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Five-star Real Madrid seal top spot with Celtic drubbing

Real Madrid forward Rodrygo (left) fights for the ball with Celtic defenders. Photo: Pierre-Philipe Marcou/AFP

European champions Real Madrid made light work of Celtic with a 5-1 win to progress to the Champions League last 16 as Group F winners on Wednesday.

Madrid quickly assumed a dominant lead with Luka Modric and Rodrygo netting first-half penalties, both given for handballs, while Josip Juranovic missed one for the bottom-of-the-group Scots.

Marco Asensio netted the third early in the second half on what proved a stroll for the record 14-time winners, Vinicius Junior turned home the fourth from Fede Valverde’s cross and the Uruguayan smashed in a fifth himself.

The comprehensive victory over Ange Postecoglou’s side, who pulled one back with an impressive Jota free-kick, left them a point above second-place Leipzig, with the German side beating Shakhtar Donetsk 4-0.

Celtic offered Madrid not one, but two, helping hands, and they were grateful to get back to winning ways after suffering their first defeat of the season in all competitions against Leipzig last week, and then drawing with Girona in La Liga.

“A game like this with a lot of goals, getting back to winning ways, that was the most important thing, to finish top of the group. It was a great day,” Rodrygo told Movistar.

“(The knock-outs) will be hard again, it will be difficult, there are no easy teams left, they can all make life hard for us, whoever we get.”

Carlo Ancelotti earned the 103rd Champions League win of his management career, overtaking former Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson as the all-time record holder.

“The game was good from the start, we were focused, we didn’t want problems, we wanted to finish (the group) with good feelings and we did it,” Ancelotti told a press conference.

The Italian was able to bring Karim Benzema back into the matchday squad, although the Ballon d’Or winner started on the bench before a second-half cameo.

Ancelotti was pleased that his other attacking players have responded with goals in the absence of Benzema at times this season, with five different players on the scoresheet against Celtic.

“The fact we have not had Karim gave everyone more responsibilities, and they are making good on those responsibilities,” added Ancelotti.

“The players have more confidence, bigger roles, above all Valverde.”

Madrid quickly took the lead, when Moritz Jenz handled while trying to stop the rampaging Valverde in the box and Modric sent Joe Hart the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Stephanie Frappart became the first woman to referee Madrid in the Champions League and she had a busy night at the Santiago Bernabeu, with the three first-half penalty awards.

The hosts should have doubled their lead when Hart denied Vinicius from close range after Valverde teed him up, almost identically to the goal they constructed against Girona on Sunday.

However moments later they had a second penalty for another handball on a Rodrygo shot, and the Brazilian dispatched it coolly.

Racking up the goals

Vinicius should have put the game to bed but fired over the bar after a fine dribble by his Brazilian compatriot Rodrygo, while Thibaut Courtois stayed alert at the other end to beat away a Kyogo Furuhashi drive.

Celtic had the chance to drag themselves back into the game before the break but Courtois parried Juranovic’s spot-kick after Ferland Mendy tripped Liel Abada.

Madrid punished them early in the second half with the third goal, with Asensio finishing well from just inside the area after good work by Dani Carvajal to set him up, before Vinicius clinically dispatched Valverde’s cross for the fourth.

Ancelotti brought on Benzema for the final third of the game, and when Modric was given a rest shortly after, the French forward took the captain’s armband.

Valverde slammed Madrid’s fifth home from range, his eighth goal of the season, inching closer to the 10-goal target Ancelotti set him.

“Many people around me were right, I had to take advantage of the shot I have,” Valverde told Movistar.

“They joke that one day I am going to burst the ball.”

However Celtic and Jota claimed goal of the night with the Portuguese winger’s free-kick screaming past Courtois and into the top corner at the death.

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