Madrid, Bayern, Inter, Sociedad Qualify For Champions League Last 16




AFP ------------ Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Real Sociedad all qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League with two group games to spare on Wednesday.
They join holders Manchester City and RB Leipzig, both of whom secured their progress on Tuesday, in clinching spots in the knockout phase.
Record 14-time winners Real Madrid swanned into the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday with a comfortable 3-0 win over Braga to maintain their 100 percent record.
Brahim Diaz, Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes were on target for the Spanish giants, who sealed progress from Group C even without rested top goalscorer Jude Bellingham.
Brazilian wingers Vinicius and Rodrygo have been criticised for their lack of goals this season and both responded with classy finishes to help send their team through after Diaz opened the scoring.
Madrid have four wins from four games, leading the group on 12 points ahead of Napoli, second on seven after a 1-1 draw with bottom team Union Berlin.
Los Blancos goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga suffered an injury in the warm-up, with Andriy Lunin stepping in to replace him.
The Ukrainian was immediately called into action, diving to his right to palm away Alvaro Djalo’s penalty in the sixth minute.
Lucas Vazquez had pulled Cristian Borja down in the area, but the Portuguese side could not take advantage from the spot.
At the other end Diaz had a goal ruled out for a foul by Vinicius, but the former Manchester City midfielder did not have to wait too long for another, this time valid.
Sent through on the left side of the area, Rodrygo cut the ball back to Diaz who fired into the roof of the net from close range to break the deadlock.
The 24-year-old broke out into sarcastic celebration, drawing a VAR screen as if to dare the officials to try and disallow this strike.
Diaz, operating in Bellingham’s usual attacking midfield role, did well on a rare start and was involved in most of Madrid’s forward moves.
Bellingham, who has netted 13 times in 14 games since his summer switch, watched on from the bench as Ancelotti let him recover from a shoulder problem he suffered in the Rayo draw.
Diaz should have struck again but was denied by a superb double save from Benfica goalkeeper Matheus early in the second half.
Vinicius netted the second before the hour mark, with some clever movement and footwork in the box and then a smooth low finish.
It was his fourth goal of the season across all competitions in 12 games, low by his own standards, but Ancelotti has predicted he and Rodrygo will outscore Bellingham by the end of the campaign.
Rodrygo netted Madrid’s third with an exquisite chipped finish after his compatriot Vinicius played him in, with Ancelotti celebrating on the sidelines.
The coach advocated patience for his dynamic duo up front and both paid him back with goals that delighted the Santiago Bernabeu.
Lunin thwarted former Barcelona striker Abel Ruiz in stoppage time with an excellent save to keep out his header and preserve Madrid’s clean sheet.