IMAGES from the Champions League matches played on Wednesday.
Two headed goals from Karim Benzema helped Real Madrid reach the Champions League knockout stages with a convincing 2-0 home win on Wednesday over Borussia Moenchengladbach, who also progressed to the last 16.
Benzema ghosted into the area unmarked to head home a floated cross from Lucas Vazquez in the ninth minute and rose again to score in the 32nd, this time powering a cross from Rodrygo through the hands of Swiss keeper Yann Sommer.
The German side were out-classed by the Spaniards but sneaked through from the group as Inter Milan drew 0-0 at home to Shakhtar Donetsk in the other game in Group B.
Zinedine Zidane’s side finished top with 10 points while Gladbach came second with eight, pipping third-placed Shakhtar due to their better head-to-head record, while Inter came fourth with six.
Real’s shock defeat to Shakhtar last week threatened their record of qualifying from their group for the last 23 years and piled renewed pressure on Zidane, who has won the trophy three times as coach but has had a difficult season in La Liga and in Europe.
But as so often in the competition that forms such a large part of their identity, Madrid stood tall when it mattered most.
The visitors wasted a glorious chance to cancel out Benzema’s opener when French winger Alassane Plea raced clear towards goal but bungled his attempted dink over Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, sending the ball wide.
Gladbach had scored 16 goals in their previous five matches but were mostly blunt in attack and barely troubled Courtois, with Plea also missing the target in the second half.
Madrid, meanwhile, were hungry for more goals and should have stretched their lead.
Luka Modric had a strike ruled out for offside late in the first half while Benzema saw a third header saved by Sommer and then smashed a shot off the underside of the bar, while Vazquez later struck the post.
Once the final whistle went, Gladbach’s players huddled around a smartphone to watch the final minutes of Inter’s game against Shakhtar, erupting with joy when that match also finished to send them through by the skin of their teeth.
Inter Milan crash out of Champions League with Shakhtar Donetsk draw
Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk missed out on the Champions League round of 16 following a goalless draw at San Siro on Thursday.
All four sides in Group B started the final round of matches with a chance of progressing and it was Real Madrid who advanced along with Borussia Monchengladbach after a 2-0 victory for the LaLiga giants.
As for the Ukrainians, who defended throughout, they could leave Milan happy. The draw means they will now compete in the knockout stages of the Europa League.
However, it was a bitter result for Inter, particularly after such a raft of opportunities and a last-ditch bombardment. Aside from hitting the crossbar and creating many chances, Antonio Conte's side gave everything for the entire 97 minutes. Ultimately, it wasn't enough, but while one journey ends in Europe, another continues in the league.
Injury-hit Shakhtar posed more of a threat in the second half but were similarly unable to make it count, though they do have the consolation of a place in the Europa League.
Conte tried to inject new life into the team, using up all his available substitutions. Sanchez, one of the new faces on the pitch, twice came close with two headers as the match was drawing to a close. He directed the first over the bar and the second towards the goal, but Romelu Lukaku was unable to get out of the way when it looked like it was heading into the net. Inter had been incredibly unlucky.
The Nerazzurri's final assault was orchestrated by Eriksen, who had a go from distance on more than one occasion: deflections, defenders and Trubin denied him. Handanovic came up for two corners in the dying moments of the game, but ultimately it wasn't to be: it ended 0-0, a result that sees Inter finish bottom of Group B.
Aguero on target as Man City sink Marseille
Sergio Aguero came off the bench to score for Manchester City as they cruised past Olympique Marseille 3-0 in Champions League Group C on Wednesday.
The result means the French team finished bottom of the group and failed to make the Europa League spot despite third-placed Olympiakos losing 2-0 to group runners-up Porto.
City were already assured of top spot and ahead of Saturday’s Manchester derby rested keeper Ederson and gave a start to American back-up goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
Spaniard Ferran Torres put City ahead three minutes after the interval, firing home from close range after a strong run into the box from Riyad Mahrez.
Argentine striker Aguero, who has struggled after knee surgery in the off-season, came off the bench in the 67th minute and took just 10 minutes to score, poking home after Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda failed to hold Nathan Ake’s header from a corner.
Substitute Raheem Sterling added the third with a tap-in in the final minute.
City finished on 16 points, a club record haul from the competition’s group stage.
Brazilian Otavio and Colombian Mateus Uribe were on target for Porto as they beat Greek side Olympiakos 2-0.
Salah sets club record as Liverpool held at Midtjylland
Mohamed Salah became Liverpool's all-time top scorer in the Champions League as they were held to a 1-1 draw away to Denmark's Midtjylland on Wednesday having already secured top spot in Group D.
Salah put the Premier League champions ahead in the first minute, latching on to a poor backpass and bursting goalwards before slipping the ball past goalkeeper Jesper Hansen.
The goal was Salah's 22nd in the Champions League making him the club's record scorer in the competition.
The Danes drew level in the 62nd minute through an Alexander Scholz penalty after Liverpool keeper Caoimhin Kelleher brought down Anders Dreyer. The linesman had initially flagged for offside but that decision was overturned by VAR.
Scholz had an effort ruled out for offside in the 77th minute while Liverpool's Japanese midfielder Takumi Minamino also had the ball in the net but the goal was not awarded following a VAR review.
Juergen Klopp had fielded a weakened and youthful team in the game against the bottom club in the group.
