Real Madrid cruised to a 3-0 UEFA Champions League Group B victory over Liverpool thanks to a clinical first-half showing at Anfield.
Cristiano Ronaldo netted for the 20th time in 13 appearances this season to open the scoring and move within one of former Real stalwart Raul’s Champions League competition record of 71 goals.
While the European champions’ first featured slick passing and a world-class finish, Liverpool were the architects of their own downfall from there as Karim Benzema twice capitalised on slack defending to net a double before half-time.
It was a matter of damage limitation for Liverpool after that, with the Premier League side playing out a spirited second half without a recognised striker.
Real retained their menace throughout but were able to leave plenty in reserve for Saturday’s mouthwatering El Clasico showdown with arch-rivals Barcelona.
Under-fire forward Mario Balotelli retained the faith of home manager Brendan Rodgers and the enigmatic Italian passed up the chance to play through Raheem Sterling when Isco lost possession in the second minute.
Ronaldo then thundered an early drive into the chest of Simon Mignolet, while there were awkward moments for the Liverpool goalkeeper’s opposite number.
Iker Casillas parried the ball clear when a long-range Steven Gerrard strike dipped awkwardly and the experienced shot-stopper then showed poor handling from a 13th-minute