Madrid hammers Ajax 4-0 in Champions League
Cristiano Ronaldo took his scoring record for the season to 18 goals in 19 games as Real Madrid hammered Ajax 4-0 on Tuesday to claim top spot in Group G of the Champions League despite finishing with nine men.
Karim Benzema fired into the roof of the net from the edge of area in the 36th after Mesut Oezil skillfully laid the ball into his path, before Alvaro Arbeloa doubled the Spanish side's advantage with a fierce shot in the 44th.
Arbeloa then set up Ronaldo to make it 3-0 with a close-range shot and the Portuguese winger completed the scoring from the spot in the 80th.
Madrid's night was marred when both Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos were needlessly sent off late in the game after picking up second bookings for time wasting - ruling them out of the last meaningless game against Auxerre.
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho insisted they didn't pick up the second yellow cards deliberately in order to have a clean slate going into the knockout round.
''I don't think it was necessary to get those red cards because we were in control,'' Mourinho said. ''But this is a fantastic result and that's the only thing that matters.''
Madrid has 13 points, five more than AC Milan. Eliminated Ajax remains third with four, and can still qualify for the Europa League.
Benzema, who was deputizing for the injured Gonzalo Higuain in the Madrid attack, almost gave his side the lead in the 18th when he charged past Toby Alderweireld and fired a shot from a tight angle but Maarteen Stekelenburg made a save, palming the ball away.
Two minutes later, Scotland referee Craig Thomson left Ronaldo frustrated when he waved away the Portugal winger's penalty appeal after he appeared to have been fouled in the area by Ajax rightback Gregory van der Wiel.
Madrid had to be patient as Ajax enjoyed spells of possession in the first half even though the Amsterdam giant rarely tested Iker Casillas.
The Spain goalkeeper was only called into action to deal with Jan Vertonghen's thumping free kick in the second half.
But Stekelenburg was forced to make a series of saves to stop a Madrid onslaught.
''Losing 4-0 at home is very painful,'' Vertonghen said. ''They always managed to find the free man. They played very well together and we couldn't control them.''
The build-up to the Madrid goal began with Eyong Enoh's foul on Pedro Leon. Alonso dispatched a long ball deep into the Ajax area, allowing Oezil to invitingly set up Benzema with a first-time pass.
Marcello nearly doubled the Madrid lead in the 38th but his left-footed shot from a difficult angle was dealt with by an alert Stekenburg.
Defender Arbeloa put Real in firm control on the stroke of half time drilling a powerful, long range shot, which gave Stekelenburg no chance.
Mounir El Hamdaoui's partnership with Luis Suarez again failed to click for Ajax and the Moroccan forward was replaced by Demy de Zeeuw in the 46th, but it failed to spark a recovery.
Angel Di Maria intercepted Urby Emanuelson's poor pass before setting up Ronaldo, who easily converted with a left-footed effort. Emanuelson was at fault again when he fouled Oezil in the area and Ronaldo stepped up to smash home the penalty.
Despite Madrid's healthy lead, Alonso and Ramos felt it necessary to deliberately delay the game - earning them both second bookings which means they will miss their team's final game of the group.