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Champions League soccer: Karim Benzema scores twice, leads Madrid over Shakhtar

Champions League soccer: Karim Benzema scores twice, leads Madrid over Shakhtar
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema (R) scored the Spanish La Liga team's 1,000th Champions League goal in the first half of a win over Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday in Madrid. Photo by Juanjo Martin/EPA-EFE

Nov. 4 (UPI) -- French striker Karizma Benzema scored a goal in each half to lead Real Madrid to a narrow 2-1 win over Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stage of the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League soccer tournament.

Benzema scored in the 14th and 61st minutes of the Group D match Wednesday at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid. The Spanish La Liga club leads Group D with three wins and one loss with two group stage matches remaining.

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Benzema's first goal was Real Madrid's 1,000th score in the Champions League. They are the first team to reach that total.

"I'm really proud to score the thousandth goal for this club, which I consider to be the best club in the world," Benzema told reporters. "I'll always be very happy here.

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"It was a tricky game for us against a good team like Shakhtar. We knew that the opposition was very good. In the end we had a hard time and we managed to win. Sometimes you win matches like that."

Brazilian striker Vinicius Junior assisted both goals in Wednesday's win. He stole the ball from the Shakhtar defense to set up the first score. He then slipped a short pass to Benzema, who tapped a roller into the empty net.

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Shakhtar equalized in the 49th minute. Alan Patrick chested down a long feed in the box to spark that score. The deflected pass went to Fernando, who ripped a first-touch half volley past Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois.

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The score stayed tied through halftime. Benzema netted the go-ahead strike about midway through the second half. Vinicius Junior received a pass above the right side of the box during that play. He took his dribble left and spotted Benzema with his hand raised.

Vinicius did a quick give-and-go pass sequence and raced into the box. He then slipped a feed through several defenders to find Benzema. The Madrid striker curled a quick shot just inside the right post to beat Shakhtar keeper Anatoliy Trubin for the final score.

"I certainly know what the atmosphere is like here and the fans demand to encourage us and play better," Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti told reporters. "We started well in both halves, but then dropped off a bit and that can happen."

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Madrid hosts Rayo Vallecano in La Liga play at 4 p.m. EDT Saturday at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Shakhtar battles Kolos in the Ukrainian Premier League at 10 a.m. EDT Sunday at Stadion in Kovalivka, Ukraine.

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Madrid plays Sheriff in its next Champions League match at 3 p.m. EST Nov. 24 at Bolshaya Sportivnaya Arena in Tiraspol, Moldova.

Shakhtar battles Italian Serie A power Inter Milan in its next Champions League match at 12:45 p.m. EST Nov. 24 at San Siro Stadium in Milan, Italy.

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