Karim Benzema strikes again, Real Madrid win

 

Real Madrid shook off a stiff challenge from Shakhtar Donetsk thanks to Karim Benzema’s brace and Vinicius’ assists in a 2-1 victory in Champions League Group D on Wednesday night at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

The French striker had Los Blancos ahead early on a Shakhtar mistake, but the visitors pulled level to make it even at the break. A class build-up allowed Benzema to regain the lead for his side and nail down the three points, giving Real Madrid nine points with two matches to go.

Carlo Ancelotti raised some eyebrows by going with Lucas Vazquez to replace the absent Rodrygo, meaning Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio were left on the bench. Meanwhile, Dani Carvajal slotted in at right-back and Ferland Mendy was at left-back.

It could have easily been 1-0 to Real Madrid early on, after some slick linking up between Luka Modric and Lucas Vazquez, only for Shakhtar goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin to block the shot from the Croatia international. The same could be said for Shakhtar, who were denied an opener through Alan Patrick when his shot struck the post.

The first goal would arrive in short order and Shakhtar couldn’t have gifted it any better if they had tried. A heavy touch from defender Marlon saw Vinicius swoop in and quickly find Benzema, who had the easiest of strokes into the net for a 1-0 advantage.

Yet, just like in last season’s visit to Valdebebas, Shakhtar were creating danger and the visitors from Ukraine pulled level 1-1 when Patrick chested down a ball to Fernando, who volleyed it into the net.

The Shakhtar equaliser and subsequent chance to take a lead into halftime did little to please the Bernabeu, who showered their team with whistles as the players retreated to the dressing room at intermission.

The supporters were growing antsy about Shakhtar’s continuous possession of the ball, but in the blink of an eye, things changed with a pretty one-two combination between Casemiro and Vinicius, in which the latter found a wide-open Benzema, who finished for a 2-1 lead.

Ancelotti went to his bench by first bringing on Nacho for Carvajal, followed later by fringe forward Luka Jovic for Benzema, who received an ovation while leaving the pitch.

Shakhtar didn’t stray from their approach and kept the Real Madrid defence busy, including a stoppage-time chance from Sudakov that forced Courtois into a save. However, in the end, Ancelotti’s men were able to close up shop to pocket the three points and stay on track for a knockout round berth.

Courtesy: MARCA

A comfortable win at Sheriff for Inter

A ruthless second-half performance earned Internazionale a 3-1 win away to Sheriff Tiraspol on Wednesday to send them above the Moldovans into second place in Group D.

Inter were left frustrated as they mustered 14 attempts to no avail before the break, but the competition debutants’ resistance eventually broke when Marcelo Brozovic fired home early in the second half.

Milan Skriniar doubled the Nerazzurri’s lead before substitute Alexis Sanchez powered home a third within a minute of his introduction, and Adama Traore headed in a stoppage-time consolation for Sheriff.

Inter climbed into the second spot on seven points, one ahead of Sheriff in third and six clear of bottom side Shakhtar Donetsk, but two points adrift of group leaders Real Madrid.

Sheriff began their maiden Champions League campaign by sensationally beating Shakhtar and Real Madrid before losing to Inter at San Siro, making this an unexpectedly crucial clash in the battle for a place in the knockout stages.

Inter dominated the first half, boasting 67% possession and having 14 attempts on goal, although only one found the target as they failed to break down the resilient hosts.

Edin Dzeko headed wide from a corner and later had an effort well saved by Giorgios Athanasiadis, while Lautaro Martinez came close five minutes before the interval when his shot from the edge of the area struck the post.

Sheriff’s resistance broke in the 54th minute when Brozovic feigned a shot with his left foot at the edge of the area before dragging the ball back to his favoured right and shooting into the bottom corner.

Inter’s corner kicks had caused problems for the Sheriff defence and were the source of the second goal, with Stefan de Vrij heading a delivery straight at Athanasiadis before Skriniar tucked in the rebound at the second time of asking.

Sanchez needed less than a minute to make his mark after being introduced on the 82nd minute, thumping a powerful strike into the roof of the net for his first Champions League goal since February 2017.

The home crowd, who had little cause for excitement all evening, were finally given something to cheer at the death when Traore headed home a Sebastien Thill cross.

Courtesy: Reuters

Ajax beat Dortmund and through to Round of 16

Ajax Amsterdam came from behind to beat 10-man Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in Champions League Group C on Wednesday and advance to the knockout stages of the competition.

Goals from Dusan Tadic, Sebastien Haller and Davy Klaassen in the last 19 minutes maintained the Dutch club’s 100% record after Marco Reus had converted a first-half penalty for the home team, who had to play for an hour with 10 men after Mats Hummels was sent off.

Ajax moved to 12 points at the top of the standings and booked a place in the last-16 with two matches to play. Dortmund share the second spot with Sporting CP on six points.

