Pellegrini keeps footing despite Real's late slip

Real Madrid coach 'happy' with club's opening win despite Zurich comeback
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The Independent Football

The Real Madrid coach, Manuel Pellegrini, denied his team were guilty of relaxing too much during their Champions League match against FC Zurich despite the Spanish giants suffering a second-half scare on Tuesday night.

Real looked to be cruising to victory after racing into a 3-0 half-time lead in Switzerland following goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul and Gonzalo Higuain, but hosts FC Zurich threatened an upset as they scored twice in as many minutes just after the hour mark to bring the score back to 3-2.

That could have been a costly blip for Madrid, who smashed transfer records in the summer with their outrageous spending, but the nine-times European champions recovered and late goals from Ronaldo – his second free-kick goal of the match – and Guti sealed a 5-2 win.

Pellegrini said of the second-half stutter: "I don't think the team relaxed, the two goals came from dead-ball situations that have made things more difficult for us. I'm not worried about set-pieces, but it could be something that we need to work on."

"I'm very happy with how serious the team were, even at 3-2 up we were still looking to go forward," he added. "This should be the hallmark of Real Madrid."

With regards to the victory, Pellegrini said: "Our objective is to qualify for the following round and the most important thing was to obtain the three points. We've done that and now we must turn our thoughts back to the league."

Ronaldo has found himself under the spotlight after struggling to hit top gear since his world-record £80m summer move from Manchester United, but his double against FC Zurich took his tally to four goals in three competitive games for Real, having also netted in each of his new club's opening two La Liga matches.

"I knew the goals would come and that's why I was calm," said the Portugal international. "It was important to win the first match and to start well in Europe. The team worked hard and I'm very happy with the result.

"In the second half we relaxed a little and we cannot allow that to happen again in the future."

Elsewhere in Real's group, Milan beat Marseilles 2-1 in France with Filippo Inzaghi scoring both goals for the Italian club.

Chelsea started their campaign with a 1-0 at home to Porto and also in their group Atletico Madrid were held to a draw with APOEL Nicosia. Atletico's coach Abel Resino believes fortune favoured APOEL during their Champions League encounter as the Rojiblancos had to settle for a disappointing point from their opening Group D match.

Atletico struggled to get going during the first half, and underdogs APOEL might have held a half-time lead if striker Constantinos Charalambides has made the most of his two great chances.

However, the hosts were a much improved side after the break and they laid siege to the APOEL goal only to be denied by the woodwork, some magnificent goalkeeping from Dionisios Chiotis and some poor finishing as the match finished goalless.

"APOEL were a serious and disciplined team who were lucky in the second half, when we could have scored at least one goal," said Resino. "We created chances from all angles, but we were lacking luck."

Dropping points at home to theoretically the weakest team in the group is a major setback for Atletico, but the result looks even worse bearing in mind that the other sides are Chelsea and Porto.

Next up for Resino's side is a trip to Porto – who looked strong against Chelsea – which was the setting for Atletico's Champions League exit last season at the first knockout stage.

Resino said: "Nobody thought that we'd leave two points behind in this match, but to get through to the Champions League round of 16 we have to beat Porto or Chelsea, and play for the spots against them.

"You never know if this draw will be decisive because football is unpredictable. You never know where you might get three points from. We'll go to Porto with the idea of winning there."