Ancelotti delighted as Real take 'the right path' to last 16

TIRASPOL (Moldova) • Karim Benzema showed no signs of being affected by his blackmail case, scoring just hours after being found guilty by a French court as Real Madrid saw off Sheriff Tiraspol 3-0 on Wednesday to reach the Champions League knockout stage.

The France striker notched his team's third goal of a confident display in Transnistria, as Real exacted revenge for their shock 2-1 home loss in the reverse fixture.

The victory sent the Spanish giants back to the top of Group D, two points clear of second-placed Inter Milan (10), who also qualified for the last 16 after beating Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0.

Real now need only to avoid defeat in their final group game against the Italian champions at the Santiago Bernabeu to finish first in the group and secure a more favourable draw.

"We continue along the right path. 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 strong physically. It's important for us to finish top and we'll be looking to end our group campaign the way we've begun it."

The defeat ends Sheriff's hopes of progressing, but a memorable debut Champions League campaign has seen them secure third place and a spot in the Europa League knockout phase.

Real, who have now made the last 16 for the 25th straight time, forged ahead on the half-hour mark through David Alaba's deflected free kick.

The 13-time European champions doubled their advantage in first-half stoppage time, as a fantastic move was ended by Toni Kroos' first-time shot which flew in off the crossbar and was awarded by goal-line technology.

Benzema got his goal in the second half, finding space 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 his 76th career goal in the Champions League, leaving Ancelotti unconcerned about the state of his striker's mind despite his one-year suspended jail term.

"We have not talked about it (the court verdict). He is calm, it is a subject concerning him that we have been talking about for a long time," the Italian said.

The only slight worry for Real was the sight of Alaba hobbling off after the interval but Ancelotti said it was just a precaution and "we are confident that he'll be ready for the upcoming games".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2021, with the headline 'Ancelotti delighted as Real take 'the right path' to last 16'. Subscribe