Real Madrid shake off Shakhtar with Benzema brace

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Real Madrid shook off a stiff challenge from Shakhtar Donetsk thanks to Karim Benzema's brace and Vinicius' assists in a 2-1 victory in Champions League Group D on Wednesday night at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

The French striker had Los Blancos ahead early on a Shakhtar mistake, but the visitors pulled level to make it even at the break. A class build-up allowed Benzema to regain the lead for his side and nail down the three points, giving Real Madrid nine points with two matches to go.

Carlo Ancelotti raised some eyebrows by going with Lucas Vazquez to replace the absent Rodrygo, meaning Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio were left on the bench. Meanwhile, Dani Carvajal slotted in at right-back and Ferland Mendy was at left-back.

It could have easily been 1-0 to Real Madrid early on, after some slick linking up between Luka Modric and Lucas Vazquez, only for Shakhtar goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin to block the shot from the Croatia international. The same could be said for Shakhtar, who were denied an opener through Alan Patrick when his shot struck the post.

The first goal would arrive in short order and Shakhtar couldn't have gifted it any better if they had tried. A heavy touch from defender Marlon saw Vinicius swoop in and quickly find Benzema, who had the easiest of strokes into net for a 1-0 advantage.

Yet, just like in last season's visit to Valdebebas, Shakhtar were creating danger and the visitors from Ukraine pulled level 1-1 when Patrick chested down a ball to Fernando, who volleyed it into net.

The Shakhtar equaliser and subsequent chance to take a lead into half time did little to please the Bernabeu, who showered their team with whistles as the players retreated to the dressing room at intermission.

The supporters were growing antsy about Shakhtar's continuous possession of the ball, but in the blink of an eye things changed with a pretty one-two combination between Casemiro and Vinicius, in which the latter found a wide-open Benzema, who finished for a 2-1 lead.

Ancelotti went to his bench by first bringing on Nacho for Carvajal, followed later by fringe forward Luka Jovic for Benzema, who received an ovation while leaving the pitch.

Shakhtar didn't stray from their approach and kept the Real Madrid defence busy, including a stoppage time chance from Sudakov that forced Courtois into a save. However, in the end, Ancelotti's men were able to close up shop to pocket the three points and stay on track for a knockout round berth.

Match Sheet:

2.- Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal (Nacho, min. 66), Alaba, Militao, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Lucas, Vinicius, Benzema (Jovic, min. 79).

1.- Shakhtar Donetsk: Trubin; Dodo, Marlon, Matvienko, Ismaily; Maycon, Stepanenko (Sudakov, min. 80), Patrick (Marcos Antonio, min. 79); Tete (Marlos, min. 79), Mudryk (Manor Solomon, min. 71), Fernando (Dentinho, min. 86).

Goals: 1-0, min. 14: Benzema; 1-1, min. 40: Fernando; 2-1, min. 61: Benzema

Referee: Benoit Bastien (France).

Yellow cards: Mendy (Min. 39) for Real Madrid, Casemiro (Min. 63) for Real Madrid, Dentinho (Min. 93) for Shakhtar

Red cards: None

Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu

Attendance: 50,000

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