CL round-up: Real, Inter qualify; Dortmund drop to EL

Real Madrid and Inter Milan have secured their spots in the Champions League last 16, but Borussia Dortmund have dropped into the Europa League.

Real Madrid strolled to a 3-0 win at Moldovan rivals Sheriff Tiraspol in their lop-sided Group D clash.

France striker Karim Benzema, who was handed a suspended one-year prison sentence earlier on Wednesday, had a goal chalked off in the 10th minute for offside as Real laid siege to the home side, who stunned the Spanish side 2-1 in the reverse fixture in September.

David Alaba fired the visitors ahead with a deflected free-kick in the 30th minute, with his shot from 22 metres leaving Sheriff goalkeeper Georgios Athanasiadis stranded after it clipped Cristiano’s outstretched foot.

Toni Kroos doubled Real’s lead on the stroke of half-time with a fine effort which cannoned in off the underside of the crossbar after a flowing move left the German midfielder with time and space to pick his spot.

Benzema made it 3-0 with a sublime strike from the edge of the penalty area into the bottom corner after he was teed up by left-back Ferland Mendy in the 55th minute, as Real kept their foot on the pedal.

The home side came close to pulling one back shortly after the hour as Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois parried Adama Traore’s low drive and Sebastien Thill hit the post with a glancing header in the follow-up.

Edin Dzeko scored twice for Inter Milan as they reached the last 16
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Edin Dzeko scored twice for Inter Milan as they reached the last 16

Real top the group on 12 points from five games, two more than second-placed Inter Milan with the result also sending the Italian champions through after they beat Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0.

Edin Dzeko scored twice to help Inter Milan reach the Champions League knockout stage for the first time in 10 years.

Dzeko’s two goals came in the space of six minutes in the second half. Inter had been by far the superior team, but had been let down by poor finishing, while Shakhtar goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin had also pulled off a number of good saves.

Inter had earlier had two goals disallowed, with Ivan Perisic and Lautaro Martinez seeing efforts ruled out.

Sporting Lisbon beat 10-man Borussia Dortmund 3-1 with two goals from Pedro Goncalves to clinch their spot in the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in 13 years and eliminate the Germans from the competition.

Goncalves struck twice in the first half to lead his team to their 10th straight victory in all competitions and nine points in Group C, three ahead of the Germans with a game left and a better head-to-head, after losing 1-0 in Dortmund in September.

Emre Can was sent off for Borussia Dortmund
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Emre Can was sent off for Borussia Dortmund

Sporting – in the round of 16 for the first time since 2008-09 – made the most of a disastrous Nico Schulz clearance that sent the ball straight to Goncalves who flicked it past ‘keeper Gregor Kobel after half an hour. He then rifled home from 20 metres nine minutes later to put Sporting firmly in the driving seat.

Dortmund, still without injured striker Erling Haaland, came out fighting after the break, but their hopes of a comeback were dashed when Emre Can was sent off in the 75th for a foul on Pedro Porro.

Sporting earned a penalty four minutes later and Porro headed in the rebound after Kobel had saved Goncalves’ spot-kick to deny him a hat-trick. Dortmund scored their consolation in stoppage-time through Donyell Malen.

Sebastien Haller brought his Champions League goal tally to nine this season as he came off the bench to score both goals as Ajax beat Besiktas 2-1 to secure the top spot in Group C with five straight wins.

Manchester City sealed their passage into the Champions League last 16 as group winners after coming from a goal down to beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester City celebrate after Gabriel Jesus' winner against PSG
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Manchester City celebrate after Gabriel Jesus’ winner against PSG

RB Leipzig scored four goals in a rampant first-half performance and added one more after the break for a comprehensive 5-0 victory away at Club Brugge that lifted them off the foot of Champions League Group A.

Leipzig are now in pole position to finish third in the standings and secure a berth in the Europa League, ahead of their Belgian hosts.

Rachid Ghezzal had given Besiktas the lead from the penalty spot in the 22nd minute after Noussair Mazraoui handled the ball from a corner by Ghezzal.

Haller first tapped in from close range after a cross by Nicolas Tagliafico in the 54th minute and then deflected a shot by Lisandro Martinez into the roof of the net 15 minutes later.

Haller is level with Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski as the top scorer in the Champions League this season.

A stunning header from Junior Messias in the dying minutes handed AC Milan a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid and kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the last 16.

Mohamed Salah celebrates with Jordan Henderson after scoring Liverpool's second goal
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Mohamed Salah celebrates with Jordan Henderson after scoring Liverpool’s second goal

On a freezing night in Madrid, a packed crowd at the Metropolitano Stadium failed to spur on Atletico, who struggled to make any kind of impact against a Milan side who showed urgency and aggression in a must-win situation.

Brazilian Messias broke the deadlock in the 87th minute with a spectacular header after latching on to a perfect cross from Franck Kessie.

Second-half strikes from Thiago and Mohamed Salah also saw Liverpool ease past Porto as they won 2-0 and kept on course for a perfect Champions League group stage.

Wednesday’s results means the race to see who will join group winners Liverpool in the next round will go down to the wire. Porto, who are on five points, as well as Milan and Atletico, who are tied on four points, will have to wait until the final round of fixtures to decide who will finish second.

Cristiano Ronaldo Made his Mark at Real Madrid in His First Season

Cristiano Ronaldo was unveiled as Real Madrid’s latest Galactico on July 6, 2009, after the club paid Manchester United a then-world record 94 million euros to acquire him. Even after 25 years, it still retains the record for the greatest attendance in an official player presentation with 80,000 people, beating Diego Maradona’s Napoli debut of 75,000 fans.

It took two years for Ronaldo’s transfer to the Bernabeu to finally actually happen. Florentino Perez’s second round of Galactico acquisitions included the signing of the Portuguese talisman. Xabi Alonso, Kaka, and Karim Benzema were all signed by Real Madrid in the same window. Ronaldo Nazario, Hugo Sanchez, and Alfredo Di Stefano all wore the number 9 shirt at Real Madrid, and Di Stefano personally handed it to Cristiano Ronaldo. The next season, Ronaldo was handed his now-signature number 7.

Ronaldo signed for Real Madrid in 2009 as previously mentioned and he has changed the landscape of football along with other footballers like Lionel Messi. Fast forward to 2021, Cristiano Ronaldo is now playing for Manchester United again and he is doing a fantastic job back in England, in both in the Premier League and in the Champions League. If you want to support Cristiano Ronaldo and have the potential to win cash doing so, you can back him through virtual sport bookies, you will be able to get fantastic odds, promotions and much more at Max Casinos.

Real Madrid signed Cristiano Ronaldo as the world’s finest player at the time, when he was signed at the age of 24, the winger was at the peak of his powers and went on to acquire legendary status in Madrid. During his time at Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo won every trophy imaginable, both for the club and for himself. In 196 appearances for Manchester United, the Portuguese attacker netted 84 goals. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or, Puskas Award and PFA Player and Young Player Awards during his tenure in England, along with the Golden Boot.

In his first four league games, Cristiano Ronaldo set a record by scoring four goals in a row for Real Madrid. Ronaldo scored 33 goals in all competitions during his debut season with Madrid. Despite Ronaldo’s heroics, Real Madrid were unable to bring home any hardware, leading to the dismissal of manager Manuel Pellegrini. Jose Mourinho was then named as Real Madrid’s new manager.

Benzema guilty of complicity in attempted sex tape blackmail of Valbuena

Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has been found guilty of complicity in the attempted blackmail of former France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape and sentenced to a one-year suspended jail term by a court in Versailles.

He was also fined 75,000 euros (£63,000). Benzema’s lawyer said the player would appeal against the verdict.

Benzema, who had denied any wrongdoing, was not in court. He is due to play for the Spanish club against Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol later on Wednesday in the Champions League.

“This outcome in no way corresponds with the reality of events,” lawyer Antoine Vey told reporters afterwards.

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Karim Benzema’s lawyers Sylvain Cormier and Antoine Vey confirm the Real Madrid forward will appeal the guilty verdict of complicity in the attempted blackmail of former France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape

Real Madrid did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors had argued Benzema had encouraged Valbuena to pay a suspected group of blackmailers in order to keep the sexually explicit tape out of the public eye.

They said Valbuena received the first of several phone calls threatening to expose the tape in June 2015. Valbuena told the court it was clear the caller wanted money and the blackmail attempt left him fearing for his career and place in the national squad.

Benzema was recruited by the alleged blackmailers to encourage Valbuena to pay as his team-mate stalled, the prosecution had added.

Benzema and Valbuena both lost their places in the national team in the wake of the scandal, dubbed the “sex tape affair”.

Benzema, 33, who has played more than 90 times for his country, was recalled to the France squad for this year’s European Championship.

