Real Madrid CF advanced to the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League as Group C winners following a comfortable 3-1 victory against S.S. Lazio at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Bernd Schuster admitted his team were "up for this one" before the match and Madrid proved as good as their coach's word with first-half goals from Julio Baptista, Raúl González and Robinho making the game safe before Goran Pandev pulled one back for Lazio with ten minutes remaining.
The Rome side needed to win to have any chance of progressing and their coach Delio Rossi appeared to have instilled sufficient belief in his players who matched Madrid in terms of possession and confidence on the ball in the early stages. Tommaso Rocchi would surely have done better in the opening moments if slightly better placed when looking to collect a pass from Gaby Mudingayi inside the Madrid area. After eight minutes Rocchi then fed Pandev who struck high and wide of Iker Casillas from eight metres.
With the away fans in full voice, Raúl sounded a warning when his header from a Wesley Sneijder corner struck the upright and Madrid's opener was not long in coming. It arrived on 13 minutes when the in-form Baptista, selected ahead of Guti, received a short pass from Robinho out wide. He paced along the edge of the area and struck a gliding shot that flew wide of Marco Ballotta and into the corner of the goal. Just two minutes later Lazio's hopes of reaching the knockout phase were all but ended when Raúl outjumped Cristián Ledesma to head in his all-time competition-leading 59th UEFA Champions League goal.
Robinho adds third
The home crowd were roaring their approval for what they thought was another Raúl goal after 21 minutes but their attention was soon diverted to the raised flag of the referee's assistant. A poor Mahamadou Diarra backheader which went straight to Pandev then gave Lazio the chance to reduce the gap but the Macedonian striker's shot hit the side-netting. Apart from that scare Madrid were coasting and they made it 3-0 when Robinho played a one-two with Ruud van Nistelrooy before having the easiest of tasks to poke in from close range.
The second half began with both sides dropping the pace a little. Madrid introduced Arjen Robben and Guti with Robinho and Sneijder making way. Robben fired a shot at goal which Ballotta did well to save before, on 67 minutes, Madrid launched a fine counter-attacking move which almost ended with Van Nistelrooy converting from close range.
Defeat left Lazio bottom of the section and brought their European season to an end, but they made sure they gave their vociferous travelling support at least a goal to celebrate with ten minutes to go. Rocchi's curling pass towards the far post was followed all the way by Pandev who stretched to deflect the ball into the net. Lazio might have had a second in the closing moments but Casillas saved Rocchi's penalty and Roberto Baronio's follow-up as Madrid finished the night as they had begun it – on a high.
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