A brace from Benzema sees Real Madrid through to the Champions League last 16, as Neymar scores a hattrick in PSG’s demolition of Istanbul.
By Kevin Kiggundu
Paris Saint-Germain 5-1 Istanbul Basaksehir
Neymar scored a magnificent hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain thumped Istanbul Basaksehir 5-1 to clinch top spot in Champions League Group H in a resumed fixture that saw both sets of players make strong anti-racism messages.
The fixture at Parc des Princes was suspended after 13 minutes on Tuesday after it was alleged fourth official Sebastian Coltescu had exposed Basaksehir assistant Pierre Webo to racist language.
UEFA consequently launched an investigation and, after players for both teams united to make a stand against discrimination, the match resumed.
Neymar ran the show, netting twice in a superb first-half showing and completing his hat-trick early in the second.
Kylian Mbappe ended a year-long wait for a Champions League goal before the break and scored a second following Mehmet Topal’s brief riposte as PSG beat RB Leipzig to top spot in the group.
Real Madrid 2-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
Real Madrid reached the Champions League last 16 and eased the pressure on coach Zinedine Zidane with a 2-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach.
Karim Benzema netted two first-half headers to settle the contest in the Spanish capital, which Madrid had to win to make certain they did not crash out at the group stage of the competition for the first time.
Gladbach slipped into second spot in Group B with their defeat, but Inter’s draw with Shakhtar Donetsk means the Bundesliga side join Los Blancos in the next round.
This was billed as a must-win contest not only for the 13-time European champions’ hopes of competing for the trophy, but also for Zidane, whose future came under intense scrutiny after last week’s loss to Shakhtar.
There was a clear response to the critics as Madrid led inside nine minutes, Lucas Vazquez picking out Benzema, who headed expertly beyond the reach of Yann Sommer.
Alassane Plea should have levelled but clipped a finish wide of the right-hand post after being sent through on goal by Florian Neuhaus.
That miss was punished just after the half-hour mark, Rodrygo’s wicked cross setting up Benzema for a header that was too much for Sommer to keep out.
Madrid then hit the woodwork through Modric, Vasquez and Benzema, with Ramos also being denied by Sommer, to keep the score at 2-0, which was enough to see Madrid attain second place as well as relief for under-fire Zidane.
Manchester City 3-0 Marseille
Sergio Aguero returned to action with a goal as Manchester City closed out their triumphant Champions League group campaign with a routine 3-0 win over Marseille.
Ferran Torres brought the game to life after a goalless first half, continuing an impressive vein of form in Europe’s top competition with a smart 48th-minute finish.
Aguero, who has struggled with the after-effects of meniscus surgery over the early months of the season, came off the bench to seal the points 13 minutes from time, offering Pep Guardiola a timely reminder of his qualities ahead of Saturday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford.
Another substitute, Raheem Sterling, completed the scoring for City, who were already through as group winners and can now boast their best-ever Champions League haul of 16 points.
Marseille bow out of continental competition in 2020-21 after five defeats from six outings.
Bayern Munich 2-0 Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayern Munich won all of their home games in the Champions League group stage for the second straight season as they saw off Lokomotiv Moscow 2-0 on Wednesday.
With top spot in Group A already ensured for the holders heading into the encounter in Munich, Hansi Flick’s side had little pressure on their shoulders.
A toothless first-half display gave way for a much-improved performance after the break as Niklas Sule scored a towering header from a Douglas Costa corner.
Serge Gnabry then fed Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting whose superb finish saw Bayern return to winning ways after drawing with Atletico Madrid last week.
Flick has now won 13 of his 14 Champions League matches in charge of Bayern, who have shown little let up following their triumphant campaign last term and are overwhelming favourites to retain it.
Salzburg 0-2 Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid battled to a 2-0 win against Salzburg thanks to a goal in each half from Mario Hermoso and Yannick Carrasco to secure a place in the Champions League knockout stages.
Diego Simeone’s side beat Salzburg 3-2 in the reverse fixture – their only Group A win prior to Wednesday – and needed just a point from the trip to Austria to advance.
Salzburg started strongly as they went in pursuit of the win needed to progress at Atleti’s expense, but Hermoso’s header against the run of play proved the game’s big moment.
Mergim Berisha and Enock Mwepu hit the post either side of that effort, while Dominik Szoboszlai squandered a glorious chance, but Carrasco volleyed in a late second to ensure Atleti will join Bayern Munich in Monday’s last-16 draw.