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Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010

Real beats Milan to prove Champions League credentials

LONDON (AP) Real Madrid passed an early test of its Champions League credentials under Jose Mourinho by defeating AC Milan, while Chelsea, Arsenal and Bayern Munich also notched up their third successive victories Tuesday to close in on the knockout phase.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored from a free kick then set up Mesut Oezil's goal inside 15 minutes as nine-time winner Madrid asserted its authority in Group G over seven-time champion Milan in a showdown of the European Cup's two most successful clubs.

"We needed to impose a strong rhythm on the game from the start by playing with the type of concentration these games deserve — and we did that," Ronaldo said.

Arsenal celebrated the night's biggest win by routing Shakhtar Donetsk 5-1 and Premier League rival Chelsea beat Spartak Moscow 2-0.

Bayern Munich, which lost last season's final, found it tougher against Cluj, coming from behind to win 3-2 in Group E, which also saw AS Roma stunned 3-1 at home by Basel.

Another convincing win for Madrid has heightened expectations at Santiago Bernabeu that Mourinho, who led Inter to the Champions League title in May, can not only take his new team beyond the last-16 for the first time since 2004, but deliver its 10th victory in the competition — nine years after the last.

The Spanish leaders blitzed Milan's goal with 22 shots — but the goals came early, starting in the 13th minute with Ronaldo's free kick flying through a gap in the defensive wall.

Within a minute, the Portugal forward darted into the area before feeding the ball back to Oezil, whose shot came off Daniele Bonera's head to loop over goalkeeper Marco Amelia.

At the midway point in Group G, Madrid has a five-point lead over Milan and Ajax, which earned its first victory against Auxerre.

Ferguson 'shocked'

LONDON (AP) Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson confirmed Tuesday that Wayne Rooney has requested to leave the Premier League club, but said he doesn't understand the reasons behind the England striker's decision.

"We have had a discussion about the whole situation. The player says he is adamant he wants to leave," Ferguson said.

The manager said the 24-year-old Rooney, who will miss United's Champions League match against Bursaspor after injuring his ankle in training Tuesday, called off contract negotiations in August. The England striker's current deal at United runs out in the summer of 2012.

Ferguson said he was "dumbfounded" by Rooney's decision, telling United's television channel, MUTV: "Only months before, he was saying he was at the greatest club in the world and he wanted to stay for life."

He added, "We just don't know what's changed the boy's mind."

Rooney's only goal this season was a penalty against West Ham, and his private life was rocked by a newspaper report that he had repeatedly cheated on his wife with a prostitute.

"We've never had any argument," Ferguson said. "You have to understand the mechanics of these situations when someone wants to leave the club. It's an easy one to say you've fallen out with the manager.

"I said to him, 'Just remember one thing — respect this club. I don't want any nonsense from you, respect your club.' "

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