Madrid labour to Ludogorets win

Real Madrid had to dig deep to take three points from the Champions League tie against Ludogorets, Karim Benzema getting the winner.

Madrid started in shaky style and were deservedly behind within a few minutes, needlessly conceding a corner then failing to mark tightly from the resulting set-piece. The ball was flicked on at the near post and, at the far post, Marcelinho evaded Alvaro Arbeloa to stab home.

Madrid could have been level five minutes later when Javier Hernandez was fouled by Yordan Minev but Ronaldo’s penalty – well-struck and into the corner – was saved by Vladislav Stoyanov.

Los Blancos – tonight playing in black – were level from the spot midway through the first half when Ronaldo tumbled under the attention of Cosmin Monti. He sent the penalty the same way and this time past Stoyanov.

Benzema stepped off the bench to score the winner, Aleksandar Aleksandrov claiming a push but referee Craig Thomson letting the goal stand after the France international took full advantage of the error.

Carlo Ancelotti made four changes from the side that started against Villarreal while Ludogorets named former Celta Vigo winger Dani Abalo in their XI, as well as Monti, stand-in goalkeeper extraordinaire.

Madrid had barely got started when they fell behind, too often going for long balls over the top with Ludogorets looking more settled in possession. Marcelinho scored as the hosts capitalised on their good start and Madrid’s bad start got worse as Ronaldo’s penalty was saved.

Ronaldo had more luck at the second time of asking – both with the award of the penalty and the outcome – while a good position went begging for Madrid when Hernandez almost capitalised on some static defending.

Ludogorets went close to a second on the break, Iker Casillas saving, and Stoyanov kept out Hernandez’s header. The Mexico international also swept a shot narrowly past the post as the first half came to a close.

Ronaldo drilled across goal to start the second half, the Portuguese unsupported as what should have been a far post tap-in went untaken. Stoyanov was worked shortly after by Gareth Bale but was equal to the Wales international’s header, producing a fantastic stop.

Hernandez failed to test Stoyanov after a brilliant Madrid counter, Bale to Ronaldo to Isco, but the on-loan forward scuffed the shot when he should have had an easy back-post finish. A Ludogorets break, getting two-on-one against the Madrid defence, also came to naught.

Casillas was again alert when Marcelinho looked for a second goal, a rasping, curling effort that the captain tipped wide. Stoyanov was beaten moments later from a Ronaldo poke but the shot was cleared off the line by a recovering Aleksandrov.

Aleksandrov was at fault for Madrid’s second, losing his footing and giving Benzema an easy finish. That’s how the game ended but there was concern for Madrid at the death as first Ronaldo ended the match hobbling due to what looked like an Achilles injury, while Ludogorets almost got the point they arguably deserved from a late scramble.

Ludogorets 1-2 Real Madrid

Marcelinho 6 (L), Ronaldo 25, Benzema 77 (RM)

Ludogorets: Stoyanov; A. Aleksandrov, Y. Minev, Moti, Junior Caicara; Fabio Espinho (Abel 82), Dani Abalo, Dyakov, M. Aleksandrov (Misidjan 82); Marcelinho (Wanderson 70), Bezjak

Real Madrid: Casillas; Arbeloa, Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Bale, Illarramendi, Modric (Kroos 73), Isco (James 75); Cristiano Ronaldo, Chicharito (Benzema 67)

Referee: Craig Thomson

Tags Karim Benzema Ludogorets
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