free-kicks. Mikhail Sivakov did have a shot midway through the opening half that flew past Iker Casillas's outstretched fingers and wide of the post, before a more painful moment for Bernd Schuster's side as Fernando Gago limped off with an apparent hamstring injury. With half-time looming, Robben might also have done better than to head over from a corner.
With Schuster having vented his frustration from the dugout during the opening period, he doubtless spent the break demanding an improvement in the attacking department from his charges. Guti answered the call with a beautifully flighted ball for Ramos, who popped it up with his right foot before smacking it at the target, prompting Veremko to parry. A second goal arrived nine minutes after the restart after substitute Mahamadou Diarra slid a pass through for Raúl to strike at goal. Veremko again saved well but his clearance hit Vladimir Rzhevski who inadvertently knocked the ball back toward his own net, inviting Van Nistelrooy to tap in his 54th UEFA Champions League goal.
Robben made way for Royston Drenthe just past the hour mark, and a minute later Khagush received his marching orders for a second yellow card after catching the substitute. Gonzalo Higuaín should then have made it 3-0 when he turned inside Aleksandr Yurevich before directing a low drive wide of goal. No matter: Madrid were up and running.