Champions League - Weakened Real rout Auxerre

Wed, 08 Dec 21:48:00 2010

A hat-trick from Karim Benzema meant Real Madrid ended their Champions League Group G campaign with a 4-0 victory over Auxerre at the Bernabeu.

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The home side looked comfortable from the off, and Benzema's header gave them an early lead.

Auxerre rallied to stay in touch at the interval, but a powerful finish from Cristiano Ronaldo early in the second half put Real back in control, and Benzema struck two more to put the gloss on a comfortable victory for the men in white.

With qualification and top spot in Group G already assured, Jose Mourinho selected a considerably weakened side for the clash, giving an opportunity to a number of fringe players at the Bernabeu.

He was not on the touchline to see how they fared against a full-strength Auxerre, as the Portuguese manager was completing a touchline ban for misconduct after the events of their previous match in the group against Ajax.

But even without the manager and several of their star players, the hosts began in positive and confident fashion.

Mahamadou Diarra, acting captain for the day, spurned a free header early on after an inviting corner from Esteban Granero.

But Madrid went ahead after just 12 minutes as a Ronaldo stepover deceived Dariusz Dudka and opened up a little space on the left for the world's most expensive player, and his low cross was met by the diving header of Benzema.

The front three of Benzema, Ronaldo and Pedro Leon threatened to run wild as Auxerre repeatedly handed possession back to their hosts, but the second goal did not arrive.

Ronaldo went closest to getting that second, ghosting into the box and placing a header narrowly wide of the far post after a superb cross from Leon.

Auxerre, slowly but surely, began to come back into the encounter.

Despite limited possession, they broke with purpose and only the sharp goalkeeping of Jerzy Dudek kept them at bay.

Jean-Pascal Mignot got a good header on Benoit Pedretti's set piece 26 minutes in which Dudek had to tip away low to his left.

And shortly before the interval the Polish stopper was at it again, turning Dennis Oliech's crisp strike destined for the far corner away at full-stretch.

But after an accidental clash with Roy Contout in first half stoppage time Dudek could not continue, and Antonio Adan came on for an unexpected debut just before the interval.

Adan was barely tested in the second half as Real Madrid asserted their superiority after the break.

Ronaldo's strike killed the contest, the Portuguese drilling the ball high into the net after a defence-splitting ball from Marcelo to give him his eighth goal in his last four appearances for Madrid.

Auxerre did their best to find a way back, but as Ajax swept to an impressive win in Milan in the other group game, the French resistance crumbled.

Jean Fernandez's side were limited to long-range efforts on goal, and Real were able to attack at the other end with ease.

Benzema's second came after 72 minutes, when the forward trapped countryman Lassana Diarra's classy pass just inside the penalty area before placing a shot into the far corner which Olivier Sorin could not keep out.

And after coming close to his third with a couple of efforts, Benzema finally claimed his first hat-trick in a Real Madrid shirt when he intercepted a Sorin backpass and lobbed the goalkeeper expertly from an acute angle close to the goal line.

For Auxerre, their European adventure ends and they must now turn their attention to a stuttering Ligue 1 campaign.

But Real Madrid, who have Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos to return from suspension, and the likes of Iker Casillas, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil still to come back into the side, will be a side nobody will want to draw in the last 16.

Mark Patterson / Eurosport

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