Virtuoso Robinho strikes twice as Real win 4-2

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MADRID, Oct 25 (Reuters) Brazil forward Robinho struck twice in a virtuoso second-half display to help Real Madrid to a 4-2 victory over 10-man Olympiakos in an action-packed Champions League game at the Bernabeu.

Robinho hit the headlines for the wrong reasons last week, arriving back in Spain late from international duty following a celebration party after Brazil's 5-0 win over Ecuador.

But he stole the show against Olympiakos when he headed an equaliser with Real trailing 2-1, engineered a penalty, scored a fine curler and then provided an assist for their final goal yesterday.

The win left the nine-times European champions top of Group C with seven points from three games, three clear of Olympiakos and four ahead of Werder Bremen, who beat Lazio 2-1.

The Greek side had won 3-1 at Werder last time out for their first away win in 32 Champions League games on the road but they could hardly have got off to a worse start at the Bernabeu.

Robinho dashed into the Olympiakos half, slipped a sharp pass to Ruud Van Nistelrooy and, after the Dutchman's shot was blocked by goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis, Raul was on hand to steer into the net and take his Champions League tally to 58.

But the lead lasted just five minutes, Olympiakos levelling when former Atletico Madrid winger Luciano Galletti fired home from the edge of the area after Pedrag Djordjevic skipped past Michel Salgado and pulled the ball back into the area.

Olympiakos had barely finished celebrating when they found themselves down to 10 men, defender Vassilis Torosidis being given a straight red card for pulling back Van Nistelrooy as he broke clear on the edge of the area.

Real took the opportunity to get their foot on the ball and control possession and left back Marcelo and midfielder Wesley Sneijder forced sharp saves from Nikopolidis with rasping drives from distance.

VENOMOUS SHOT Robinho had the gilt-edged chance to give Real the lead just before the break when he found himself in space on the left side of the area, but the Brazilian's venomous shot was brilliantly blocked by Nikopolidis.

Olympiakos took a leaf out of Real's book and got off to a flier in the second half when Brazilian centre-back Julio Cesar hooked the ball into the net after Djordjevic swung a free kick into the area.

The goal gave Olympiakos a new lease of life and they looked as though they might hold out, but Robinho sparked the Real revival with a virtuoso display in the second half.

He equalised with a far-post header from point-blank range after Sergio Ramos clipped the ball across the area.

The Brazilian then won a penalty when Cristian Ledesma tapped him on the shins after his trademark step-over routine, only to see Van Nistelrooy blast the ball over the bar.

But Robinho spared the Dutchman's blushes when he curled the ball in from 15 metres with seven minutes left to put Real 3-2 up.

A lively Olympiakos side never gave up, however, and Real keeper Iker Casillas had to produce a stunning reflex save to deny substitute Michal Zewelakow a late equaliser.

It was Robinho, though, who had the last word, completing an outstanding display by setting up substitute Javier Balboa for an injury-time strike with a neat pass after breaking out from his own half.

REUTERS BJR HT1412

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