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Ronaldo and Morata save Madrid in Champions League

Ronaldo equalized from an 89th minute free kick against his former club

Published: Updated:

Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata scored very late goals as Real Madrid came from behind to beat Sporting Lisbon 2-1 and avoid starting the defense of its Champions League title with a shock defeat on Wednesday.

Ronaldo equalized from an 89th minute free kick against his former club and Morata netted the winner deep in injury time to give the hosts a hard-fought victory in a match Sporting had largely under control.

“I’m happy with the points. We suffered but never gave up,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “I don’t know if the result was fair or not, but it’s clear we believed. You have to play until the end. It wasn’t a perfect match, you never see a perfect match, but the important thing was to win.”

Madrid, trying to become the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles since the tournament’s new format went into effect in 1992-93, avoided what would have been only its second loss in 31 Champions League matches at home. It has won 27 times and drawn three at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Sporting was just a few minutes away from its first win in 11 matches in Spain in UEFA competitions. Madrid almost lost at home to a Portuguese team for the first time.

Boosted by a loud visiting crowd, Sporting played well from the start, defending with efficiency and creating dangerous chances up front with well-timed counterattacks and accurate passing.

Bruno Cesar put the Portuguese side ahead only three minutes into the second half after Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric failed to clear, allowing the Brazilian midfielder to fire a left-footed shot into the far corner.

It was the first time Real Madrid conceded a goal at home in the Champions League since the semifinals of the 2014-15 season.