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August 31, 2009

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Ronaldo scores in Real debut

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 on Saturday.

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.

"The first match is always the most difficult but the feeling was very good," Ronaldo said.

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 US$135 million transfer from Manchester United.

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

In the only other game, 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.

Perez spent about US$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 will begin its league title defense today 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.

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.

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.

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


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