Real rout Schalke to earn rare win in Germany
Real Madrid's Welsh striker Gareth Bale (L) scores against Schalke's goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann during the first-leg round of 16 UEFA Champions League football match Schalke 04 vs real Madrid in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany on February 26, 2014 - by Patrik Stollarz
Real are now all but guaranteed a quarter-final place regardless of the return leg in Madrid on March 18 after Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale both netted twice in the rout.
Real's Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo also scored twice to see him take over from Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the competition's top-scorer with 11 European goals this season.
Netherlands striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored a 91st-minute consolation goal for Schalke, but the Royal Blues still suffered their heaviest defeat in European competition.
Carlo Ancelotti's Real are now unbeaten in their last 27 games dating back to October.
The huge victory went some way to correcting Real's terrible away record in Germany as they made the Royal Blues of Schalke look anything but regal.
This was only Real's second win in 26 visits to Germany after 18 defeats, including their 4-1 drubbing at Borussia Dortmund in last season's Champions League's semi-final.
Real needed just 13 minutes to take the lead at the Veltins Arena as their star-studded attack clicked into gear.
Wales winger Bale cut in from the right, Ronaldo flicked his pass into space and Benzema beat the Welshman to the loose ball and fired past Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann.
Schalke almost immediately equalised as teenage midfielder Max Meyer fired over the bar with the goal at his mercy after Ilker Casillas had blocked Julian Draxler's shot.
Schalke were punished for wasting their rare opportunity and with 21 minutes gone, Bale held off two Schalke defenders to make it 2-0 with La Liga leaders in full control.
Schalke's situation was not helped by Ronaldo effortlessly switching with Bale from the left to the right wing midway through the first half, only to revert back after the break.
Schalke came out all guns blazing for the second-half as Kevin-Prince Boateng forced Casillas into a rare save.
But Ronaldo finally got on the scoresheet at the fourth attempt to claim his 10th European goal of the season in his sixth Champions League match.
He effortlessly turned Cameroon centre-back Joel Matip inside, then out before tucking the ball just inside the far post with 52 minutes gone.
Just five minutes later, his deft backheel fell into Benzema's path for the Frenchman to drill home his second of the night and Real's fourth past the despairing Faehrmann.
It was one-way traffic by now and Bale scored his second and Real's fifth when Sergio Ramos's through ball was driven low into the bottom left-hand corner on 69 minutes.
Ronaldo then grabbed his second on 89 minutes to leave him with 36 goals in 33 games for Real before Huntelaar finally put Schalke on the board just before the final whistle.
The Royal Blues face another tough challenge ahead of the return trip to Spain as they face European champions Bayern Munich away in the Bundesliga on Saturday.