Real Madrid completed their Champions League group stage campaign in some style, demolishing Malmo 8-0 at the Bernabeu on Tuesday. Already guaranteed to make the last 16 as group winners ahead of Paris Saint-Germain, Rafael Benitez’ side finished with a flourish, led by four goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and four from Karim Benzema.
It has been a rough few weeks for Real Madrid, with a crushing defeat to Barcelona in La Liga before being thrown out of the Copa del Rey after fielding an ineligible player. And throughout his first season in charge, Benitez has been beset by criticism of his perceived negative playing style. But the record 10-times European Cup winners certainly couldn’t be criticized for a lack of entertainment on Tuesday. Real Madrid equaled the record for the biggest margin of victory in the Champions League, incredibly matching the mark that Benitez’s Liverpool side managed against Besiktas. On the receiving end of Real Madrid’s blitz, Malmo were condemned to bottom place of Group A, meaning they drop out of Europe altogether.
The first goal of what became an onslaught took just 12 minutes to arrive. Ronaldo played provider, with a cross from the left that Isco fired goalward. When a defender blocked the ball on the line, Benzema was on hand to get what was a welcome goal for the Frenchman, after a particularly challenging few weeks both on and off the pitch.
Benzema would soon have his second. Again Ronaldo helped set it up, this time putting in a deep cross from the right that Benzema did well to arch his neck to and send a fine header into the net. Six minutes before halftime, Ronaldo would get one for himself. The Portuguese star has been far from prolific from free-kicks in recent times, but he found the net on this occasion, although with a helping hand from Malmo goalkeeper Johan Wiland, who got down slowly to Ronaldo’s bouncing strike from distance. Ronaldo’s second came two minutes after the interval, calmly side-footing the ball into the back of the net after Isco’s shot came back off a defender.
His hat-trick was simple enough, as well. Some slack defending gave Ronaldo the chance to find space for a shot, and he made no mistake from just inside the box. Before the hour mark had been reached, Ronaldo got his fourth and Real Madrid their sixth. And it was perhaps the most stylish goal of the contest. Benzema instigated the move with a brilliant back-heel out on the right touchline, which freed Isco to cross low for Ronaldo to sweep home. The goal gave Ronaldo yet another record, with it setting a new benchmark of 11 goals in a Champions League group stage. For all the talk of the 30-year-old slowing down, he remains one of the world’s most prolific goalscorers.
At the other end of the scale, the seventh goal came from a man getting his first for Real Madrid. A summer signing from Inter Milan, Mateo Kovacic got off the mark for Madrid by firing confidently home from 15 yards after a cross deflected to him in space. But the final word was left for Benzema, coolly slotting the ball home after being set up by Isco.