Brazilian winger Antony proved the inspiration for Ajax by providing the crosses for all their goals and he was involved in the controversial dismissal of Hummels.

They were left-footed crosses from the right-wing, first for Tadic to steer the ball home at the back post in the 71st minute, then for Haller to continue his scoring form in the competition with a flicked header seven minutes from time before Klaassen completed the scoring.

It had taken the visitors time to break down their hosts and take advantage of their numerical superiority.

English referee Michael Oliver had no hesitation in red carding the experienced Germany defender Hummels in the 28th minute for a sliding tackle on the halfway line on Antony.

Television replays, however, showed that Antony had narrowly avoided contact but after a Video Assistant Referee review, Oliver’s decision was upheld to the astonishment of the home side.

Seven minutes later the referee was encouraged to check his initial decision to turn down Jude Bellingham’s appeals for a penalty after tumbling down in the Ajax penalty area as he was sandwiched in by two defenders.

Oliver reviewed the action on the screen at the side of the pitch and found that Ajax full-back Noussair Mazraoui had impeded Bellingham’s attempt to shoot, then awarding the spot-kick that Reus converted in the 37th minute.

The Germans had been soundly beaten 4-0 by Ajax a fortnight earlier and were playing without top scorer Erling Haaland but showed tenacity and a fighting spirit before crumbling at the end.

Ajax joined Bayern Munich, Juventus and Liverpool as clubs with a 100% record and places in the next stage.

Courtesy: Reuters

Liverpool dominate at Anfield, no spoiler by Atletico Madrid

Liverpool maintained their perfect start to the Champions League with a 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid at Anfield on Wednesday night to secure a spot in the last 16.

Liverpool edged Atleti 3-2 at the Wanda Metropolitano in the reverse fixture on Oct. 19, with Antoine Griezmann sent off before Mohamed Salah scored the winner from the penalty spot.

Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane gave the hosts a 2-0 lead within the first 20 minutes, with Trent Alexander-Arnold setting up both goals to give Jurgen Klopp’s side a 2-0 lead.

“The first target was to get through this group. I didn’t expect we would be through after four games but the boys did it and it’s really well deserved,” said Liverpool boss Klopp.

Atleti were handed another setback before the break when Felipe was shown a red card for a foul on Mane, who appeared to have a straight path to goal, leaving the LaLiga club to finish the match with 10 players.

Diego Simeone’s Atleti tried to get back in the game but were left frustrated as Liverpool dominated possession and saw out the result to take all three points.

First-placed Liverpool are on 12 points in the group and are a lock to reach the round of 16 having won four games in four tries, while Atleti are in third with four points behind Porto, who sit second after earning a draw with bottom side AC Milan earlier in the day.

Liverpool players celebrate after scoring a goal against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. Getty

A draw would have been enough for Liverpool to be sure of their passage to the last 16 but from the outset, Klopp’s side looked like they had nothing but victory on their minds.

Jota put the home side ahead in the 13th minute, nodding home at the back post after a great cross from the right by Alexander-Arnold.

Alexander-Arnold was again the provider for the second eight minutes later when his low ball into the box was brilliantly met by Sadio Mane who fired past Jan Oblak.

The Spanish side’s troubles intensified after Felipe was sent off in the 36th minute for a deliberate trip on Mane that earned him a harsh straight red.

Jota thought he had his second and Liverpool’s third, shortly after the interval, but the goal was ruled out for offside after a VAR review.

Former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez also had a deflected effort, which beat Alisson Becker, ruled out by VAR for offside but the Spanish champions could have no complaints about the outcome.

The only negative for Klopp’s side was a hamstring injury to Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino in the second half.

Courtesy: ESPN

Manchester City essay commendable victory

Manchester City prepared for this weekend’s derby with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Club Brugge in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola said the European tie was “more important” than the clash with Manchester United on Saturday and his side delivered a convincing display.

Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus scored as the Premier League champions grabbed their first win in three matches in all competitions.

Brugge got on the scoresheet through a comical own goal from John Stones but the three points see City edge closer to the knockout stages.

“The manager wasn’t happy at halftime and you have to take his advice,” Foden said.

“He changed things and we were much better in the second half.”

“Once we got our rhythm the chances started opening up.”

The hosts took the lead over 15 minutes as Foden tapped home into an empty after a Joao Cancelo low cross.

However, Brugge struck back two minutes later when Charles De Ketelaere’s cross struck Bernardo Silva and deflected off Stones into the net.

City found their rhythm in the second half and went back in front after 54 minutes when Mahrez headed home from another Cancelo assist.

Sterling came off the bench and scored after four minutes on the pitch as he tapped home from Ilkay Gundogan’s cross.

With the last kick of the game, Jesus finished off another team move with a fine curling finish.

