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Real stroll past Roma to make convincing Champions League start

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Soccer Football - Champions League - Group Stage - Group G - Real Madrid v AS Roma - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - September 19, 2018 Real Madrid's Gareth Bale celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS/Juan Medina

MADRID (Reuters) – Real Madrid got their Champions League title defence off to a strong start on Wednesday by convincingly beating AS Roma 3-0 at home with goals from Isco, Gareth Bale and a stoppage-time strike from returning striker Mariano Diaz.

Julen Lopetegui’s side, who have won the last three editions of the competition, made a flying start against last season’s semi-finalists Roma, but took their time to make their dominance count.

Isco, Bale, Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal all missed relatively simple chances for the hosts, who were not far from going behind when Turkish youngster Cengiz Under darted in behind the defence but sent his finish flying wide.

It took a wonderfully struck free kick from Isco right at the end of the first half for Real to take a deserved lead, and their dominance continued in the second half.

Bale saw a deflected shot bounce off the crossbar shortly after the interval but got the goal he craved not long after, racing on to a raking pass from former Tottenham Hotspur team mate Luka Modric and arrowing in off the post in the 58th minute.

Roma did not completely wilt after conceding again and it took an impressive save from Keylor Navas to deny the lively Under, as the Costa Rican goalkeeper justified his inclusion in the team after briefly losing his place to Thibaut Courtois.

Roma goalkeeper Robin Olsen did his best to keep the scoreline dignified by denying Isco and Marco Asensio but was powerless to stop Mariano.

Ronaldo sees red as Juventus beat Valencia

Soccer Football – Champions League – Group Stage – Group H – Valencia v Juventus – Mestalla, Valencia, Spain – September 19, 2018 Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after he is sent off while Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia looks on REUTERS/Heino Kalis

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Champions League debut for Juventus lasted only 29 minutes as he was red-carded but the Italians began their Group H campaign impressively with a 2-0 victory at Valencia on Wednesday.

Penalties either side of halftime by Miralem Pjanic sealed the points for the visitors as Valencia’s return to European competition after a two-year absence fell flat.

The night was meant to be all about Ronaldo’s first Champions League appearance for the club he has tormented so often down the years for Real Madrid.

His first real impression, however, was not what anyone in the Mestalla could have imagined though as he was sent off for the first time in the Champions League in his 154th appearance.

After a lively opening half hour the Portuguese forward, scorer of a record 121 Champions League goals, was involved in a tangle in the penalty area with Valencia defender Jeison Murillo as he awaited a cross from the left.

It did not appear too sinister but German referee Felix Brych, after consulting with his assistant behind the goal, pulled out his red card to the dismay of Ronaldo.
After leaving the pitch the five-times Champions League winner, whose stoppage time penalty for Real Madrid knocked Juve out in the quarter-finals last season, waited by the tunnel entrance, seemingly on the verge of tears.

Juventus responded to the shock in positive fashion and were ahead before halftime.

They had already threatened to pierce Valencia’s rearguard with Joao Cancelo having an effort turned on to the woodwork by Valencia keeper Neto and Sami Khedira wasting a good chance for the Italian champions.

On the stroke of halftime Daniel Parejo’s reckless challenge on Cancelo earned him a booking and gave Pjanic the chance to send 10-man Juventus into the interval ahead.

Five minutes after the break the home crowd fell silent when Jeison Murillo pushed Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci in the back and Brych pointed to the spot again.

Once again Neto guessed right but Pjanic’s penalty was placed into the corner.

Valencia dominated possession after that but Juventus’s well-drilled defence held firm until stoppage time when Brych awarded the third penalty of the game.

Parejo stepped up but Wojciech Szczesny saved his spot-kick to sum up the Spanish side’s frustrating evening.

Bonucci, who was imperious throughout, said Juve’s togetherness had helped them prevail in difficult circumstances.

“We proved to be a very united team,” he said. “We continued to play our football even with 10 men.

“We all suffered together in the final stages of the game but this is a great group and we proved it again tonight.”

Ronaldo’s red card will mean he is likely to miss Juve’s clash against his former club Manchester United who they face in the third round of fixtures.

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