Real end winless run against Plzen but doubts remain

Wednesday, 2018-10-24 08:11:33
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Real Madrid's Marcelo celebrates scoring their second goal with team mates. (Photo: Reuters)
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Real Madrid snapped a run of five games without victory by earning a 2-1 win at home to Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League on Tuesday yet were still booed off the pitch by their own supporters after an unconvincing performance.

Karim Benzema headed the stuttering triple European champions ahead early in the first half but they were fortunate not to concede an equaliser before the break as the Czechs somehow failed to capitalise on three clear opportunities.

Brazilian left back Marcelo got Real’s second goal with a coolly-taken dinked finish in the 55th minute and they then missed a glut of chances to extend the lead, which was cut by an ice-cool finish from Plzen’s Patrik Hrosovsky in the 78th.

Real held on for a far-from convincing win which keeps them level with Group G leaders AS Roma on six points after three games but failed to answer serious questions about their form ahead of Sunday’s ‘Clasico’ away to arch rivals Barcelona.

A run of five games without a win culminating in Saturday’s shock 2-1 home defeat by Levante had left under-pressure Real coach Julen Lopetegui against the ropes and he faced repeated questions about his precarious position in the build-up to the game.

The former Spain manager had insisted he felt able to continue at the helm in Madrid yet could still not give any guarantees that he would remain in charge by the weekend.

The final whistle provided little relief to the edgy home supporters, who let out a cacophony of boos and whistles despite Real winning for the first time in over a month.

Juve take charge of Group H

Juventus' Leonardo Bonucci and team mates celebrate after the match. (Photo: Reuters)

The same day, an impressive Juventus beat Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford to take command of Champions League Group H with a maximum nine points from three games and demonstrate just how far Jose Mourinho’s side are from Europe’s elite.

Paulo Dybala’s 17th minute goal, a simple conversion after a low cross from the right by former United favourite Cristiano Ronaldo, won the game but the dominant Italian champions could have won by a much more convincing margin.

United needed their Spanish keeper David de Gea to be in top form as he made a series of good saves, including an excellent effort to keep out a second-half strike from Ronaldo.

If United fans can see little hope of their side catching up the top trio in the Premier League they will also know after this game that there is precious chance of them doing better in continental action.

With four points leaving them second in their group, ahead of Valencia and Young Boys, United may still progress to the knockout stages but the gulf between them and a team equipped to reach the latter stages was all too evident.

United were unchanged from the team that drew at Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday but the visitors very quickly demonstrated that they had no fear of the task in front of them.

Right from the outset, Massimiliano Allegri’s side were sharper, faster, more precise and showed more purpose than Jose Mourinho’s men, who struggled to even match the tempo of the Italian champions.

Following are the collated UEFA Champions League results on Tuesday:

Group E

AEK Athens 0-2 Bayern Munich

Ajax 1-0 Benfica

Group F

Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Manchester City

Hoffenheim 3-3 Lyon

Group G

Roma 3-0 CSKA Moscow

Real Madrid 2-1 Viktoria Plzen

Group H

Young Boys 1-1 Valencia

Manchester United 0-1 Juventus