Real Madrid cruise into Champions League knockout stage

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Real Madrid finally ended their Stade de Gerland hoodoo as Cristiano Ronaldo scored in each half to give the Spanish giants a 2-0 win over Lyon on Wednesday that seals their place in the Champions League knockout stages.

Ronaldo’s brilliantly-struck free-kick set the visitors on course midway through the first-half, and the Portuguese netted his and his side’s second from the penalty spot after 69 minutes to bring up his century of goals for Real Madrid after just two years there.

His goals also gave Real their first win in five attempts in Lyon and maintained their perfect record after four games in Group D.

With 12 points, they are now beyond the reach of both Lyon and Dinamo Zagreb – who lost 3-0 to Ajax in the evening’s other Group D game – and a win against the Croats at the Santiago Bernabeu later this month will ensure that Jose Mourinho’s men go into the last 16 as winners of the section.

“All that mattered tonight was to get to 12 points and secure qualification for the next round,” said Mourinho.

“Now the aim is to make sure we win the group, something which will, in theory, give us a slight advantage in the next round.

“We are on the right road, the same road we went down last year, when we also performed really well in the group stage and went on to reach the semi-finals.”

Lyon meanwhile, can ill afford a slip up when they host Ajax in their next game if they are to reach the knockout stages for the ninth season running.

Half a dozen years ago, Lyon could have been considered favourites coming into this game, but times have changed, and Real’s comfortable wins in their last two meetings with the Ligue 1 club in Spain proved that they no longer had any reason to fear coming here.

OL were deprived of two of their main attacking threats in Michel Bastos and Lisandro Lopez – both injured – and they never recovered from being utterly outplayed in the opening half-hour.

Preferred to Gonzalo Higuain in attack against his former club, Karim Benzema could have given the visitors the lead inside ten minutes, but, when clean through on goal, he saw his shot turned behind by France colleague Hugo Lloris.

However, with Lyon unable to deal with their opponents’ work rate and incessant pressing, a goal was not far away, and it duly arrived midway through the first period.

Benzema was brought down just outside the box, and Ronaldo stepped up to whip the resulting free-kick over the wall and into Lloris’ bottom-right corner for the club’s 900th in an illustrious European history.

Things could have been worse for Lyon, too, but Lloris again saved from Benzema after Ronaldo had beaten the offside trap and teed up the France striker.

Lyon began to show some signs of life as half-time approached, with Kim Kallstrom’s speculative effort almost surprising Iker Casillas before Yoann Gourcuff, who had been anonymous for most of the first half, was denied by a good Casillas save after being played in by Bafetimbi Gomis.

For all their control, Mourinho must have had concerns about his team’s inability to kill the game off, and Lyon came out fighting after the restart.

Ederson – the Brazilian making a rare start after an injury-ravaged year – was denied twice in quick succession by Spain’s World Cup-winning captain as Madrid lived dangerously.

But then Ronaldo tumbled inside the area midway through the second half, before getting up to score from the spot to effectively seal the three points for his side.

Group A:
Bayern Munich (GER) 3 Napoli (ITA) 2
Villarreal (ESP) 0 Manchester City (ENG) 3

Group B:
Inter Milan (ITA) 2 Lille (FRA) 1
Trabzonspor (TUR) 0 CSKA Moscow (RUS) 0

Group C:
Manchester United (ENG) 2 Otelul Galati (ROM) 0
Benfica (POR) 1 Basel (SUI) 1

Group D:
Lyon (FRA) 0 Real Madrid (ESP) 2
Ajax Amsterdam (NED) 4 Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) 0

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