Real Madrid vs Sporting Lisbon. UEFA Champions League Group F.
Thursday 15 September 2016 00:02, UK
Cristiano Ronaldo's superb free-kick instigated a late turnaround as Real Madrid secured a dramatic 2-1 win over Sporting Lisbon in their Champions League opener.
Journeyman midfielder Bruno Cesar gave Sporting a deserved second-half lead, which they looked like they would hold on to until the Portugal superstar stepped up to curl in a superb free-kick equaliser in the 89th minute.
Real were not done there, though, as Morata powered a header past Sporting stopper Rui Patricio in stoppage time to grab all three points in the Group F curtain-raiser.
The result was harsh on a determined Sporting, who defended doggedly throughout, but the reigning European champions showed their mettle when it really mattered.
Despite the formidable attacking triumvirate of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Ronaldo starting together for the first time this season, the first half was a cagey affair, with Sporting unwilling to lie down against their illustrious opponents.
Cesar almost got the visitors off to a perfect start, but saw his fizzed effort skip off the surface and fly just wide of Kiko Casilla's goal.
Jorge Jesus's men continued to press and Casilla had to be alert to tip another strike from the impressive Gelson Martins wide.
Down the other end, Bale was causing some problems for the Sporting rearguard, but his fierce crosses were dealt with by Rui Patricio in the Sporting goal.
Ronaldo was having one of his most ineffective halves of football, but still mustered a strike from distance that tested Patricio.
After the break, Sporting continued where they had left off, and took a deserved lead in the 47th minute. Cesar drifted in from the left and benefited from a fortunate ricochet before drilling the ball into the bottom corner, giving Casilla no chance and stunning the Bernabeu into silence.
Ronaldo was cutting a forlorn figure, as he desperately appealed for a penalty in vain. Sporting were looking comfortable.
A double change after 68 minutes gave Real added impetus. Morata and Lucas Vazquez added a new threat, and injected that extra energy the hosts desperately needed. Vazquez picked out the run of Dani Carvajal, who volleyed wide, before that golden chance to equalise came and went in the blink of an eye with seven minutes to go.
Ronaldo appeared to be offside as a low cross was deflected into his path, but the flag stayed down as the Portuguese volleyed onto the post from point-blank range.
Nonetheless, the best player on the planet was not to be outdone, as he won a soft-looking free-kick on the edge of the box, got up to take it himself, curled the ball over the wall and in off the post. Patricio got a hand to it, but couldn't keep it out - placed to perfection.
Then, with fans still celebrating the equaliser, they were sent into delirium as Morata headed the winner. The cross from substitute James Rodriguez was pinpoint, but the sheer power Morata generated on the header was worthy of winning any game.