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Wildest UCL Group Ends With Real Madrid Top, Inter Milan Out Of Europe

Gladbach took the runner-up spot while Shakhtar dropped to the Europa League.

It’s days like this when you see Sergio Ramos, Luka Modrić and Karim Benzema laugh in the face of Champions League elimination that you truly appreciate how incredible this side was between 2013 and 2018.

Current questions remain — Can Eden Hazard ever stay healthy? How much can Viní Jr and Rodrygo add to the attack? What about the fragility of the defense in transition? — but you can never, ever doubt Real when Zinedine Zidane reveals a team sheet with Ramos pairing Raphaël Varane in central defense, a midfield three of Casemiro, Modrić and Toni Kroos and Benzema spearheading it all.

Gladbach traveled to the Alfredo Di Stefano on top of Group B, but that feel-good story was over in the ninth minute after a turnover in the middle of the park gave Lucas Vázquez acres of space out wide, and his measured cross at Benzema was met with a snap header from 10 yards out. 

Gladbach almost equalized in the 25th minute when Alassane Pléa sprinted clear before clipping his effort over Thibaut Courtois and just wide of the far post, but that miss was punished.

This time it was Rodrygo’s service on the right that found Benzema, who’d outfoxed his marker before planting home another header.

There was still time for Luka Modrić — who spent the opening 45 minutes playing with the mixture of grace, ease and energy that won him the Ballon d’Or — to have a goal disallowed for offside, but Real’s place in the Round of 16 for a 25th consecutive season looked assured. 

Gladbach, on the other hand, went to the dressing room with one piece of consolation: Inter and Shakhtar Donetsk were drawing 0-0 at the San Siro, a result which would see Gladbach finish as runner-up with Shakhtar dropping to the Europa League. 

The old heads of Kroos, Ramos and Benzema almost combined for a third in the 73rd minute, but Ramos’ header from the German midfielder’s cross was well saved, and Benzema’s potential hat trick on the rebound thundered off the crossbar. 

Over in Milan, Inter’s hopes died as Alexis Sanchez powered a header into Romelu Lukaku’s face. After being penciled in for the Round of 16 alongside Real, Antonio Conte’s men are out of Europe.  

Here’s the video of Gladbach’s players watching the end of the Inter-Shakhtar match on the pitch at the Alfredo Di Stefano. 

Final Champions League Group B Table

2020-21 Champions League Group B

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