Ronaldo, Morata rescue Real from Sporting upset

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Madrid—Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata struck in the closing minutes to seal a stunning Real Madrid comeback to beat Sporting Lisbon 2-1 to start their Champions League defence.
Madrid looked to be heading for their first home defeat in the competition for five years after Bruno Cesar’s low effort three minutes into the second-half handed Sporting a thoroughly merited lead.
However, in a frantic finale, Ronaldo’s free-kick levelled the game in normal time before Morata met James Rodriguez’s cross deep into stoppage time to complete a dramatic fightback.
“We started the game a little passively,” Ronaldo told BeIN Sports after netting against the side where he started his career.
“But football is like this and Real Madrid are like this. The comebacks form part of this legendary stadium.”
Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane hailed Real’s belief despite a sub-par display.
“I am happy because we have to suffer, but we never gave up,” said the Frenchman.
“I don’t know if it was a fair result or not, but we believed until the end. You have to play 90 minutes.”
The clash pitted two of Europe’s most in-form teams against one another with Madrid having won 15 La Liga games on top of claiming their 11th Champions League in May, whilst Sporting are on a 13-game winning streak in Portugal.
Yet, it was the visitors who looked by far the more confident as they bossed Madrid for the opening hour, to the delight of the boisterous travelling thousands from Lisbon.
The pace of Gelson Martins caused the Madrid defence no end of problems and the diminutive winger had the first effort on goal when his low shot was turned away by Kiko Casilla.
Real’s star front three of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema started together for the first time this season, but all three looked rusty as a long-range effort from Ronaldo turned over by Rui Patricio was the only serious threat to the Sporting goal before half-time.
Sporting finally got their reward just three minutes into the second-half when Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos failed to clear and the ball fell kindly for Cesar to curl into the far corner.
However, Sporting boss Jorge Jesus’s joy was short-lived as he was sent to the stands for protesting a dubious yellow card for William Carvalho.
“Real Madrid players were talking to the referee and nothing happened to them so I thought it was ok if I did the same thing,” said a disgruntled Jesus.—AFP