Karim Benzema scored just hours after he was found guilty by a French court in a blackmail case as Real Madrid beat Sheriff Tiraspol 3-0 to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League on Wednesday.
The France striker scored his team’s third goal for a confident performance in Transnistria as Real avenged their 2-1 loss to the Sheriff in Madrid earlier this season.
The win sent the Spanish giants back to the top of Group D, two points away from second-placed Inter Milan, who defeated Shakhtar Donetsk 2–0 to qualify for the last 16.
Madrid now need to avoid a loss in their final group game against Inter at the Santiago Bernabeu to finish first in the group.
“We’re on the right track. I like the way we’re playing,” said Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, whose side beat Inter 1-0 in their first group game in September.
“The squad is in good shape, everyone is physically strong. It is important for us to rise to the top and we would like to end our group campaign the way we started it.”
The defeat ended Sheriff’s hopes of progress, but a memorable debut Champions League campaign has already secured third place and a spot in the Europa League knockout stage.
Benzema, who was given a one-year suspended sentence for complicity in attempting to blackmail his former French teammate Mathieu Valbuena, was denied an initial attempt at offside.
– alaba attack –
Madrid dominated but struggled to find a way out, with Rodrigo shooting well at home goalkeeper Giorgos Athanasidis in the 18th minute.
But David advanced through Alaba at the half-hour mark on the far side.
The Austrian defender’s free-kick was deflected off the sheriff’s wall and the helpless Athanasiadis was left behind.
The hosts were struggling to get out of their own half and Danny Carvajal added almost a second for Real when he sprinted narrowly over the crossbar.
The 13-time European champion doubled his advantage in the first half stoppage time, however, what was ended as a brilliant move by Toni Cross’s debut shot that flew off the crossbar and was awarded by goalline technique. Was.
Benzema achieved his goal in the 55th minute by finding a spot on the edge of the box and drilling the ball into the bottom corner to score for the 15th time this season.
It was also the striker’s 76th goal of his Champions League career.
“We haven’t talked about this (court decision), he is calm, it’s a topic about him that we’ve been talking about for a long time,” Ancelotti said.
There was concern for Real as Alaba replaced Nacho in the 65th minute, but Ancelotti said it was not a serious injury.
“We removed Alaba because he twisted his ankle a bit, but I don’t think it’s a bad problem. We’re very confident he’ll be ready for the upcoming Games,” the Italian said.
Sheriff had scored in each of his first four group games and had a flurry of chances in the middle of the second half, with Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois hitting the post with two saves and a cross.
But it was ultimately a comfortable journey for Madrid as they made it to the knockouts for the 25th year in a row.