Record 14-time winners Real Madrid swanned into the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday with a comfortable 3-0 win over Braga to maintain their 100 percent record.
Brahim Diaz, Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes were on target for the Spanish giants, who sealed progress from Group C even without rested top goalscorer Jude Bellingham.
Brazilian wingers Vinicius and Rodrygo have been criticised for their lack of goals this season and both responded with classy finishes to help send their team through after Diaz opened the scoring.
Madrid have four wins from four games, leading the group on 12 points ahead of Napoli, second on seven after a 1-1 draw with bottom team Union Berlin.
“I’m very happy, it was a perfect game, three goals and we didn’t let any in,” Rodrygo told Movistar.
“I am very happy for my goal, my assist, the win and qualification, which is the most important thing.”
Los Blancos goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga suffered an injury in the warm-up, with Andriy Lunin stepping in to replace him.
The Ukrainian was immediately called into action, diving to his right to palm away Alvaro Djalo’s penalty in the sixth minute.
Lucas Vazquez had pulled Cristian Borja down in the area, but the Portuguese side could not take advantage from the spot.
At the other end Diaz had a goal ruled out for a foul by Vinicius, but the former Manchester City midfielder did not have to wait too long for another, this time valid.
Sent through on the left side of the area, Rodrygo cut the ball back to Diaz who fired into the roof of the net from close range to break the deadlock.
The 24-year-old broke out into sarcastic celebration, drawing a VAR screen as if to dare the officials to try and disallow this strike.
Diaz, operating in Bellingham’s usual attacking midfield role, did well on a rare start and was involved in most of Madrid’s forward moves.
Bellingham, who has netted 13 times in 14 games since his summer switch, watched on from the bench as Ancelotti let him recover from a shoulder problem he suffered in the Rayo draw.
Diaz should have struck again but was denied by a superb double save from Benfica goalkeeper Matheus early in the second half.
Brazilian double act
Vinicius netted the second before the hour mark, with some clever movement and footwork in the box and then a smooth low finish.
It was his fourth goal of the season across all competitions in 12 games, low by his own standards, but Ancelotti has predicted he and Rodrygo will outscore Bellingham by the end of the campaign.
Rodrygo netted Madrid’s third with an exquisite chipped finish after his compatriot Vinicius played him in, and embraced Ancelotti on the sideline in celebration.
The coach advocated patience for his dynamic duo up front and both paid him back with goals that delighted the Santiago Bernabeu.
“(The hug) was to thank him,” Rodrygo explained. “We have to judge people when we’re not in a good moment, then you see who they really are.
“I wasn’t in a good moment, the coach was always with me, always supporting me, saying good things — I was obliged to score and to go and thank him.”
Lunin thwarted former Barcelona striker Abel Ruiz in stoppage time with an excellent save to keep out his header and preserve Madrid’s clean sheet, ensuring it was a near-perfect night at both ends.
World Cup News
/ 2 weeks ago
A set of six jerseys that Lionel Messi wore during Argentina’s victorious 2022 World...
Saudi Arabia is prepared to host the 2034 World Cup in summer or winter,...
Saudi Arabia is in line to host the 2034 World Cup after FIFA announced...
Rights groups called for “binding commitments” from World Cup host nations after Australia opted...