Real Madrid all but secured their place in the semi-finals of the Champions League with a 3-0 defeat of Galatasaray in their quarter-final first leg, while Malaga and Borussia Dortmund played out a goalless draw.
Jose Mourinho’s side were just too strong for the Turkish league leaders, opening the scoring through Cristiano Ronaldo in the ninth minute and never looking back on a wet night at the Santia-go Bernabeu on Wednesday.
Ronaldo neatly chipped visiting goalkeeper Fernando Muslera for his ninth European goal of the season, before Karim Benzema justified Mourinho’s decision to select him in the starting line-up by sweeping home a cross from Michael Essien — a surprise starter at right-back — to double Real’s lead just before the half-hour mark.
A Galatasaray side containing former Champions League winners — and Mourinho proteges — Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba, as well as in-form striker Burak Yilmaz, could offer little for their huge travelling support to shout about, and the concession of a third goal in the 73rd minute effectively ended their hopes of turning the tie around.
Gonzalo Higuain, who had replaced Benzema eight minutes earlier, neatly headed in a Xabi Alonso free-kick to put the seal on a highly satisfactory evening for the nine-time European champions. “I think we put in a serious performance,” said Mourinho.
“The Spanish press were not so respectful of Galatasaray before the game but we respected them. We knew they had fantastic strikers so we prepared well, and defe-nded better than we attacked.”
The Portuguese insisted that bookings picked up by Alonso and Sergio Ramos, ruling both out of the second leg, were not deliberately provoked in order to make them available for the semi-finals.
He also insisted the tie is not yet over, despite the comfortable cushion. “The result is very good, but I’ve seen so many incredible things in football that nothing can surprise me,” he added. “Istanbul is a difficult place to play and we will have to play very seriously to go through.”
Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim admitted that his side were punished for basic errors, and chose to take out his frustration on the referee, Norwegian Svein Oddvar Moen. “I don’t like to talk about referees but this one made mistakes, like missing a stamp by Ramos on Yilmaz in the box. Everyone saw it except him. The difference in quality between the two teams was palpable,” he said.
Meanwhile, Malaga’s tie with Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund remains on a knife-edge after the teams drew 0-0 at La Rosaleda. Dortmund, the 1997 European champions, dominated in southern Spain, but could not find a way past Willy Caballero in the home goal, with the Argentine saving notably from Mario Goetze and Marco Reus in the first half.
Goetze and Robert Lewandow-ski squandered the German giants’ best chances in the second period, while a first-half Weligton header and a second-half Isco piledriver were as close as Malaga came to scoring on the night.
They remain in the tie, especially with Dortmund failing to score a potentially vital away goal.However, the suspicion remains that the tie is Borussia’s to lose, with the return to come next Tuesday.