Madrid beats Gladbach to avoid Champions League elimination
Karim Benzema scored two first-half goals as Real Madrid beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-0 to avoid an early exit in the Champions League.
Madrid needed a victory to guarantee advancement and ended up winning Group B to reach the knockout round for the 24th straight season.Gladbach still advanced to the last 16 for the first time in the Champions League era after finishing level on points with Shakhtar Donetsk but with a better head-to-head record.
Shakhtar drew 0-0 with Inter Milan, eliminating the Italian team.
Madrid had struggled in the group — having conceded nine goals in its first five games — but the 13-time European winner finished with 10 points, two more than Gladbach.
Madrid looked in control from the start at the empty Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium in the Spanish capital.Benzema opened the scoring with a ninth-minute header after a cross by Lucas Vázquez, and added to the lead with a another header in the 32nd, this time after being set up by Rodrygo.
The victory was key for Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, who had been under pressure following a series of poor results in the Champions League and the Spanish league.That pressure had already eased after a 1-0 win at Sevilla on Saturday, which ended the team’s three-match winless streak in the league.
Gladbach was making only its third appearance in the group stage in the Champions League era. It was a European Cup finalist in 1977, losing the final to Liverpool.
Madrid was boosted by the return of captain Sergio Ramos, who had been sidelined because of a muscle injury. Eden Hazard remained out because of a muscle problem.
Luka Modric had a goal disallowed for offside in the 43rd and Vázquez hit the woodwork in the 79th. The visitors threatened only a few times on counterattacks.
Real Madrid hosts Atlético Madrid in a Spanish league derby on Saturday. Madrid is six points behind Atlético, which leads the league and has a game in hand.