LONDON: Real Madrid are having trouble scoring with Cristiano Ronaldo no longer on the team. His new club, Juventus, did just fine without him on Tuesday.
For the first time in more than a decade, Real have gone three straight games without a goal after losing 1-0 at CSKA Moscow in an early setback to the Spanish club’s title defense in the Champions League.
Real are running into some problems in the post-Ronaldo era, having won only two of its last six games in all competitions. They arrived at Luzhniki stadium where Spain lost to Russia in the last 16 of the World Cup having also failed to score in their last two La Liga games.
Not since January 2007 have Real gone scoreless in three consecutive games.
Ronaldo, who joined Juve from Real in a deal worth 112 million euros ($131.5 million) this offseason, was missing for the Italian champions for their match against Young Boys after his sending-off against Valencia in the opening round of group play.
Paulo Dybala stepped up in the Portuguese star’s absence by scoring a hat-trick in a 3-0 win to put Juve top of their group.
Another of Ronaldo’s former clubs is struggling, too. Manchester United’s bus got stuck in traffic leading to a delayed kickoff against Valencia and the team never got going on the field either in a dull 0-0 draw at Old Trafford.
The stalemate comes after a week when United lost at home to second-tier opposition in an English League Cup game and to West Ham United in the Premier League.
While Bayern Munich were also held by Ajax, it was a happier evening for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City as they beat Hoffenheim 2-1 to revive their Champions League challenge after opening with a loss.
Real were not expected to struggle in Group ‘G’ as they look to continue their recent dominance of the Champions League, but Julen Lopetegui’s side went behind inside two minutes in Moscow following a mistake by Toni Kroos.
The German’s drilled backpass turned into a gift for Nikola Vlasic, and the winger on loan from Everton fired past Keylor Navas to put CSKA ahead.
Casemiro hit the post in the first half — one of three attempts that found the woodwork for the visitors — but Real were weakened by the absences of the rested Sergio Ramos, the injured Gareth Bale (thigh) and Marcelo (calf), and also Francisco “Isco” Alarcon after he underwent surgery for appendicitis last week.
CSKA held on, despite having goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev sent off in injury time, and they move above Real to the top of Group ‘G’.
“I am sure we will soon be scoring again and winning again,” said Lopetegui, whose team have not found the net in three matches.
It was only Madrid’s third defeat in the Champions League group stage this decade, but Real will nevertheless expect to bounce back next against Czech champions Viktoria Plzen, who were crushed 5-0 by AS Roma.
Edin Dzeko scored a hat-trick for the Italian side, with Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert also netting.
At Old Trafford, the pressure continued to build on coach Jose Mourinho as United produced another insipid attacking display against Valencia.
They are now four games without a win, and Mourinho’s decision to recall Alexis Sanchez — after dropping the Chilean for the weekend defeat at West Ham United — failed to pay off.
“Our attacking players aren’t in their best moments of confidence and individual level,” moaned Mourinho. “We thought with three or four chances we would score and win the game.”
United turned up late for the game and Mourinho said police refused to give the team bus an escort from their hotel to Old Trafford.
“We left the hotel at 6 o’clock, hopeful that 30 minutes would be enough, which it normally is,” Mourinho said. “The police refused to do an escort so we came by ourselves. It took 75 minutes.”
Heavy traffic was the earlier official reason given by UEFA, meaning kickoff was put back by five minutes.
Mourinho’s side are in second place in Group ‘H’, two points behind Juve who heads to Old Trafford for the teams’ third match in three weeks.
Dybala took centre stage in Turin, scoring in the fifth, 33rd and 69th minutes against 10-man Young Boys with Ronaldo watching from the stands after getting his first red card in the competition in the previous round.
“We were without Cristiano, and at times it is easier with him in the side, but we have to be a great team both with and without him,” said Dybala.
Guardiola saw Manchester City come from behind to beat Hoffenheim in Germany in Group ‘F’.
David Silva scored three minutes from time to get the Premier League champions back on track after they started their campaign with a 2-1 home defeat against Olyympique Lyonnais.
Ishak Belfodil had put Hoffenheim ahead after just 44 seconds, but Sergio Aguero equalised in the eighth minute before Silva showed speed of thought to pounce on a loose ball ahead of defender Stefan Posch and shoot home low for the late winner.
“This competition isn’t always a red carpet. Manchester City is a fantastic club, but we don’t have a history of having to fight and we fought for absolutely everything here,” said Guardiola. “This is one of the happiest days I have had at this club as it will help us going forward.”
City next face Shakhtar Donetsk, who squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Lyon in France, in a game played behind closed doors.
Brazilian forward Junior Moraes scored twice for Shakhtar, but Lyon fought back to draw with goals from Moussa Dembele and Leo Dubois.
It was a good result for Lyon, whose fans were missing as a punishment for the crowd disorder and racism that marred their run in the Europa League last season, and they now top the group.
Meanwhile, Bayern extended their winless run to three games in all competitions by drawing 1-1 at home to Ajax.
Young full-back Noussair Mazraoui scored for Ajax after Mats Hummels headed Bayern into an early lead, and the German side were fortunate to secure a point after Lasse Schone rattled the crossbar in injury time.
Those sides are level atop Group E ahead of Benfica, who won 3-2 in a thriller at AEK Athens with Alfa Semedo scoring the deciding goal.
Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2018