Europe: Inter end Napoli’s record unbeaten start

Serie A leaders Napoli lost for the first time this season as Inter Milan reinvigorated their own title bid with a 3-2 win at the San Siro.

Inter, the defending champions, cut the gap on Napoli and AC Milan to four points and ended Napoli’s status as the last remaining unbeaten team across Europe’s five major leagues, a day after Milan were beaten 4-3 by Fiorentina.

Dries Mertens, who had set up a pulsating finale with Napoli’s late second goal, missed the chance to equalise in injury time when he blazed a shot over.

It was Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti’s first return to the San Siro since he was fired by Inter despite leading them to a fourth-place finish in 2019.

Lautaro Martinez netted the winning goal on the counter attack after an hour, set up by compatriot Joaquin Correa, who ran almost from one area to the other to make the goal.

Inter Milan's victory moved them four points off the league leaders
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Inter Milan’s victory moved them four points off the league leaders

Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic preserved the victory with a brilliant save to deny Mario Rui in injury time, turning the ball onto the crossbar, before Mertens’ miss.

The visitors had struck first in the 17th when Piotr Zielinski won possession from Nicolo Barella, then ran forward to smash the ball from Lorenzo Insigne’s pass in under the crossbar.

Hakan Calhanoglu levelled with a penalty, awarded after Kalidou Koulibaly was penalised by VAR for hand ball after blocking Barella’s shot with his left arm.

Inter coach Simone Inzaghi was booked for his furious reaction before the spot-kick was eventually awarded and scored, as was Koulibaly.

It prompted a furious reaction before the break, when Napoli goalkeeper David Ospina denied Barella. Inter scored from the resulting corner just before the interval, when Ospina was powerless to keep out Ivan Perisic’s header at the near post.

Martinez scored but Mertens ensured a lively finale when he pulled one back in the 78th minute with a brilliant shot in under the crossbar. It was his 137th goal for Napoli.

There was another holdup for another clash of heads, between Ospina and Inter striker Edin Džeko. Both continued with bandaged heads to see the late drama.

Earlier, a penalty from Brazilian forward Joao Pedro helped Cagliari off the bottom of the table with a 2-2 draw at Sassuolo.

Sampdoria’s 2-0 win at Salernitana left the promoted side bottom in Cagliari’s place.

Nigerian forward David Okereke’s second-half goal was enough for Venezia to come away from Bologna with a surprise 1-0 win.

La Liga: Real Madrid keep up momentum with big win

Ferland Mendy's goal was his first in La Liga this season
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Ferland Mendy’s goal was his first in La Liga this season

Real Madrid kept their momentum from before the international break by cruising to a 4-1 win over 10-man Granada to reclaim top spot in La Liga.

Marco Asensio, Nacho Fernandez, Vinicius Junior and Ferland Mendy all scored to give Madrid a fourth straight victory in all competitions.

Carlo Ancelotti’s team reached 30 points from 13 league matches, two points more than both Sevilla and Real Sociedad.

Granada were a man down from the 67th as midfielder Ramon Rodriguez was sent off for a late challenge on Vinicius Junior, and head coach Robert Moreno was later sent off for dissent.

The victory extended Madrid’s unbeaten streak to seven matches in all competitions ahead of their Champions League visit to Sheriff on Wednesday.

Asensio put Madrid ahead from inside the area in the 19th minute from a pass by Kroos, who also set up Nacho’s goal shortly after. Vinicius Junior added to the lead after good work by Karim Benzema and Luka Modric after half-time, and Ferland Mendy ended the scoring 15 minutes from time.

Granada’s only goal came in the 34th when a low shot by forward Luis Suarez from outside the area deflected off Nacho before going in.

Elsewhere Getafe beat Cadiz 4-0 at home to move off the bottom of the table.

It was only Getafe’s second victory this season, after starting the campaign with a run of seven straight defeats.

The result moved the Madrid club two points ahead of last-placed Levante, who drew 0-0 against Athletic Bilbao on Friday.

Cadiz, previously unbeaten in three league matches, stayed in 16th place, one point above the relegation zone.

Ligue 1: Nice up to second with Clermont win

Amine Gouiri has now scored eight goals in 14 Ligue 1 games this season
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Amine Gouiri has now scored eight goals in 14 Ligue 1 games this season

Amine Gouiri scored twice as Nice rallied past Clermont 2-1 to climb to second in Ligue 1, 11 points behind PSG.

A late double from Gouiri completed the turnaround to lift Nice up the table, first levelling from Florent Ogier’s early strike with 13 minutes to go before adding his eighth league goal of the season by controlling a corner and guiding the ball into the far corner.

