Real Madrid, PSG advance as top seeds in Champions League

Sports Desk, Dec 9 (efe-epa).- Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain made up for earlier Champion League stumbles on Wednesday by winning their respective matches to advance to the round of 16 as group winners.

The Blancos, who have hoisted the Champions League trophy a record 13 times, needed to beat Borussia Mönchengladbach to ensure their spot in the knockout stage.

Zinedine Zidane’s squad responded with one of their best performances in recent months. They neutralized the potent Gladbach attack and Karim Benzema’s double was more than enough to take first place in Group B.

Gladbach ended with 8 points, the same as Shakhtar Donetsk, but qualified for the next round based on better goal difference, while the Ukrainian side are headed to the Europa League after holding Inter Milan 0-0 on Wednesday.

Completing a match suspended Tuesday after 14 minutes amid a player walkout over an alleged racist remark by one of the officials, PSG pounded already eliminated Istanbul Basaksehir 5-1 to take the top spot in Group H.

All of the players came out wearing shirts emblazoned with the “No to Racism” motto and the PSG squad took a knee and raised their fists to show solidarity with Basaksehir assistant coach Pierre Webo, the person on the receiving end of the objectionable language.

PSG’s stars, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, accounted for all five of their team’s goals.

Neymar had a hat trick and Mbappe scored twice, once from the penalty spot after his Brazilian teammate was fouled by Basaksehir goalkeeper Fehmi Gunok.

They also set records in the process. Former Barcelona man Neymar became the first player to score 20 goals in Champions League with each of two different teams, while the 21-year-old Mbappe broke Lionel Messi’s mark for the youngest to reach 20 goals in Europe’s elite club competition.

The Parisians, who finished the group stage level on points with RB Leipzig, won the group on their head-to-head record against the German side.

Madrid’s other big club, Atletico, seized the second knockout-stage berth in Group A with a 2-0 away victory over RB Salzburg.

The Colchoneros, who came into the match with 6 points, 2 more than the Red Bulls, led 1-0 at half-time on Mario Hermoso’s goal in the 38th minute. Yannick Carrasco sealed the triumph with four minutes left in regulation.

Atleti finished behind Champions League holders Bayern Munich, who topped fourth-place Lokomotiv Moscow 2-0 on goals by Niklas Süle and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

In Group C, winners Manchester City got goals from Ferran Torres, Sergio Agüero and Raheem Sterling in a 3-0 thrashing of eliminated Olympique Marseille.

Second-place Porto blanked Olympiacos 2-0 on goals by Otavio and Mateus Uribe.

Luis Muriel’s goal in the 85th minute powered Atalanta 1-0 over Ajax in Amsterdam, consigning the Dutch side to the Europa League.

The Italian club finished second in Group D to Liverpool, who drew 1-1 with Midtjylland in Denmark. Mohammed Salah put the visitors ahead in the 1st minute, but Alexander Scholz converted a penalty in the 62nd minute to allow his team to end their first Champions League campaign with a measure of dignity.

Salah boosted his Champions goal total with Liverpool to 22, beating the record set by long-time Reds captain Steven Gerrard.

EFE apa/dr

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