MADRID (AP)It didn’t take long for Real Madrid to get back to winning games.
Three days after seeing its perfect start to the season end with a draw in the Spanish league, Madrid beat Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 in the Champions League to take full control of Group F.
Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior scored a goal each in the first half as the defending champions cruised to a third straight victory in the European competition. The result at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium gave Madrid a five-point lead over Shakhtar, which started the match with 11 Ukrainian players.
In the other group match, Leipzig defeated winless Celtic 3-1 at home to stay in third place, one point behind Shakhtar.
It was Madrid’s seventh straight group-stage win in the Champions League. It outscored its opponents 19-2 during that run.
Madrid’s 1-1 home draw against Osasuna on Sunday was its first setback of the season after nine straight victories in all competitions.
The hosts dominated from the start Wednesday and finished with a total of 35 attempts, with 13 of them on target.
”The ball didn’t want to go in. It was a match to win 7-1, but sometimes it’s like that,” Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos said. ”It’s hard to believe it was only 2-1, but in the end we got the three points that we wanted.”
Rodrygo opened the scoring with a low shot from just outside the area in the 13th minute. The Brazilian then set up Vinicius’ 28th-minute goal with a nice pass into the middle of the area.
Madrid kept missing chance after chance until Shakhtar pulled one closer in virtually its first significant chance of the match in the 39th – a volley from near the penalty spot by Oleksandr Zubkov.
The visitors threatened after the goal and nearly equalized in a one-on-one situation wasted by Mykhailo Mudryk early in the second half.
”What we admit is that Madrid deserved to win, they might have scored more but we played with bravery and took risks and, in the end, not only lost by a single goal but we might have grabbed the 2-2,” Shakhtar coach Igor Jovicevic said.
”I suspect that many of the men who are fighting for the liberty of Ukraine are Shakhtar fans,” he added. ”The least we can do for them is make them proud, to show our form of strong competition and I think there will be a lot of proud Shakhtar fans tonight given how we played and how we stayed in this match.”
Madrid regained control in the second half but kept squandering its chances while Shakhtar looked dangerous in counterattacks.
”We did drop the intensity a little, we felt comfortable and it needed me to remind them at halftime that the game was not finished,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. ”We played lots of good football but it was one of those dangerous matches when if you don’t score the goals you merit then you can be caught out.”
Karim Benzema, who returned to action at the weekend after an injury, missed a series of chances throughout the match.
Shakhtar players went around the field thanking the fans for their support after the match.
This is the third straight season Madrid and Shakhtar have met in the group stage of the Champions League, with the Ukrainian side upsetting the Spanish powerhouse at home and away in 2020-21.
Madrid was without goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois because of an injury. Luka Modric, who was coming off a minor muscle strain, started on the bench, as did Eden Hazard.
Madrid had opened with a 3-0 win at Celtic and a 2-0 victory against Leipzig. Shakhtar had won 4-1 at Leipzig and drawn 1-1 with Celtic at home.
There was a moment of silence before the match in honor of the victims of the stadium tragedy in Indonesia.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni