New Delhi: Defending champions Real Madrid completed their group stage in the UEFA Champions League with a 3-2 win against German side Borussia Dortmund at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. The Spanish giants, who already qualified for the next stage, were unable to overtake Tottenham as group winners.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane rested some key players and gave others such as Theo Hernandez, Mateo Kovacic and young striker Borja Mayoral a rare starting opportunity.
He was rewarded after just eight minutes when Mayoral opened the scoring following a pass from Isco.
When Cristiano Ronaldo doubled Madrid’s lead four minutes later it looked as if Madrid were on their way to a morale-boosting win.
But they suffered a setback before halftime when Rafael Varene was forced out with a muscle injury which could sideline him for the World Club Championship.
Zidane dropped Lucas Vazquez back to the right side of the Madrid defence and introduced Marcos Asensio into the game but Dortmund pulled a goal back before the break thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who finished from close range after a ball from the Madrid right.
Aubameyang equalized three minutes after the break with a shot from inside the Madrid area and the game became an end-to-end affair with both sides creating and missing chances with Ronaldo guilty of failing to add to his tally on a couple of occasions.
Vazquez scored the winning goal with nine minutes left, but Borussia have the minor consolation of qualifying for the Europa League in third place in their group with just two points.
Sevilla also reached the last 16 of the Champions League despite a 1-1 draw against Maribor thanks to a second-half goal from Ganso, although Liverpool’s 7-0 thrashing of Spartak Moscow in a game they were winning 3-0 after 18 minutes meant Sevilla would have gone through even if they had lost in Slovenia.
Group F delivered the day’s only upsets, as winner Manchester City lost for the first time in the 2017-2018 Champions League, falling 2-1 away to Shakhtar.
Also, Liverpool, Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk, all won on to clinch the last remaining berths in the round of 16 of the tournament. The Reds joined Barcelona, Besiktas, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Roma among the group winners on Wednesday.
Porto, Sevilla and Shakhtar advanced as second-place sides, along with holders Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Juventus and Basel.
Headed to the Europa League are third-place finishers Atletico Madrid, CSKA Moscow, Celtic, Sporting, Napoli, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Spartak Moscow. (With IANS inputs)