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Ronaldo scores as Madrid wins La Liga opener

Cristiano Ronaldo began his Real Madrid career with a goal in a 3-2 victory over Deportivo La Coruna to open the Spanish league season yesterday.

Madrid's world-record signing converted a penalty in the 35th minute after Raul Gonzalez, who scored Madrid's opener in the 26th, was tripped up by Deportivo goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia.

Deportivo twice came from behind to equalize through Ivan "Riki" Sanchez and Juan Carlos Valeron before Lassana Diarra notched the winner in the 60th at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in front of 80,000 spectators - the same number that attended Ronaldo's presentation following his €94 million ($135 million) transfer from Manchester United.

"We created a lot of chances, but the most important thing was to achieve the victory," said €65 million ($94 million) acquisition Kaka. "It wasn't an easy game."

Usain Bolt, fresh from a record-breaking world championships, launched president Florentino Perez's latest "galactico" era with the ceremonial first kick.

Perez spent about €250 million ($360 million) bringing in the likes of Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso to the Spanish capital, and they were all included in new coach Manuel Pellegrini's starting lineup.

Perez is keen to dislodge archrival Barcelona from the pinnacle of European football after the Catalan club became the first Spanish team to win the treble - the Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey - in a season.

Barcelona earned its fifth trophy of 2009 on Friday with a European Supercup win over Shakhtar Donetsk, and will begin its league title defense on Monday against Sporting Gijon.

Although Pellegrini's star-studded squad looks like it needs more time to gel after several defensive lapses and missed opportunities, the Chilean coach was pleased to debut with a win.

"I leave tonight very happy with the play for the first league game of the season, which came with so many expectations," said Pellegrini, who singled out Diarra's and Alonso's efforts. "I don't know how many goals we have to score to please everybody."

Kaka, who joined from AC Milan, nearly started Madrid's latest galactico era with a goal in the first minute, but his low shot went wide of the far post.

But it was Kaka's through ball that set up the first goal as the Brazil playmaker sent Benzema free into the area and - although the France striker put the ball through Aranzubia's legs - the ball bounced off the post straight to veteran striker Raul to slot into the empty net.

Riki equalized four minutes later from a sharp header before Madrid went ahead again.

Diarra sent Raul free into the area in the 34th and Aranzubia tripped up the Madrid captain to allow Ronaldo to open his Madrid goal account, with the Portugal winger beating Aranzubia with a hard shot low into the corner.

Ronaldo, who hasn't looked comfortable through the preseason, began to find his rhythm.

In the 44th, Ronaldo struck a free kick from 40 meters high into the stands.

Valeron equalized for Deportivo at the beginning of the second half, the former Spain international - who scored for the first time in over three years - controlling Andres Guardado's cross at the top of the area before sending his half-volley strike low past Iker Casillas.

Valeron's miss with only Casillas to beat in the 57th ultimately proved costly as three minutes later Diarra moved around his marker and beat Aranzubia with a low, diagonal shot from the edge of the area for the winner.

"We dominated the game, constantly looking for more goals," Pellegrini said.

Former Liverpool player Jermaine Pennant made his debut in Zaragoza's 1-0 win over Tenerife in a game featuring newly promoted teams.

Javier Arizmendi muscled off two defenders in the 73rd to reach his own rebound and roll the winner under goalkeeper Sergio Aragoneses.

In today's other first round of games, it's: Athletic Bilbao vs. Espanyol; Mallorca vs. Xerez; Osasuna vs. Villarreal; Racing Santander vs. Getafe; Malaga vs. Atletico Madrid; Valencia vs. Sevilla; and Almeria vs. Valladolid.


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