Real Madrid eased through to the Champions League knockout stages after a 3-0 victory over Sheriff Tiraspol at the Bolshaya Sportivnaya Arena.
The Moldovan side still harboured slim hopes of qualification themselves, and though they showed bravery, they were no match for the power and nous of Los Blancos in the end.
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Sheriff started with purpose and executed their attacking plan well by playing directly into Brazilian winger Bruno and Malian striker Adama Traore, bypassing Madrid's midfield.
Gradually, though, the visitors applied more pressure. Kroos began to dictate play, and the first warning shot came from his parried shot, only for Benzema's follow up to be disallowed for offside.
On the half-hour mark, Madrid made the breakthrough. Following Fernando Constanza's rather harsh booking for a foul on Casemiro, Alaba stepped up to curl in a free-kick via a deflection off Sheriff full-back Cristiano in the wall.

David Alaba celebrates scoring for Real Madrid

Image credit: Getty Images

With the last kick of the first half, Kroos made it two. His well struck shot from the edge off the box crashed against the bar and fell over the line to give Sheriff a mountain to climb.
Carlo Ancelotti's men slowed the pace of the game after the break but maintained a stranglehold on the game. Benzema grabbed his goal with a cool finish from the edge of the area four minutes shy of the hour.
To their credit, Sheriff didn't lie down. They hit the post through Sebastien Till, scorer of the winning goal at the Santiago Bernabeu in September, after his cross evaded everybody.
Ultimately, their brave foray into the Champions League will end in disappointment, but their European adventure is guaranteed to continue via the Europa League.

TALKING POINT

Nobody quite expected Sheriff to do what they did in this year's competition, and a spot in the Europa League is more than they could have hoped for when their journey began in July.
Therre were glimpses of the spirit that took them to a historic win in Madrid two months ago, they were brave on the counter attack after recognising that they needed to surpass Real's midfield, but their lack of quality told in the end.
Madrid just had more experience. It was hardly their vintage best, but it didn't need to be. Benzema, Kroos and Alaba were fitting goalscorers on a night where the old heads stood tall.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Toni Kroos (Real Madrid): Nobody really stood out; it was a collective flex of the muscles at just the right time. But many of the game's key moments centred on Kroos, who controlled the game without dominating it. His goal was typically well taken, and he deserves recognition for a thoroughly professional display.

PLAYER RATTNGS

Sheriff: Athanasiadis 6; Costanzo 6, Dulanto 6, Arboleda 6, Cristiano 6; Addo 6, Thill 7; Kolovos 6, Bruno 7, Castaneda 5; Traore 6 Subs: Nikolov 5, Julien 5, Yansane 5, Cojocaru n/a
Real Madrid: Courtois 6; Mendy 6, Alaba 7, Militao 6, Carvajal 6; Kroos 7, Casemiro 6, Modric 6; Vinicius Jr 6, Rodrygo 6, Benzema 7 Subs: Marcelo 5, Nacho 5, Lucas 5, Asensio 5, Blanco n/a

KEY MOMENTS

30' - GOAL! Alaba's free kick deflects off Cristiano and gives Athanasiadis no chance. 0-1 Madrid.
45' - GOAL! Kroos' strike comes off the bar and lands over the line... just. Lovely finish. 0-2 Madrid.
56' - GOAL! Benzems takes a touch and finds the corner from the edge of the area. He is sharp. 0-3 Madrid.

KEY STATS

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