Karim Benzema put off-the-field problems temporarily behind him to score one of the three goals that sent Madrid sauntering into next month’s Champions League last-16 draw.
He got the third in the 3-0 win meaning he has now scored 64 goals in the Champions League and is now only two goals from overtaking Raul as Madrid’s second highest goalscorer in the competition. Cristiano Ronaldo remains a long way out in front with 105 but Benzema continues to do his best to replace the Portuguese for Real Madrid.
He celebrated his second half shot from Ferland Mendy’s cross with team-mates just hours after a French judge gave him a one year suspended prison sentence for his part in the attempted blackmail of former France international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena; a verdict he intends to appeal.
Karim Benzema put all of his off-the-pitch problems behind him in the 3-0 win
David Alaba scored a freekick to put Real Madrid into the lead on Wednesday night
There was a slight deflection and the ball flew past Giorgos Athanasiadis in goal
Benzema had started the game well, converting a rebound after Georgios Athanasiadis had saved Toni Kroos’ shot. That goal was ruled out for offside but there was no ruling out David Alaba’s opener for Madrid.
His free-kick clipped a defender as the Sheriff wall parted and that helped it fly past Athanasiadis to make it 1-0 on the half hour.
Madrid were in control with Casemiro, Luka Modric and Kroos running the game from midfield. Carlo Ancelotti called them the best in the world recently. This was only their sixth game together this season and they were too good for Sheriff. Modric started a move that Kroos ended with a sidefoot shot that bounced just over the line off the crossbar for 2-0.
Rodrygo got a touch in the build-up to and the Brazilian was Sheriff’s chief tormentor as they out-played the Champions League debutants.
Real were out for revenge after their shock defeat by Sheriff Tiraspol in the home game
Tony Kroos scored the second goal of the game with a shot that went in off the crossbar
Athanasiadis 6; Cristiano 6, Arboleda 6, Dulanto 6, Costanza 6; Addo 6, Thil 7, Kolovos 6 (Nikolov, 59 6), Castaneda 6 (Yansane 59 6); Bruno 6 (Julien, 59 6) Traore 7 (Cojocaru, 81)
Courtois 7; Carvajal 6 (Lucas Vazquez, 65 6), Militao 6, Alaba 8 (Nacho, 6), Mendy 7 (Marcelo, 61 6); Casemiro 7 (Blanco, 85), Kroos 8, Modric 7; Rodrygo 8 (Asensio, 85), Vinicius 7, Benzema 7Fact-box text
The game, shown live in a Tiraspol cinema because of pandemic restrictions reducing the gate, was certainly going to plan at the break and Benzema’s strike 10 minutes into the second half made the win safe although spirited Sheriff, who beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, went close twice with Sebastien Thill hitting the frame of the goal and Thibaut Courtois saving well from Adama Traore.
Madrid could now thinking about topping the group and maybe forcing cards to use up suspensions but when Casemiro approached the touchline in what appeared to be a chat about that very subject, the midfielder – on a yellow – seemed to be told by Carlo Ancelotti not get a deliberate booking.
It wasn’t all good news for Real Madrid with Alaba going off in the second half, they will want their new defensive leader fit for the last group match at home to Inter.
‘It’s a very cold night’ said defender Dani Carvajal of the minus three temperature. ‘We are just happy to be through.’
Benzema now has 15 goals this season with 10 in La Liga and five in Europe. And with that all-star midfield of Modric, Casemiro and Kroos behind him Madrid will one of the teams to avoid in the draw on December 13. If the pick up a point in that last game at home to Inter they will go into the last-16 as one of the group winners.
Benzema has been a shining light for Real as their talismanic forward this season
Carlo Ancelotti will be delighted with Real advancing to the round of 16 with a game to spare