Neymar hat-trick as PSG crush Basaksehir 5-1 in suspended game
Neymar bagged a hat-trick as Paris St Germain topped Champions League Group H with a 5-1 home victory over Istanbul Basaksehir on Wednesday, a day after the game was suspended amid an alleged racist incident.
The PSG and Basaksehir players, as well as the three field referees, took a knee before kickoff one day after both teams walked off in protest after the Turkish side had accused the assistant referee of using a racist word against their assistant coach Pierre Webo.
Neymar struck three times and Kylian Mbappe scored his first goals in the competition in a year as PSG, who had already qualified for the last 16, advanced from the group stage with 12 points, ahead of RB Leipzig thanks to their better head-to-head record against the German side.
Webo, who had been sent off, had his red card suspended pending a UEFA investigation into the incident and the Cameroonian sat on the bench with the rest of the team's staff.
Neymar opened the scoring in the 25th minute with a splendid curled shot from outside the area that went into the top corner.
A sharp counter-attack then led Mbappe to play through Neymar, who doubled the French champions' lead with a cross shot in the 38th.
Mbappe made it 3-0 three minutes before the break with a penalty awarded after keeper Mert Gunok had brought down Neymar. Mitchel Bakker had followed up and tapped in but he was ruled offside following a VAR review and referee Danny Makkelie gave PSG the spot-kick.
France striker Mbappe, 21, became the youngest player to score 20 goals in the Champions League.
Neymar, who has scored six goals from five appearances in the competition this season, added the fourth five minutes into the second half with a powerful strike from just inside the area.
Basaksehir, who had drawn two and lost three of their last five competitive games, had little to offer but they reduced he arrears in the 57th thanks to a powerful Mehmet Topal volley.
But PSG restored their four-goal advantage when Mbappe, who had not netted in his nine previous Champions League appearances, tapped in from Angel Di Maria's pass on 62 minutes.
Basaksehir, who were eliminated from all European competitions before kick-off, finished bottom of the group with three points.
Third-placed Manchester United will play in the Europa League last 32 after picking up nine points.
Depleted Bayern cruise past Lokomotiv 2-0
Bayern Munich earned a 2-0 victory over Lokomotiv Moscow in their final Champions League Group A game on Wednesday with second-half goals from Niklas Suele and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting.
The Bavarians, last season's winners who qualified for the last 16 with two matches to spare, fielded a largely second-string team with the pressure on Lokomotiv, desperate for a win to secure third place in the standings and a Europa League spot.
Bayern had the upper hand but carved out only few scoring chances in the first half, with top scorer Robert Lewandowski sidelined due to a minor injury.
Thomas Mueller fired wide from close range in the 39th minute before making way for Serge Gnabry after the break, a substitution that provided an instant boost.
The Bavarians came close with a Suele header and Choupo-Moting's backheel flick in the 53rd, before a double chance from Gnabry, who was denied by keeper Guilherme and volleyed the rebound narrowly wide.
Guilherme was beaten in the 63rd minute when Douglas Costa whipped in a corner and Suele rose above two defenders to drill a powerful header past the keeper.
Choupo-Moting, replacing Lewandowski, doubled the lead in 10 minutes from time to lift Bayern to 16 points. They are joined in the knockout stage by Atletico Madrid, 2-0 winners at Salzburg. Lokomotiv finished bottom on three points.
Atletico sink Salzburg to reach Champions League last 16
Atletico Madrid sealed their Champions League knockout stage berth after an industrious performance topped off by a sublime Yannick Carrasco goal helped them to a 2-0 win at Salzburg in their Group A match on Wednesday.
The result left Atletico second in the group on nine points from six games, seven behind group winners Bayern Munich who sealed their progress earlier and were 2-0 home winners over Lokomotiv Moscow.
Third-placed Salzburg finished on four points and will carry on in the Europa League last 32 after the winter break while bottom team Lokomotiv (three points) have been eliminated.
Salzburg wasted a string of chances, with Mergim Berisha hitting the post in the second minute, before defender Mario Hermoso fired the visitors ahead against the run of play in the 39th minute.
Carrasco floated in a free kick and the ball came off the left back’s shoulder en route to sailing into the back of the net inside the far post, past Salzburg’s stranded goalkeeper Cican Stankovic.
Playmaker Dominik Szoboszlai missed a sitter early in the second half after a flowing move and Enock Mwepu also hit the woodwork for the home side in the 77th minute before Salzburg were punished again for their profligacy.
Atletico’s second goal was one of pure quality as substitute Angel Correa raced down the right flank and delivered an inch-perfect cross for Carrasco to blast home a superb first-time volley from inside the penalty area.
Atalanta beats Ajax 1-0 to progress in Champions League
Substitute Luis Muriel put Atalanta into the knockout stage of the Champions League, scoring in the 85th minute to secure a 1-0 win over 10-man Ajax and clinch second place in Group D.
As Ajax pressed forward in search of the victory it needed to progress, Remo Freuler won the ball in midfield and quickly passed to Muriel who rounded goalkeeper André Onana and slid the ball into the net.
Liverpool was already assured of top spot in Group D before it was held to a 1-1 draw at Midtjylland.
Atalanta progressed to the knockout stage of the Champions League for the second successive time, after reaching the quarterfinals last season on its debut in the competition.
Ajax finished third in the group and has to settle for a Europa League spot.