Clermont’s fourth straight defeat sees them fall into the relegation zone. The hosts had dominated the first half and took the lead early on when Ogier headed in a Jason Berthomier free-kick.

Nice goalkeeper Walter Benitez limited their advantage, keeping out efforts from Vital Nsimba, Jim Allevinah, Johan Gastien and Salis Abdul Samed.

And after half-time they finally struck, bouncing back from a shock defeat to Montpellier before the international break to move above Rennes in the table.

Elsewhere Brest earned a third straight league win by stunning Lens 4-0 to move away from the relegation zone. Lens provisionally dropped to fourth place, two points behind Nice.

Benin striker Steve Mounie opened the scoring in the third minute, heading home a deflected cross from Jeremy Le Douaron. Brest captain Brendan Chardonnet then doubled the lead when he diverted in a corner with his back.

Brest moved up to 13th in Ligue 1 with their crushing victory
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Brest moved up to 13th in Ligue 1 with their crushing victory

Romain Faivre notched his fifth goal this season with a curling shot from the edge of the box to make it 3-0 before half-time, and Le Douaron put the result beyond doubt shortly after the hour by holding off Kevin Danso to fire into the top corner.

Lens were then reduced to 10 men when substitute Arnaud Kalimuendo was sent off for a tackle from behind on Ronael Pierre-Gabriel.

Angers moved into sixth place by edging Lorient 1-0 thanks to a Thomas Mangani penalty.

Strasbourg equalised with the last kick of the game in a 1-1 draw with Reims as substitute Jean-Ricner Bellegarde curled home a free kick in the seventh minute of stoppage time.

Saint-Etienne remained in the relegation zone despite beating Troyes 1-0 with a powerful long-range strike from Peru defender Miguel Trauco.

Opa Nguette came off the bench and scored twice to help bottom side Metz rally from a 2-0 deficit and draw 3-3 with Bordeaux. Nguette fired in from close-range after a corner shortly after the break before scoring the equaliser with a looping header.

Bundesliga: Frankfurt continue revival at Freiburg

Frankfurt kept up their revival to go 11th in the Bundesliga
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Frankfurt kept up their revival to go 11th in the Bundesliga

Eintracht Frankfurt’s revival under new coach Oliver Glasner continued with a 2-0 win at third-placed Freiburg.

It was Freiburg’s first defeat in the third league game since they moved to a new stadium, and a second straight loss in the league after a 2-1 reverse at leaders Bayern Munich before the international break.

First-half goals from Jesper Lindstrom and Filip Kostic gave Frankfurt a third successive win across all competitions.

Christian Streich’s team had the better chances early on but the visitors had luck on their side as Freiburg’s Lukas Kubler inadvertently set up Lindstrom for the opener. Then, a free-kick from Kostic was somehow missed by team-mates and defenders alike before it bounced into the top corner.

Freiburg remain third, but Bayer Leverkusen are now only a point behind, with Union Berlin and Wolfsburg another point further back. Frankfurt climbed to 11th in the 18-team division, ahead of Cologne, who drew 1-1 at Mainz in the late game, on goal difference.

Perez: ESL only way to control state-owned clubs

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has defended the idea of the European Super League, claiming it is the only way to enforce tighter financial controls on teams as UEFA’s financial fair play (FFP) model plays into the hands of clubs backed by sovereign states.

Twelve big European clubs said in April they planned to form a breakaway league, but the plan imploded within days following the withdrawal of the six English clubs involved and then Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan.

Only Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus continue to support the plan.

“It is a project that will at last implement financial controls which are strictly respected and prevent the increasing proliferation of unacceptable situations in which clubs receive indiscriminate financial support from states or other sources,” Perez told a Real Madrid general assembly meeting.

“This practice unbefitting of the European Union adulterates competition and drives football into financial ruin,” he added.

He also criticised UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

“Clubs were threatened with sanctions unbefitting the rule of law and club presidents were insulted. How is it possible for the UEFA President to publicly insult the president of Juventus, one of the oldest and most prestigious clubs, with words I am incapable of pronouncing here?” Perez said.

“The pressure and threats exerted by UEFA reached such an extreme that nine of the 12 clubs had to publicly announce their will to withdraw from the project regardless of the binding commitments they had signed and which could not be legally broken.”

UEFA began an investigation into Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus over the plan but in June it suspended the process after the European Super League Company SL, set up by the rebel clubs, obtained a court order in Madrid against the probe.