It has been a complicated campaign so far for Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. The two Real Madrid forwards have only scored one goal apiece in La Liga, and that came in the same game, a 2-1 win away to Getafe. But at APOEL on Tuesday, they were both back to doing what they do best.
Benzema had only netted twice in the entire season up until the trip to Cyprus – once in the Spanish Supercopa win over Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu and again in that victory against Getafe.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, led the scoring charts in the Champions League prior to this fixture, but has been notably frustrated in the Primera Division and trails Barcelona rival Lionel Messi by 11 goals already – albeit after missing four Liga games through suspension.
“He [Benzema] is the first one who knows he can give more,” Zidane said on Monday in the pre-match press conference. “Because of the confidence issue, especially his confidence in front of goal. When one goes in more can follow. Let’s hope tomorrow [Tuesday] is the day to end the streak.”
And that is how it turned out. After Luka Modric had fired Real Madrid ahead with a fine volley, Benzema netted twice (along with Nacho) to give Los Blancos a commanding four-goal lead at half-time in Nicosia.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, has had his own problems in front of goal and cut a frustrated figure once again in the Madrid derby on Saturday as Atletico held Real to a goalless draw at the Wanda Metropolitano.
“When I fail to score goals, my mum asks me, and my son, my brother and my sister… they all say: “But what’s wrong with you?” Ronaldo revealed in an interview earlier in the week.
But they will not have to ask him after the game against APOEL and, unlike last season at this stage, when he was scoring in La Liga but not in Europe, this time the Portuguese is netting in the Champions League but not in the Primera Division.
Ronaldo now has 10 to his name this season and the goals are bound to come in La Liga sooner or later. In the meantime, his assist for Benzema also saw him reach a new record for the most goals set up in the Champions League over the past 10 seasons (27).
Perhaps more significantly, Madrid’s comprehensive win means Zinedine Zidane’s side are through to the last 16 of the competition they like to think of as their own as they chase an unprecedented third successive title and a 13th European Cup crown overall.
They will have a lot of fierce competition in order to achieve that, while they also risk a tough draw in the first knockout round having finished second in the group behind Tottenham, who clinched top spot by beating Borussia Dortmund in the other game on Tuesday. However, with Benzema and Ronaldo on goalscoring form, Los Blancos will be among the candidates for the trophy once again.