Czech it out, So­lari’s Real deal

The New Paper - - SPORTS -

Hold­ers close in on last 16 af­ter 5-0 thrash­ing of Plzen, their third straight win un­der the in­terim coach

Karim Ben­zema’s first-half brace pro­pelled Real Madrid to a 5-0 thrash­ing of Vik­to­ria Plzen in the Cham­pi­ons League yes­ter­day morn­ing (Sin­ga­pore time), putting the hold­ers one win from the last 16 af­ter a third straight vic­tory un­der San­ti­ago So­lari.

For­mer Real mid­fielder So­lari took over from the sacked Julen Lopetegui as in­terim coach on Oct 29, and has now seen his side score 11 times with­out re­ply fol­low­ing wins over Melilla and Real Val­ladolid.

“I think we played a very nice game to­day, we scored won­der­ful goals,” So­lari said.

“A 5-0 win in the Cham­pi­ons League – I can only be happy with that.”

The 42-year-old Ar­gen­tinian dis­missed ques­tions about his pos­si­ble fu­ture as Real’s head coach.

“I think only about the next game. Foot­ball is about the present and it’s the next game that mat­ters,” he said, with a trip to Celta Vigo up for Real on Mon­day morn­ing (Sin­ga­pore time).

Ben­zema struck first in the 21st minute against Plzen, weav­ing his way through the de­fence and beat­ing goal­keeper Ales Hruska with a low shot.

Casemiro made it 2-0 shortly af­ter­wards by nod­ding in a Toni Kroos cor­ner, and Ben­zema headed home him­self in the 37th minute af­ter Gareth Bale had found him un­marked just me­tres out.

Bale scored five min­utes be­fore half-time, beat­ing Hruska with a low left-footed shot at his far post fol­low­ing Ben­zema’s flick-on header.

Kroos rounded off the scor­ing in the 68th minute, curl­ing a sump­tu­ous lob over the stranded Hruska fol­low­ing a pass from ris­ing star Vini­cius Ju­nior, who came on as a sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute.

VINI­CIUS DE­BUT

The 18-year-old Brazil­ian, signed from Fla­mengo for 45 mil­lion eu­ros (S$70m) in the close sea­son, made his Cham­pi­ons League de­but af­ter scor­ing his maiden La Liga goal against Val­ladolid at the week­end.

Real are now level with Roma at the top of Group G on nine points, af­ter the Ital­ian side’s 2-1 win at CSKA Moscow ear­lier yes­ter­day.

Real were with­out the in­jured Marcelo and fel­low de­fend­ers Raphael Varane and Dani Car­va­jal, who did not travel to Plzen, a western Czech city fa­mous for its lager beer.

Real over­came an early scare when Na­cho cleared a low cross against his own cross­bar, while Plzen mid­fielder Ro­man Proc­hazka curled a shot just past Thibaut Cour­tois’ goal.

But they were quick to re­gain their com­po­sure and put Plzen on the back foot.

Bale headed wide from close range and then saw his lon­grange shot kept out by Hruska, while the Plzen de­fence cleared the ball away from a Ben­zema hun­gry for a re­bound.

Ben­zema then nar­rowly missed Bale’s cross just in front of a gap­ing goal.

Plzen, the reign­ing Czech cham­pi­ons, had two at­tempts on goal from long range in the sec­ond half, but Jan Kopic saw his ef­fort stopped by Cour­tois and Pa­trik Hrosovsky, who scored for Plzen in their 2-1 loss in Real in Oc­to­ber, fired wide.

Bale came close to scor­ing a sec­ond in stop­page time but was de­nied by the wood­work.

In their next Cham­pi­ons League game, Real face Roma in Rome on Nov 27. – AFP

PHOTO: REUTERS

Real Madrid in­terim coach San­ti­ago So­lari (right) giv­ing in­struc­tions to mid­fielder Casemiro.

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