Courtesy: ESPN

Victory for Sporting CP

A double from Pedro Goncalves helped Sporting CP to a dominant 4-0 Champions League home win over Besiktas on Wednesday.

An injury-hit Besiktas were steamrollered by the Lisbon club who scored their first three goals in a 10-minute spell late in the first half.

Former Wolverhampton Wanderers youngster Goncalves put in a man-of-the-match display, firing the hosts into a 2-0 lead while Paulinho scored their third from a counter-attack before halftime.

Pablo Sarabia wrapped up the scoring early in the second half.

Portuguese champions Sporting are third in Group C, level on six points with second-placed Borussia Dortmund, who they face in Lisbon in their next game. They finish their group-stage campaign at Ajax Amsterdam, which top the group with 12 points.

Besiktas are bottom and without a point.

Courtesy: Reuters

AC Milan are on the brink of an exit

AC Milan earned their first Champions League point of the season with a 1-1 draw against Porto at San Siro on Wednesday, but the result left the seven-time European champions on the brink of elimination.

Luis Diaz struck after six minutes to put the Portuguese side in front and they dominated the first half against an under-par Rossoneri side.

An own goal from Chancel Mbemba drew Milan level after the break and Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a goal ruled out for offside, as the Italians’ wait for a victory goes on.

“It’s tough against teams who are used to Champions League football like Porto or Atletico. Experience is important,” Milan striker Olivier Giroud told Canal Plus.

“We are a young team but I don’t want to make excuses. We also needed a little more luck. We have played some good matches.”

It is the first time in Milan’s history that they have failed to win any of their opening four Champions League games.

Porto rose to second place with five points, four ahead of bottom side Milan.

Rossoneri coach Stefano Pioli sprang some surprises by leaving regular starters like Ibrahimovic, Franck Kessie and Simon Kjaer on the bench, possibly with an eye towards Sunday’s crucial Serie A derby against rivals Internazionale.

The hosts were on the back foot from the start, as Evanilson threatened by shooting into the side netting inside the opening minute before Marko Grujic won the ball high up the pitch and picked out the unmarked Diaz, who finished calmly.

Grujic was twice denied by Ciprian Tatarusanu saves, while a Giroud shot that required a smart stop from Diogo Costa was the Rossoneri’s only chance of note before the break.

Porto were inches away from doubling their advantage early in the second half when Evanilson’s header hit the top of the bar, but Milan fought their way back into the game against the run of play in the 61st minute.

Giroud’s shot was saved by Costa but parried into the path of substitute Pierre Kalulu, who fired the ball back across the face of the goal and Mbemba stuck out a leg to divert it into his own net.

Ibrahimovic’s introduction for the final 15 minutes injected some spark as the Swede netted on a rebound after his initial shot was charged down by Costa, but the goal was disallowed.

Courtesy: Reuters

PSG drop points

RB Leipzig rescued a 2-2 draw against PSG with a stoppage-time penalty but the result saw them knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday.

Georginio Wijnaldum scored his first two goals for his new club Paris Saint-Germain as the French giants drop down to second in Group A behind Manchester City.

The Dutchman, who had struggled this season after joining from Liverpool, struck in the 21st minute and headed in another goal six minutes before halftime.

Leipzig had taken the lead through Christopher Nkunku in the eighth minute and they missed the chance to double it when Andre Silva’s 12th-minute penalty was saved.

Substitute Dominik Szoboszlai did better from the spot in second-half stoppage time, however, to rescue a point for the Germans.

The Germans, looking for a win that would boost their slim chances of a knockout stage spot, had made a barnstorming start when Nkunku headed in at the near post eight minutes into the game.

The hosts could have doubled the advantage when they were awarded a penalty four minutes later but Silva’s tame effort was stopped by keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

That proved to be the turning point in the game as a quick PSG combination between Neymar and Kylian Mbappe allowed Wijnaldum to slot in the equalizer.

He struck again in the 39th, heading in his second goal of the evening and celebrating it only after a lengthy VAR review.

Mbappe went close to scoring on the stroke of halftime but keeper Peter Gulacsi pulled off a reflex save to deny the French striker, who also missed a golden opportunity early in the second half.

With the French backline far from solid, Leipzig constantly found the spaces to get into the box but they struggled with their finishing and Szoboszlai missed the target with their best chance.

The Hungarian, however, made amends when he stepped up to take a stoppage-time penalty, was awarded for a foul on Nkunku, and equalized to earn his team’s first point in the competition and keep them in the running for a spot in the Europa League.

“We created a lot of opportunities but also gave a few away and that’s why they stayed in the game,” Wijnaldum said.

“At times we made it easy for them.”

“If you look at the end of the game we lost the ball too often. We also did not convert our chances. Maybe Leipzig deserved the point.”

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“I work hard every day and I’m getting to know my teammates better. Let’s hope I can continue this form,” he added.

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