Di Maria earns Real late victory
Substitute Angel Di Maria scored a late winner as Real Madrid won 1-0 at Auxerre in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Right back Alvaro crossed from the right in the 81st minute and Di Maria controlled it with his chest and beat goalkeeper Olivier Sorin with a powerful shot.
Madrid defender Sergio Ramos appeared to control the ball with his hand before passing to Alvaro to cross for the goal.
"The goal came when we were on top and not in trouble," Auxerre coach Jean Fernandez said. "The goal came just after their defender hit the post and it’s a shame the handball was not spotted."
Auxerre defender Cedric Hengbart insisted Ramos handled the ball intentionally.
"He lost control of it and seeing the ball was going away from him, he stuck his hand out," Auxerre defender Cedric Hengbart said. "We knew we would have chances if we got behind their defense. It’s just a shame we couldn’t score."
Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has won his opening two games in Europe with his new club. He is looking to become the first coach to guide three teams to the Champions League title after winning with Inter Milan last season and Porto in 2004.
"We knew it would be a very hard game, I prepared it well tactically and Jean Fernandez prepared his team very well," Mourinho said. "They had a lot of control in midfield, it’s very important for us to get the points here. A draw would have been a fair result given how well Auxerre played. Six points is very important in a hard group."
Auxerre striker Irineusz Jelen went clean through in the 62nd but hurried his shot as defender Pepe tracked back and it went wide.
Pepe almost scored an own goal with 10 minutes left by heading Kamel Chafni’s cross against the post.
Mourinho’s Madrid wasted several chances after lengthy spells of possession in an entertaining game.
Madrid tops Group G with two wins and six points, while AC Milan is second with four points after drawing 1-1 at Ajax, which has one point. Auxerre has lost both games and is last.
"We played well in both games against Milan and Madrid, so we’re not missing that much," Fernandez said. "The regret is that we hit the post, if that had gone in it could have been a different match and we may have beaten Real Madrid."
Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain’s effort was cleared off the line by midfielder Kamel Chafni following Cristiano Ronaldo’s 15th-minute corner, and Higuain fluffed a better chance late in the first half by missing from close range.
"We have 10-15 chances a game. Higuain, Benzema, Ronaldo are all great players but they’re not very confident at the moment," Mourinho said, lamenting his team’s poor finishing after last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Levante. "We need to be more dynamic in attack and we need the players to be more confident. They’re fantastic, it’s a question of time."
Ronaldo, with only one goal from the penalty spot this season, could not get past Sorin despite several attempts.
Fernandez started with Jelen on the bench because he was still hampered by a knee problem, while France striker Karim Benzema started in attack with Higuain and Ronaldo for Mourinho’s team.
The early exchanges were even with Dennis Oliech going close for Auxerre when he forced Iker Casillas to rush off his line and kick the ball clear in the fourth minute. The ball bounced back off Oliech but rolled out of play just before he could tap it into an empty net.
Ronaldo forced Sorin to make a two-fisted save with a stinging shot from the edge of the penalty area moments later.
But Auxerre also looked dangerous from set pieces and Delvin Ndinga’s header from Benoit Pedretti’s 25th-minute free kick flashed just wide of the post with Casillas well beaten.
Sorin kept out Marcelo’s effort and then watched as Lassana Diarra broke into the penalty area and blasted wide.
Although Madrid mostly dominated possession, Auxerre still threatened and Casillas made a great save to keep out Pedretti’s fierce strike from just inside area moments before the interval.
Jelen replace Roy Contout after the break, but Madrid quickly pinned Auxerre back into its half.
Fernandez’s team gradually got back into the game, with the Morocco midfielder Chafni impressing with his work-rate and superbly crisp passing. Chafni’s cross in the 57th was poorly cleared by Sergio Ramos and fell to Oliech, who blasted the ball wide.
Benzema, who never lost at Auxerre when he used to play for French side Lyon, was kept well quiet and Mourinho took him off after 60 minutes, replacing him with Germany midfielder Mesut Oezil.
"Benzema has enormous potential, but mentally he needs to play with more ambition and character," Mourinho said.
After Jelen’s near miss, Madrid rushed up the other end and Ronaldo’s shot brought another good save from Sorin.