Champions League: Real, City through as United breathe sigh of relief

A fortuitous goal from Nacho proved decisive for 10-time champions Real to win 1-0 despite being outplayed for the majority of the first half of their Group A game at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Nacho Fernandez (centre) celebrates after scoring Real Madrid's goal against PSG.   -  AP

Real Madrid and Manchester City qualified for the Champions League knock-out rounds with victories over Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla respectively. There was relief at Old Trafford also as Manchester United ended a 400-minute wait for a goal to beat CSKA Moscow 1-0 yesterday.

A fortuitous goal from Nacho proved decisive for 10-time champions Real to win 1-0 despite being outplayed for the majority of the first half of their Group A game at the Santiago Bernabeu.

PSG were on top throughout the first period with Zlatan Ibrahimovic curling a shot from the left just wide of the far post and Edinson Cavani’s stabbed dink over goalkeeper Keylor Navas cleared off the line by a defender. But the closest they came was Adrien Rabiot’s volley cannoning back off the foot of the post.

And when Toni Kroos let fly from distance just after the half hour, the ball spooned up off Thiago Silva and fell to Nacho, who had only come on for injured left-back Marcelo two minutes earlier, inside the area.

PSG goalkeeper Kevin Trapp initially came for the looping ball but as he backtracked from no-man’s land, Nacho’s casual side-foot spun wickedly on the bounce and dropped inside the far post.

Little happened in the second half but Angel Di Maria did hit the bar late on with a free-kick, although the French champions couldn’t find the goal their play deserved.

Real qualified from Group A thanks to Shakhtar Donetsk romping to a 4-0 win over Malmo, a result which means a win for PSG in either of their last two matches will ensure they join Real in the last 16.

City banished memories of their recent Champions League struggles as a confident 3-1 win in Seville qualified them for the last 16 with two games to spare in Group D.

Borussia Moenchengladbach’s failure to beat Juventus in Germany, where the sides played out a 1-1 draw, meant City, who now top the group, have made it to the knock-out stages for only the third time.

Raheem Sterling set them on their way with a goal after eight minutes while Fernandinho doubled the advantage three minutes later.

Frenchman Benoit Tremoulinas gave the Spanish hosts hope but Wilfried Bony’s crisp low finish nine minutes from the break effectively killed the contest, giving City a third straight Group D victory since losing 2-1 at home to Juve in their opening game.

In Germany, Fabian Johnson gave Borussia the lead on 18 minutes but Stephan Lichtsteiner marked his return from minor heart surgery with the equaliser a minute before the break to restore parity.

Juve held on for the final 35 minutes with 10 men after Hernanes was dismissed for a late tackle on Alvaro Dominguez, meaning the Italians need only two more points to go through.

City’s neighbours United laboured for long periods despite near total domination against CSKA at Old Trafford before a late Wayne Rooney header snatched a 1-0 win that puts the Red Devils in control of Group B.

PSV Eindhoven’s 2-0 win at home to Wolfsburg means United lead those two by a point but a victory over the Dutch outfit at Old Trafford in three weeks time will book the three-time winners’ place in the last 16.

United came into the game on the back of three successive 0-0 draws with manager Louis van Gaal’s tactics increasingly coming in for criticism.

Urged on by their fans to “attack, attack, attack”, United buzzed around their opponents from the off and enjoyed 70 percent possession but were often let down by their final ball or a poor finish.

Just before Rooney scored, goalkeeper David De Gea, a virtual spectator throughout, had to come to his side’s rescue after Ahmed Musa’s perfectly weighted ball sent Seydou Doumbia racing clear.

De Gea made a brilliant one-handed save to deny the Ivory Coast forward before the back—tracking Chris Smalling slid in to crucially clear the follow-up off the line.

Almost immediately, Untied went up the other end, carved CSKA open and Rooney headed in Jesse Lingard’s cross unmarked from seven yards.

Benfica are close to qualifying from Group C after beating Galatasaray 2-1 in Lisbon while Atletico Madrid were held 0-0 by Astana in Kazakhstan, although the Spaniards are second and three points ahead of Gala.

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