Champions League: Benzema saviour for Real Madrid
Two headed goals from Karim Benzema helped Real Madrid reach the Champions League knockout stages with a convincing 2-0 home win on Wednesday over Borussia Moenchengladbach, who also progressed to the last 16.
Benzema ghosted into the area unmarked to head home a floated cross from Lucas Vazquez in the ninth minute and rose again to score in the 32nd, this time powering a cross from Rodrygo through the hands of Swiss keeper Yann Sommer.
The German side were out-classed by the Spaniards but sneaked through from the group as Inter Milan drew 0-0 at home to Shakhtar Donetsk in the other game in Group B. Both Inter and Shakhtar were eliminated.
Zinedine Zidane’s side finished top with 10 points while Gladbach came second with eight, pipping third-placed Shakhtar due to their better head-to-head record, while Inter came fourth with six.
“We played a spectacular game from the first minute to the last,” Zidane told reporters.
Zidane admitted he has no plans for a lengthy stay as Real Madrid’s manager after coming through the latest of many challenges in his reign.
“I will never be Madrid’s Ferguson, I’m sure of that,” Zidane said. “What I really want is to enjoy what I’m doing, I don’t know for how long I will stay here so I don’t even think about it.”
Atletico Madrid sealed their knockout stage berth after an industrious performance topped off by a sublime Yannick Carrasco goal helped them to a 2-0 win at Salzburg. Mario Hermoso had fired the visitors ahead in the 39th minute The result left Atletico second in the group on nine points from six games, seven behind group winners Bayern Munich who sealed their progress earlier and were 2-0 home winners over Lokomotiv Moscow.
Sergio Aguero came off the bench to score for Manchester City as they cruised past Olympique Marseille 3-0. The result means the French team finished bottom of the group and failed to make the Europa League spot despite third-placed Olympiacos losing 2-0 to group runners-up Porto.
Spaniard Ferran Torres put City ahead three minutes after the interval, Aguero, who has struggled after knee surgery in the off-season, came off the bench in the 67th minute and took just 10 minutes to score. Substitute Raheem Sterling added the third with a tap-in in the final minute.
Aguero will never lose his goalscoring instincts, manager Pep Guardiola said.
“His instinct to score goals will always be there,” Guardiola said. “The important thing is he made a good three or four training sessions and the reaction after the training session was good.”
However, Guardiola said Aguero would not start against Manchester United on Saturday. “Step by step. What is important is how his reaction will be tomorrow (Thursday) after this effort,” he added.
City are also concerned about the fitness of midfielder Ilkay Gundogan for the match at Old Trafford after he was substituted at halftime.