Two first-half goals carried Real Madrid CF to a third successive UEFA Champions League victory - and the knockout stages of the competition - at the expense of a spirited Rosenborg BK side who were unfortunate to find goalkeeper Iker Casillas at the top of his form.
A Mikael Dorsin own goal followed by a close-range effort from Guti enabled the visitors to survive an awkward second half and hold on for three important points. They will be particularly pleased that for the first time in Group F they managed to keep a clean sheet and, with section leaders Olympique Lyonnais winning at Olympiacos CFP, Madrid join the French champions in the first knockout round with two games to spare.
Before the match, Madrid coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo had to add Iván Helguera and Thomas Gravesen to an injury list already including Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Julio Baptista. Pablo García missed out through suspension. Back came Sergio Ramos after his own ban while Guti and Míchel Salgado also started and Francisco Pavón got his first taste of UEFA Champions League action this season. The major bonus was the return of David Beckham, who recovered from a hamstring strain to make his 100th appearance for the Spanish giants. In comparison Rosenborg's lineup was straightforward, Frode Johnsen replacing Thorstein Helstad as the lone striker in the only change.
The Norwegian team had taken the lead in Madrid two weeks ago before succumbing 4-1 and were eager to draw first blood again, gifted teenager Per Ciljan Skjelbred producing a couple of well-read interceptions in midfield and setting up Daniel Braaten for a chip that Casillas was forced to watch closely. Madrid's first salvo came as Beckham thumped a shot wide and, after initial hesitancy, the visitors found their composure and began to dominate with Ramos, Guti and Robinho all prominent.
The young Brazilian illustrated his threat perfectly in the 12th minute, setting off on a run from the left touchline that took him into position for a low drive that came perilously close. The same player was involved in the opening goal 14 minutes later, collecting a wonderfully incisive pass from Guti that put him in dangerous territory on the left. Espen Johnsen could only put a glove on the cross and watched helplessly as the ball went in off Dorsin.
The defender's determination to make amends led to him unleashing a dangerous corner and a strong shot which was deflected. Øyvind Storflor forced Casillas into a stretching save but Rosenborg's rising hopes were then dashed by a second Madrid goal four minutes before the interval. Beckham was heavily involved and when Robinho was crowded out inside the area, Guti advanced to sweep in the loose ball.
If the half-time scoreline was poor reward for all Rosenborg's efforts it did emphasise Madrid's extra quality and conviction whenever an opportunity presented itself. Once play had restarted they needed their defending heads on as Rosenborg summoned up more spirit to try and reduce the deficit, Casillas saving expertly from Frode Johnsen's header and showing his agility to keep out a low Dorsin shot.
Madrid in control
Madrid, for whom Álvaro Mejía had replaced Salgado at the break, were content to slow things down, confident their two-goal advantage was watertight. They continued to come under pressure, however, and a tendency to give away free-kicks around the penalty area meant the visitors could never relax completely, although they preserved their cushion until the final whistle.