Ronaldo Helps Real Madrid Move Closer to Champions League Semis

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his competition-leading ninth goal as Real Madrid beat Galatasaray 3-0 to move closer to a third straight Champions League soccer semifinal. Malaga and Borussia Dortmund drew 0-0.

Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain also got goals at the Bernabeu Stadium last night as Real moved to the brink of record-extending 24th appearance in the final four of Europe’s elite club competition. The return match in the two-game quarterfinal will be played April 9 in Istanbul.

“If we score a goal, they have to score five, but in football I have seen so many incredible things, nothing can surprise me,” Real coach Jose Mourinho said on the website of tournament organizer UEFA. “Istanbul is a very difficult place to play. They will fight very hard against us.”

Following the four quarterfinal openers, record nine-time European champion Real and four-time winner Bayern Munich are the only teams to take a lead into next week’s return games. Barcelona is still the bookmakers’ favorite even after a 2-2 draw at Paris Saint-Germain two days ago.

Dortmund had the better chances against Malaga in Spain, though couldn’t beat home goalkeeper Willy, who made six saves. The second match in Germany will also take place in five days.

“We got a draw and hopefully that will set us up for the return game,” Willy said on UEFA’s website. “Hopefully my performance can help the team to progress.”

The other two quarterfinals conclude April 10 with Bayern taking a 2-0 lead to Juventus and Barcelona hosting PSG. World player of the year Lionel Messi may be able to play after injuring his hamstring in the opener, Barcelona said yesterday.

Scoring Lead

Real took the lead after nine minutes last night as Mesut Ozil slid a pass between two defenders to Ronaldo, who chipped the ball over goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. The goal moved Ronaldo one ahead of Messi and Galatasaray’s Burak Yilmaz, who is suspended for the second leg after picking up a yellow card last night, atop the scorers’ list.

The home team made it 2-0 in the 29th minute when Michael Essien’s cross eluded defenders Emmanuel Eboue and Semih Kaya and fell for Benzema to slot in at the back post. Higuain then headed in Alonso’s 73rd-minute free kick for his first Champions League goal this campaign.

Based on previous results in two-game series in European competition, a 3-0 home win gives Real a 94 percent chance of advancing, according to Infostrada Sports.

“The match in Istanbul will be difficult,” Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim said. “We would have liked to return home with hopes but that did not happen.”

Seven Shots

In Malaga, both teams had seven shots on target at La Rosaleda stadium though couldn’t break the deadlock.

Willy twice denied Mario Goetze in the first half, along with saving Sebastian Kehl’s curling shot, while Roman Weidenfeller knocked away a header from Weligton just before the break.

Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski shot wide three minutes into the second half and Goetze missed after running in behind the defense. Weidenfeller then made consecutive saves against Isco and Jeremy Toulalan before Dortmund striker Julian Schieber sent the game’s last clear scoring chance wide in the 84th minute.

“We did not take our chances and so we had to stay calm in order to get the result we wanted,” Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp told reporters. “Nil-nil is a result we can live with.”

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