Karim Benzema scored on the same day he was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence as Real Madrid swept aside Sheriff 3-0 to book their place in the last 16 of the Champions League.
France forward Benzema was also fined €75,000 after being found guilty of complicity in the attempted blackmail of former international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.
It did not prove to be a distraction for Carlo Ancelotti’s men, however, as they brushed aside their less illustrious opponents with the minimum of fuss – at odds with their shock home defeat in the reverse fixture.
David Alaba and Toni Kroos put Madrid two goals ahead at the break, and Benzema added a third before the hour mark to seal his side’s place in the knockout stages with a game to spare in Group D.
Benzema saw an early goal ruled out for offside after Georgios Athanasiadis had parried Kroos’ shot, and the Sheriff goalkeeper got down well to Rodrygo’s strike before the midway point of the first half.
Madrid’s dominance was rewarded in the 30th minute, though, when Alaba’s free-kick from 20 yards was deflected past Athanasiadis for the Austria international’s first Champions League goal for the club.
Kroos then doubled Madrid’s advantage in first-half stoppage time, stroking in a sublime effort from 20 yards via the underside of the crossbar.
Benzema scored his fifth goal of this season’s competition in the 55th minute with a cool strike into Athanasiadis’ bottom-right corner from just outside the penalty area.
Sebastien Thill’s cross crashed back off Thibaut Courtois’ post as Sheriff rallied in the closing stages, yet Madrid held firm to ensure there was no blot on their copybook this time.
What does it mean? Madrid avoid another shock
Sheriff pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s history when they beat Los Blancos 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu in September, but a repeat result never looked likely at the Bolshaya Sportivnaya Arena as Madrid asserted their authority from the outset.
Madrid will seal top spot in Group D with a point against Inter in a fortnight, while Sheriff take on Shakhtar Donetsk knowing their place in the Europa League has already been secured.
He did not get on the scoresheet, but Rodrygo was in fine form. No Madrid player had more than this four shots – two of which were on target – or created more chances (two). He also made a team-high three interceptions – not bad for a forward.
Mixed emotions for Alaba
Alaba became the first defender to score from a direct free-kick for Madrid in the Champions League since Roberto Carlos in February 2004 (against Bayern Munich). The shine came off his game in the 64th minute, though, when he was replaced by Nacho after sustaining an injury. Ancelotti will be hoping it is nothing serious.
Key Opta Facts
– Real Madrid have won all three of their away games in a single Champions League group stage without conceding for the second time, previously doing so in 2011-12.
– Sheriff have been eliminated from the Champions League despite winning their first two group-stage games. They have lost the last three by an aggregate score of 9-2.
– Benzema has netted 13 goals in his past 13 Champions League group-stage games.
– Alaba’s opener ended his run of 50 Champions League games without a goal, since he netted against Arsenal for Bayern Munich in November 2015.
– Kroos scored his 10th Champions League goal in his 119th game in the competition – only Xavi had a longer wait to reach double figures in the competition (128th game).
Both sides are in domestic action on Sunday, with Madrid hosting Sevilla and Sheriff welcoming Dinamo-Auto.
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