Cristiano Ronaldo saluted another “fantastic” Real Madrid performance as the European champions claimed a comprehensive 3-0 win at Liverpool.
Ronaldo himself was in scintillating form, opening the scoring in their Champions League Group B encounter midway through the first half with a tremendous half-volley finish from James Rodriguez’s delightful chip.
Surprisingly, it was the talismanic forward’s first goal at Anfield and, although he passed up several further chances to add to his tally, it mattered little as Karim Benzema’s brace put the Spanish giants three goals to the good before half-time.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men eased off in the second half, perhaps with half an eye on the weekend’s Clasico, but that did not take away from a special display for Ronaldo.
He said: “It was special. It was my first goal here, so I feel very proud for that. I feel happy. We win three points, so amazing.
“We knew before the game that Anfield is a difficult place, but I think we played fantastic, especially in the first 45 minutes, and we deserved to win.
“I’m happy because it’s dedication and hard work, but the best thing is that the team wins.”
He added: “We have nine points, so 75 per cent of the qualification is done.”
Real now have one foot in the knockout stages as they are six points ahead of Liverpool, Basle and Ludogorets, and Ronaldo sees no reason why they cannot become the first team to retain the Champions League title.
“Why not? We’re thinking step by step,” the Portugal forward said. “We know that the qualification is the priority of the team, but we’re going to try, like last year.
“We know it’s going to be very tough, but we are positive and it will be possible if we play like that.”
Substitute Lukas Podolski netted a dramatic late winner as Arsenal came from behind with two goals in the final two minutes to beat Anderlecht 2-1 and hand manager Arsene Wenger a 65th birthday to remember at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.
It had looked like the Gunners were set for a second away defeat in Champions League Group D after the Belgians went ahead through Andy Najar on 71 minutes.
However, just as time was running out, England full-back Kieran Gibbs cracked in a superb volleyed equaliser, before German forward Podolski swept home a dramatic winner.
Wenger said: “We looked to control the game in the first half. In the second half we opened up and defensively got caught.
“The crucial point was when we were 1-0 down and they couldn’t take advantage with the chance for the second goal.
“It (the win) was vital for us to have a chance to qualify. We are in a strong position now. It’s down to us now. Win our home games and we are through.
“It’s a frustrating part of our job to fight for the final seconds. We know in the Champions League many goals are scored in the final five minutes.”
Gibbs added: “It (the win) was massive. We didn’t give up and we have made a statement of what we want to do.
“We controlled quite a lot of the game and the final ball was letting us down. That was frustrating for us but we had to keep going and we got the rewards.”