In a match that saw not one, not two, not three, but four different records at stake, you knew that Real Madrid would actually play for something, yet that still didn’t change the fact that with mostly fringe players and never leaving 3rd gear, the reigning European champions easily dismantled the Bulgarian champions. The first record on the line was of course the most consecutive wins by a Spanish club which until last night, Real Madrid shared with Barcelona. But with their 19th consecutive win in all competitions, Real Madrid are now officially the club with the most consecutive wins in the history of Spain, a remarkable achievement given the fact that most pundits and fans were saying this will be a ‘disaster’ season after the sales of Di Maria and Xabi coupled with the early rough start of the season. The second record on the line was becoming the first team ever to win all 6 matches in the UCL group stage in 2 different seasons. AC Milan, Spartak Moscow, Barcelona, and PSG have all managed 6 out of 6 wins in the group stage once, Real Madrid however have now managed it twice. The third record was the biggest points difference between first and second place in the history of the UCL. With Real Madrid winning last night and Basel failing to win vs Liverpool, Real Madrid equaled that record by leaving an 11-point gap between themselves and second placed Basel, the same gap that Spartak Moscow (1995/96) and Barcelona (2002/03) had achieved before. The fourth and final record, and the only one not fulfilled, was Cristiano equaling Messi’s goal tally in the UCL. Cristiano needed to score at least a hatrick to equal Messi but he only managed one goal last night which kept Messi 2 goals ahead of Cristiano. Now Ancelotti’s men face the prospect of drawing Arsenal, Spartak Moscow, Manchester City, Roma, Juventus, Leverkusen, Shakhtar, Sporting, Schalke or PSG.
Cristiano Ronaldo waited a full 60 seconds before firing his first shot of the night that was well saved by Ludogorets’s goal keeper, and that basically told the story of the match for the rest of the 90 minutes. Real Madrid kept pushing forward while Ludogorets tried to sit back deep and hopefully get that odd counter attack. Almost no resistance was shown by the Bulgarian champions as Real Madrid kept hammering in the shots. Matters got even worse for Ludogorets (or better for Real Madrid) when they were reduced to 10 men and a penalty was given for a deliberate handball that stopped a definite goal. Cristiano made no mistake from the spot as he scored his 30th goal in all competitions this season already (and we’re still in early December). Bale doubled the lead with a well struck header off a Toni Kroos corner, one of 17 corners Madrid got last night. The second half saw more of the same in terms of pressuring and chance-creating as Real Madrid had numerous chances and converted 2 of them, one by Arbeloa and the other by youth-teamer Medran. The match would’ve seen more goals if it wasn’t for Real’s obvious intentions of finding Cristiano whenever one of his teammates had the ball. It made every attack almost too predictable and Ludogorets knew it as they overcrowded Cristiano when ever he touched the ball. Also Benzema’s absence was really felt as Real Madrid lacked that essential final pass in the opponent’s box, something that the Frenchman excels at. The second half also witnessed the return of Jese Rodriguez who was injured in this competition almost 9 months ago vs Schalke. He gave an assist on his return to raise his tally to 1 goal and 1 assist since his return from injury. On the other end, Keylor Navas was rarely tested but when called upon did exceptionally as he diverted some mildly difficult shots, thus earning him his second consecutive clean sheet with the club.
Man of the Match: Illarramendi
The former Sociedad man was rarely given the chance to impress prior to the injuries in midfield but since starting his first match a week ago, Illarra has really impressed with his sharpness in midfield, control of the match’s tempo, distribution of the ball, and his defensive duties. It was quite nice seeing Illarra play for an extended period of time for a few matches in a row as he showed that, given the sufficient time, he can be a more-then-reliable substitute for Modric and/or James.