Luka Modric had a close-range shot well saved by goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin before Alan Patrick hit the post for the visitors. Benzema put Madrid ahead after a mistake at the back, Vinicius Junior with the assist, and Modric was denied again in a busy opening 20 minutes.
Madrid’s intensity waned and Shakhtar finished the first half strongly, Fernando shooting over and then levelling before Thibaut Courtois prevented him from giving Shakhtar the lead. Madrid continued to frustrate after the break until Benzema put them back in front after an hour, finishing off a flowing move involving Modric, Casemiro and Vinicius.
Benzema’s opener, an easy tap-in, was Madrid’s 1,000th European Cup and Champions League goal. It felt fitting that Benzema, the leader of this Real Madrid team, joined a list of legendary names — from Miguel Munoz (1) and Alfredo di Stefano (100) in the 1950s, to Guti (500) and David Beckham (600) in the 2000s, to Cristiano Ronaldo (800 and 900) more recently — to score landmark, centenary goals on that list.
While Madrid’s performance was inconsistent, the move that led to the second goal was a sensational display of quick passing and intelligent movement. Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid haven’t always played such fluid, possession football — often this season they’ve been much more direct — but this was an encouraging sign that they can score goals against deeper-lying defences, too.
Madrid’s home form is starting to become an issue. They got the win here, but only just, and the Santiago Bernabeu crowd were frustrated at times, especially in the middle third of the match before and after half-time. It’s strange that their struggles at the Bernabeu have coincided with the stadium’s return to full capacity after the easing of social distancing restrictions.
Their last big home win came on Sept. 22, a 6-1 win over Mallorca. Since then, they played out goalless draws with Villarreal and Osasuna in LaLiga, lost to Sheriff Tiraspol, and now this fragile 2-1 victory. The team’s defence is looking vulnerable, too. Shakhtar created several good chances in the first half and could easily have been ahead at the break.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Ancelotti made three changes to the team that beat Elche 2-1 on Saturday, with Benzema, Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy coming in. The manager will have been concerned at the way the team let the first half slip away from them after scoring early, but pleased with the way they responded later on in the match. Ancelotti brought on Luka Jovic towards the end, having talked about the need to give the forward confidence if he’s to succeed as Benzema’s understudy, and these minutes will have been useful even if he couldn’t get on the scoresheet.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 7 — Made a very good save from Fernando at 1-1 to prevent Shakhtar from taking the lead.
DF Dani Carvajal, 6 — He insists that he’s feeling 100% post-injury, but he doesn’t look it yet. The first player to be subbed off.
DF David Alaba, 6 — Praised as an instant dressing room leader pre-match by Carvajal, and he’s a class act, but must share some of the blame for how brittle the defence looks sometimes.
DF Eder Militao, 7 — Very good on the ball, but still not always reliable when doing his primary job of defending.
DF Ferland Mendy, 6 — Had a first-half penalty shout, and picked up a booking. He’ll get better as the season goes on.
MF Casemiro, 7 — His 300th appearance for Real Madrid. A genius backheel helped create Madrid’s second.
MF Toni Kroos, 7 — Important without being eye-catching.
MF Luka Modric, 8 — Started really well, getting forward and almost scoring twice early on, denied both times by the goalkeeper.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 6 — Ancelotti says he prefers a true winger like Vazquez to Eden Hazard or Marco Asensio in games like these. Some nice touches and one well-judged second-half cross, but not much else.
FW Vinicius Junior, 9 — Two assists for Benzema. While the first was straightforward, the second came after an inspired exchange with Casemiro. Vinicius isn’t just scoring more this season, he’s more consistently involved in team play, too.
FW Karim Benzema, 9 — Scored twice and played 80 minutes before departing to a loud standing ovation.
DF Nacho, 6 — Brought on to offer some security on the right, with Madrid in front.
FW Luka Jovic, N/R — Played the last 15 minutes.