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Benzema strike sees holders through

By EMN Updated: Nov 05, 2014 10:21 pm

Karim Benzema’s 27th-minute strike was enough to see the reigning European champions past a makeshift Reds side and into the knockout stage at a canter

Madrid, November 5

Holders Real Madrid booked their place in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages with a 1-0 Group B win over Liverpool.
Karim Benzema, who scored twice in last month’s 3-0 win at Anfield, found the net once more on Tuesday but the Spanish heavyweights were in far less authoritative mood against a much-changed Liverpool XI.
Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet experienced a predictably busy evening but his team-mates offered a growing threat in the second half, with Adam Lallana the closest to finding an equaliser.
Real poured forwards once more in the closing stages as they looked to make sure of a 12th consecutive win in all competitions, but Cristiano Ronaldo was unable to equal Raul’s Champions League all-time record of 71 goals.
Fresh from a brace including a spectacular volley in Real’s 4-0 win at Granada on Saturday, James Rodriguez forced Mignolet to palm an early 20-yard effort behind at full stretch.
The Belgian goalkeeper was called into action again in the 10th minute when an error from Martin Skrtel allowed Benzema to tee up Ronaldo.
A handful of important blocks from the defenders stationed in front of Mignolet saw Liverpool weather the early pressure and eventually play with increased assurance, but they fell behind with 27 minutes played.
Isco exchanged passes with Ronaldo to find Marcelo and the left-back crossed for Benzema to steer the ball into the roof of the net from close range.
As they did in Liverpool, Real sought a swift second to kill off the game after opening the scoring – Mignolet turning away a stinging Ronaldo free-kick before Kolo Toure touched a lofted pass from Raphael Varane onto the roof of his own net under pressure from Benzema.
Ronaldo uncharacteristically missed his kick on the end of Luka Modric’s chipped 39th-minute throughball and, although Emre Can was wasteful on a rare venture into the Real box, Liverpool were grateful to see no time added for first-half stoppages.
Mignolet continued to get the better of Ronaldo in their personal duel, grasping a 49th-minute side-footed effort at the second attempt.
Alberto Moreno then gave Iker Casillas his first save of the night in the Madrid goal and the Liverpool full-back also played in a pass for Lallana to cleverly turn and slide a shot narrowly beyond the far post.
Fabio Borini’s 61st-minute free-kick deflected wide off a disorganised Real defensive wall and that relatively rocky period prompted Carlo Ancelotti to bring on Gareth Bale for Rodriguez, the Wales winger ending three weeks on the sidelines with a gluteal injury.
As Rodgers prepared to send on Gerrard and Sterling to exploit an increasing sense of Real vulnerability, Toure produced an excellent last-ditch challenge to thwart Ronaldo.
Benzema was unsuccessful from another teasing Marcelo cross in the 69th minute before Bale struck the crossbar as the Brazilian supplied further ammunition.
As it was, Liverpool retained a measure of pride but three straight European defeats means there is no further room for error in their remaining group encounters with Ludogrets and Basel.

Anderlecht nab shock Arsenal draw

LONDON, November 5

Arsenal squandered a golden opportunity to book their place in the Champions League last 16 as Anderlecht stormed back from three goals down to rescue a 3-3 draw.
Arsene Wenger’s side were on course to qualify for the knockout stage of Europe’s elite club competition for the 15th successive season after Mikel Arteta’s penalty and fine strikes from Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put them in complete control by the 58th minute on Tuesday.But the Gunners’ creaky defence was brutally exposed by Anderlecht in a remarkable finale that saw the Belgians score three times in the last 29 minutes to stun the Emirates Stadium into silence.
Anthony Vanden Borre sparked the incredible revival with a tap-in from an offside position and he then netted a penalty before Aleksandar Mitrovic’s stoppage-time header completed the heroic comeback.
“We had some bad luck, the first goal (for Anderlecht) was offside but we had a lack of concentration and thought the game was won,” Wenger said.
“Overall we were poor defensively from the first to the last minute. Am I angry or disappointed? Both.”
Anderlecht boss Besnik Hasi added, “We come from a small league but we have shown for the second time against Arsenal that we can compete against these big teams.”
The north Londoners – now five points behind Group D leaders Borussia Dortmund – are likely to have to settle for second place and a tougher draw in the last 16, assuming they can guarantee qualification in their final two matches against Dortmund and Galatasaray.

By EMN Updated: Nov 05, 2014 10:21:00 pm