Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal in four matches as holders Real Madrid took a major step towards the last eight with a 2-0 first-leg win at Schalke.
The Portuguese star’s form has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after failing to hit the heights he had soared to prior to lifting the Ballon d’Or.
But, typically, the 30-year-old forward silenced the doubters in the only way he knows how, by nodding in a 26th-minute opener that saw him snare a 58th goal in 58 Champions League appearances for Los Blancos.
The reigning champions had looked devoid of their usual attacking verve up to that point as Schalke, who lost 6-1 at home to Carlo Ancelotti’s men at the same stage last season, nullified their threat by naming a five-man defence.
However, following Ronaldo’s strike Die Knappen lost talismanic hitman, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to injury and they struggled to test Iker Casillas with the Dutchman’s replacement, teenager Felix Platte going closest with a second-half piledriver that cannoned back off the crossbar.
Karim Benzema and Isco both wasted chances to extend Real’s lead before Marcelo’s rasping right-foot drive sealed a victory that saw the Spanish giants equal Bayern Munich’s record of 10 straight wins in the competition.