Karim Benzema netted two similar headers to safe Actual Madrid a spot within the Champions League final 16 with a 2-Zero win over Borussia Moenchengladbach on Wednesday, easing the stress on coach Zinedine Zidane. File 13-time champions Madrid began the evening in third place, liable to failing to qualify from the group stage for the primary time of their historical past and dropping into the Europa League, however delivered an assured efficiency on the Alfredo di Stefano stadium.
Madrid completed as group winners on 10 factors, forward of runners-up Gladbach on eight regardless of the defeat, as Shakhtar Donetsk and Inter Milan drew 0-Zero within the different Group B conflict.
President Florentino Perez was noticed within the tunnel earlier than the sport and his presence appeared to focus Madrid minds, as they placed on their greatest efficiency of the season of their most vital recreation thus far.
“It was a superb recreation for us,” Benzema advised Movistar. “Every match is a ultimate and I feel that if we at all times play how we did at present, no staff can damage us.
“This was a really tough recreation, we began it effectively and with the will to point out that we’re the very best.”
Makeshift right-back Lucas Vazquez curled in a cross and Benzema produced a high quality header to interrupt the impasse after simply 9 minutes.
Madrid saved an iron grip on the sport till Gladbach ahead Alassane Plea broke free however dinked large of Thibaut Courtois’ objective.
Benzema doubled the lead with a clone of his first strike, nodding residence from Rodrygo’s cross from the suitable within the 32nd minute.
– Nervous watch for Gladbach –
Madrid got here near including a 3rd from the identical avenue, with Vazquez crossing for the evergreen Luka Modric, however Yann Sommer tipped his effort onto the publish.
The Croatian midfielder, 35, lashed residence shortly afterwards however the strike was dominated out for an offside name towards Raphael Varane within the build-up.
Madrid continued to dominate after the break, trying again to their greatest forward of the weekend derby conflict in La Liga with Atletico Madrid.
Sommer made an excellent save to claw out a header from Madrid captain Sergio Ramos on his return from harm, with Benzema crashing the rebound towards the crossbar.
Vazquez drilled an effort towards the close to publish as Zidane’s rampant facet coasted to victory, permitting the coach some respiratory room after a troubled begin to the season.
Two defeats by Shakhtar Donetsk had left Madrid in a good spot within the Champions League and their state of affairs was compounded by disappointing losses towards Cadiz, Valencia and Alaves in La Liga.
“The target was to complete first and we did it,” a proud Zidane advised Movistar. “We performed a spectacular recreation at present. I feel it was our most full of the season, from minute one to the tip we did very effectively.”
Gladbach created little of observe and located it inconceivable to flee Madrid’s relentless press, exhibiting few similarities to the facet which just about shocked the Spanish champions within the 2-2 draw they shared in October.
“It is actually superb, we performed our worst recreation of the entire group stage at present, however we’re nonetheless by way of, and deservedly so,” Gladbach captain Lars Stindl advised DAZN.
The visiting gamers gathered round an digital pill on the finish of the sport to look at the ultimate moments of Inter’s draw with Shakhtar, earlier than they might have fun reaching the Champions League final 16 for the primary time.
“It was a wierd feeling as a result of we could not actually be glad after our recreation. We simply needed to hope, and the emotion flooded out on the finish,” Gladbach midfielder Christoph Kramer added on Sky. “We deserved to undergo, even when we had no likelihood towards Actual Madrid.”
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