"Difficult but possible" was Cristiano Ronaldo's assessment of Real Madrid CF's chances of becoming European champions for a tenth time after he starred in a 3-1 victory at Olympique de Marseille.
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Cristiano Ronaldo was eager to deflect the spotlight from his own performance after his two-goal salvo inspired Real Madrid CF to a 3-1 win at Olympique de Marseille that confirmed the Spanish giants as worthy winners of UEFA Champions League Group C.
The Portuguese international forward travelled to southern France on the back of an eventful weekend, having missed a penalty, scored his team's fourth and collected a late red card in Saturday's 4-2 victory over UD Almería. That dismissal prompted a public apology, but Ronaldo showed that he has put the whole incident behind him with a match-winning display at the Stade Vélodrome, firing Madrid ahead with a stunning fifth-minute free-kick and capping their night net ten minutes from time by finishing into an empty net following a tangle with goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.
"For the free-kick, I haven't had a look at it on television but, although I'm sure it was a good goal, the most important thing is the team," said Ronaldo, who leads the competition scoring charts on six strikes despite having missed two games through injury. "It's a very important result. We knew before the game that we had to be top of the group. I think the team played well and we scored early, at the start of the game. That was important to build up the confidence of the team and we got a good result – 3-1 is fantastic."
Penalty turning point
Hosts Marseille needed to win to join Los Merengues in the last 16 and they played their full part in an engaging contest, with Lucho quickly cancelling out Ronaldo's opener and later crashing a spot-kick against the crossbar with the scoreline 2-1. "We knew it would be difficult but this was a good result," explained Ronaldo, who also headed against a post in the first half. "The penalty maybe could have changed the game."
The goal now for Manuel Pellegrini's men will be to survive the first knockout round when the competition resumes in February, the Spanish capital outfit having exited at that stage in each of the last five seasons. Prodigious summer spending has left them resembling serious contenders for silverware, with Ronaldo the most expensive acquisition of all, and the former Ballon d'Or winner admitted he and his team-mates are setting their sights high. "Madrid always think about winning the Champions League," he said. "We know it will be difficult, but I think it's possible. Now we have to relax, go game by game and then we'll see."