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.
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.
Deportivo twice came from behind to equalise 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 euro94 million ($135 million) transfer from Manchester United.
“The most important thing was to win,” new Real coach Manuel Pellegrini said.
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, fresh from a record-breaking world championships, launched president Florentino Perez’s new “galactico” era with the ceremonial first kick.
Perez spent about euro250 million ($360 million) bringing in the likes of Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso to the Spanish capital, and they were all included in Pellegrini’s starting line-up.
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 earned its fifth trophy of 2009 on Friday with a European Supercup win over Shakhtar Donetsk, and will begin its league title defence on Monday 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.
“I leave tonight very happy with the play for the first league game of the season, which came with so many expectations,” said Pellegrini, who singled out Diarra’s and Alonso’s efforts. “I don’t know how many goals we have to score to please everybody.”
Kaka, signed from AC Milan for euro65 million (euro94 million), nearly started Madrid’s latest galactico era with a goal in the first minute, but his low shot went wide of the far post.
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.
Riki equalised four minutes later from a sharp header before Madrid went ahead again.
Diarra sent Raul free into the area in the 34th and Aranzubia tripped up the Madrid captain to allow Ronaldo to open his Madrid goal account, with the Portugal winger beating Aranzubia with a hard shot low into the corner.
Ronaldo, who hasn’t looked comfortable through the preseason, began to find his rhythm. In the 44th, Ronaldo struck a free kick from 40 meters high into the stands.
Valeron equalised for Deportivo at the beginning of the second half, the former Spain international controlling Andres Guardado’s cross at the top of the area before sending his half-volley strike low past Iker Casillas.
Valeron’s miss with only Casillas to beat in the 57th ultimately proved costly as three minutes later Diarra moved around his marker and beat Aranzubia with a low, diagonal shot from the edge of the area for the winner.
“We dominated the game, constantly looking for more goals,” Pellegrini said.
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.