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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 18 December, 2018

Ronaldo nabs assist as Juventus do Man United a favour with Valencia victory

Croatian Mario Mandzukic scored the only goal of the game in Turin.

Juventus players celebrate after scoring against Valencia.
Juventus players celebrate after scoring against Valencia.
Image: Antonio Calanni

MARIO MANDUZUKIZ SCORED the only goal as Juventus eased into the knockout stages of the Champions League with a 1-0 win over Valencia in their Group H clash.

Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo provided the assist that allowed the Croatian World Cup runner-up to tap-in the winner just before the hour mark in Turin.

The win for the Italian champions, who only needed a point to ensure qualification, combined with Manchester United snatching a late 1-0 win over Young Boys at Old Trafford means Valencia crash out of the competition.

The result also means that Jose Mourinho’s charges progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Ronaldo came out firing on all cylinders after his controversial red card during his first Champions League game for Juventus in Valencia back in September, which Massimiliano Allegri’s side won 2-0 despite being down to ten men.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was in top form in the Allianz Stadium with chances in the first three minutes, with a powerful drive straight at Valencia’s Brazilian goalkeeper Neto.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner skimmed the post after 25 minutes following good work between Paulo Dybala and Alex Sandro.

A clever Leonardo Bonucci backheel flip was picked up by Joao Cancelo whose curling effort flew past the post to the frustration of Ronaldo who had been position for the pass.

However the hosts could thank goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for going into the break 0-0 when his one-handed save stopped Mouctar Diakhaby’s searing header.

Juventus piled on the pressure after the break with Neto denying Ronaldo from a free-kick.

Italy Soccer Champions League Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo celebrate a goal for Juventus. Source: Antonio Calanni

But Mandzukic broke through in the 59th minute as Ronaldo shook off Gabriel with some fancy footwork and flashed a low shot across the face of goal that found the Croatian forward, who just had to finish off.

Valencia thought they had scored two minutes later but Diakhaby’s header was ruled out and the defender penalised for handball.

The Spaniards could thank Neto for limiting the damage, clearing a curling Dybala shot and a late Ronaldo header.

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich romped to an emphatic 5-1 home win against Benfica on Tuesday to qualify for the Champions League last 16 and ease the pressure on coach Niko Kovac.

Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski both scored twice before Franck Ribery completed the rout at the Allianz Arena after Gedson Fernandes had netted Benfica’s consolation.

Kovac’s team shrugged off lacklustre league form — winning just two and losing three of their last seven Bundesliga games — with a convincing display.

This is the 11th season in succession Bayern have reached the last 16 of the Champions League.

While Bayern sit just fifth in the Bundesliga, they are flying in Europe, having now chalked up four wins and a draw in the Champions League’s group stage.

They need just a point at Ajax in a fortnight to win Group A, while the best Benfica can hope for is third and a place in the Europa League knock-out phase.

Bayern were unrecognisable from the team which leaked goals in a 3-3 draw with Bundesliga strugglers Fortuna Duesseldorf on Saturday.

Imago 20181127 Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben. Source: Imago/PA Images

Bayern went ahead after just 13 minutes when Robben produced a stunning piece of skill for his 30th Champions League goal.

There was nothing on when the Dutch veteran darted through three defenders on the right wing, cut inside another and hit the top left corner with a superb shot.

The 34-year-old doubled Bayern’s lead by wrong-footing Benfica defenders German Conti and crashing his shot past Odysseas Vlachodimos on 30 minutes.

The third goal followed six minutes later when Lewandowski rose highest for a corner and steered his header into the net via the post.

It was the Polish star striker’s 50th Champions League goal.

It was 3-0 to Bayern at the break, but it could have been 5-0 as Vlachodimos had to twice palm shots away by Thomas Mueller and Lewandowski.

Imago 20181127 Lewandowski wheels away after scoring for Bayern. Source: Imago/PA Images

However, the defensive errors which have blighted their recent performances returned to haunt Bayern straight after the break.

Benfica boss Rui Vitoria brought on Portugal international Gedson Fernandes for the second half and the teenage midfielder took just 48 seconds to score.

Gedson sprinted onto a through pass and finished off a counter attack by slotting past Manuel Neuer to stun the hosts.

Bayern restored their three-goal cushion just five minutes later when Lewandowski again headed home another Kimmich corner.

Ribery capped a gala night with an exchange of passes with David Alaba to slam home Bayern’s fifth 13 minutes from time and claim his first Champions League goal for more than three years.

South Korean teenager Woo-Yeong Jeong, 19, came on for his senior Bayern Munich debut in the dying stages.

UEFA Champions League group phase results on Tuesday:

Group E

AEK Athens 0 Ajax 2 (Tadic 68-pen, 72)

Bayern Munich 5 (Robben 13, 30, Lewandowski 36, 51, Ribery 77) Benfica 1 (Fernandes 46)

Group F

Lyon 2 (Cornet 55, 81) Manchester City 2 (Laporte 63, Aguero 83)

Hoffenheim 2 (Kramaric 17, Zuber 40) Shakhtar Donetsk 3 (Ismaily 14, Taison 15, 90+3)

Group G

Cska Moscow 1 (Vlasic 10-pen) Viktoria Plzen 2 (Prochazka 56, Hejda 81)

Roma 0 Real Madrid 2 (Bale 46, Vazquez 59)

Group H

Juventus 1 (Mandzukic 59) Valencia 0

Manchester United 1 (Fellaini 90+1) Young Boys 0

© AFP 2018

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