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Leverkusen treble has Real reeling

Franca celebrates after scoring the second goal against Real Madrid

LEVERKUSEN, Germany -- Bayer Leverkusen started their Champions League campaign with a shock 3-0 win over a sluggish Real Madrid in a Group B game on Wednesday.

Leverkusen outplayed the nine-times European champions to gain a measure of revenge for a 2-1 defeat by the Spanish side in the 2002 final.

Real Madrid, who have won only once in 19 visits to Germany over the years, looked ordinary and vulnerable despite the presence on the pitch of all their top players.

Real Madrid sporting director Emilio Butragueno described the defeat as a "crushing blow".

"It's not the moment to say whose fault it is. Today all we can feel is sadness by the result," he said.

"Leverkusen were superior and deserved to win. They were better in almost all areas and have to be congratulated."

A stylish performance ensured the German team ended a seven-game losing streak in the competition, a record they shared with Fenerbahce and Spartak Moscow.

Poland midfielder Jacek Krzynowek put them in the lead with a powerful shot from 25 meters on 39 minutes.

It was a dream goal for the largely unknown Krzynowek who was making his first Champions League appearance.

"We should have been 4-1 up at the break," said manager Klaus Augenthaler. "But we scored at the right time and demonstrated that we can play good football."

Brazilian forward Franca doubled the advantage from the edge of the box five minutes into the second half and Bulgaria striker Dimitar Berbatov completed the victory from close range five minutes later.

Real's problems were compounded when the club later revealed that they could be without Zinedine Zidane for at least three weeks after the French star injured his shoulder in a collision with Roque Junior.

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