Champions League - Real Madrid down doughty Dinamo

Wed, 14 Sep 22:44:00 2011

Real Madrid overcame a dogged Dinamo Zagreb to begin their Champions League campaign with a 1-0 win despite being reduced to 10 men at the Stadion Maksimir.

2011-12 Champions League Real Madrid players - 0

Madrid were playing in their previously unlucky all-red change strip which they sported on three occasions in European competition in the early 1970s, failing to score on each occasion.

But Jose Mourinho's side secured the game's decisive goal in the 53rd minute as Angel Di Maria slammed an emphatic finish beyond the excellent Ivan Kelava following a slick move to give the Spanish giants a positive start to their campaign, albeit with Marcelo shown a red card midway through the second half.

Coach Krunoslav Jurcic was one of the key men in the Zagreb side's last Champions League campaign 12 years ago and describes opposite number Mourinho as his "idol", but the Portuguese was confined to the stands as he served the second of a three-match suspension and he was a frustrated spectator for much of the match.

Real could have been in front as early as the third minute as the usually clinical Cristiano Ronaldo forced his way beyond the Dinamo back four, only to scuff a tame shot well wide of the far post from Di Maria's through ball with even the Portuguese left flummoxed.

The visitors continued to pile on incessant pressure as first Fabio Coentrao whipped a brilliant curling effort agonisingly wide of the far post after having cut in incisively from the right in the 10th minute, before Karim Benzema crashed a fierce strike against the crossbar seconds later.

Kelava in the Dinamo goal was then forced to pull off two impressive reflex stops as Benzema stormed down the right and cut the ball back to Di Maria, who was stunned to see his low drive parried away by the keeper, who followed it up with a brilliant reflex save to deny Mesut Ozil.

Just after the half hour, Real were convinced they had won a penalty as Marcelo flew down the left flank and cut inside before going down under the challenge of Adrian Calello, but referee Svein Oddvar Moen of Norway simply shook his head with disdain.

But it was not all one-way traffic as perhaps the best chance of the half fell to Dinamo forward Ante Rukavina, who hurtled clear of the leaden-footed Ricardo Carvalho, only to drive a tame shot straight at Iker Casillas with just the goalkeeper to beat.

Neither manager deemed it necessary to make a change at the break, but Mourinho did not have to wait long until his side had finally broken the deadlock.

A slick attacking move from Real saw contributions from Ronaldo, Benzema, Marcelo and finally Di Maria, who lashed home a fierce shot into the far corner of the net in emphatic fashion to open the scoring in the 53rd minute.

The visitors could easily have doubled their advantage just two minutes later as Ozil slipped through a pinpoint pass into Ronaldo's path, but the Portuguese was again thwarted by Kelava, who made another staggeringly sharp save with his feet.

Dinamo midfielder Jerko Leko was inexplicably let off a second booking for a high challenge on Ronaldo which left the winger sprawled out on the floor in a crumpled heap in the 65th minute, and the visitors made their displeasure with the referee known.

Real's frustration with the referee was compounded as Marcelo was shown a second yellow card in the 73rd minute for apparent simulation as the left-back marauded forward and went down theatrically inside the Zagreb box.

Dinamo had fallen in the third qualifying round five seasons in a row until this year when Jurcic broke that run, and the home fans were left proud of their side's sterling efforts, while Real Madrid were left relieved after a hard-fought, slender victory.

Dan Quarrell - follow on Twitter @danquarrell / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account