MADRID (AP) – The 6-0 rout of APOEL Cyprus didn’t change much for Real Madrid in its quest to once again be crowned Champions League winner, but it was crucial to boost the confidence of its top two strikers – Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Benzema scored twice Tuesday to end his six-match scoreless streak, and Ronaldo added two to maintain his good run in the European tournament and fend off criticism of his disappointing performances in the Spanish league, where he has scored only once in 12 games.
“Getting their names on the score sheet is good for Cristiano and Karim,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “It’s good news for everyone and is particularly positive for them. They thrive on goals and they’ve both got braces to see us to victory. I’m delighted for Benzema, Cristiano and the whole team.”
The victory in Cyprus secured Madrid second place in Group H with one round to go. Tottenham, which defeated Borussia Dortmund in Germany, has already guaranteed first place. Dortmund and APOEL were eliminated.
Benzema scored his goals just before halftime, first with a strike from inside the area and then with a shot into the open net after a pass by Ronaldo in a fast breakaway.
“We scored six and didn’t concede any, that boosts our confidence,” Benzema said. “I’m a striker and it’s always important to score goals, but I can also offer other things besides goals. If I can help my teammates with a pass or with my movement, I’ll do so. I was fortunate enough to get two goals and that’s good for me and the whole team.”
The goals allowed Benzema to move into sixth place in the European tournament’s all-time scoring list with 53 goals, surpassing Thierry Henry and becoming the top-ranked Frenchman.
Benzema had scored only two goals this season, and hadn’t scored since Madrid’s 2-1 win at Getafe in the Spanish league in October.
“He knows where he is at this club and that’s good,” Zidane said. “We always demand more of the top players. He’s been at the club for 10 years and perhaps he always has to produce a bit more than the rest of the players and he’s aware of that.”
Ronaldo scored his goals early in the second half, taking his tally to eight goals in this season’s Champions League, the best among all players. He got on the board with a header and then with a strike into the empty net after a move that started with Benzema.
Ronaldo is the tournament’s all-time leading scorer with 114 goals.
Both Ronaldo and Benzema had been among those criticized by some fans and local media as Madrid had won only one of its last four matches entering Tuesday’s matchup in Cyprus.
“Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t,” Benzema said. “I’m used to the jeers. We can change that by scoring more goals and doing more on the field.”
Madrid is third in the Spanish league, 10 points behind leader Barcelona. The team’s next match is at home against Malaga on Saturday.