Real Madrid 3-0 Braga: Spanish giants qualify for round of 16 in style

Real Madrid 3-0 Braga: Los Blancos qualify for Champions League last-16 in style with Brahim Diaz, Vinicius Jnr and Rodrygo all on target as Jude Bellingham is left on bench following shoulder injury

Real Madrid made it to the knockout stage of the Champions League without the rested Jude Bellingham. 

The England midfielder had scored three goals in his three European games but Madrid managed three without him to beat Braga comfortably.

The first half belonged to two players who barely get a look in usually. Andriy Lunin didn’t know he was starting until Kepa Arrizabalaga complained of a muscle problem in the warm-up. 

Practically his first job was to face a penalty after Lucas Vazquez pulled back Cristian Borja in the area. The Ukraine keeper went the right way and saved Alvaro Djalo to keep it at 0-0.

Brahim Diaz had a bit more notice than Lunin that he was going to be playing. There was no need to risk Bellingham’s recovering left shoulder so the former Manchester City youngster started at the top of Real Madrid’s midfield diamond and he made the most of his opportunity.

Real Madrid have qualified for the Champions League round of 16 in style at their home ground

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He had the ball in the net after just 12 minutes but it was ruled out for a foul by Vinicius in the build-up. 

He was not to be denied and he put Real Madrid ahead on 27 minutes when Ferland Mendy put Rodrygo in behind Braga’s defence and his cross was turned in by Brahim for his second goal of the season. There was even a VAR screen celebration from him after his first effort had been chalked off.

In the second half Madrid’s Brazilians took over. Vinicius made it two just before the hour mark. Fede Valverde played in Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius buried it in the corner for his second Champions League goal of the season.

And in the blink of an eye it was three and all over. This time Vinicius got the assist but it was Rodrygo who started and finished the move. 

Toni Kroos and Eduardo Camavinga combined to win possession back but it was Rodrygo who carried the ball forward with purpose, swapped passes with Vinicius, and clipped the ball neatly over Matheus.

Rodrygo went straight to embrace Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian coach has always backed the 22-year-old even through this season when he has been criticized for his performances and for scoring just two goals in La Liga.

‘I was not in a good moment but he never stopped encouraging me,’ he said after the win.

Lunin had the last word on the night saving from Abel Ruiz with Braga’s last effort on goal.

Bellingham was on the pitch at the end to congratulate Vinicius and Diaz. He had not been needed during the 90 minutes. Madrid just need a point to top their group and then they can look forward to the knockout phase. 

Thibaut Courtois could be seen celebrating on the touchline too. He hopes to be back by April. The Madrid Champions League bandwagon is rolling once more and he’ll be ready to jump on it along with fellow long-term absentee Eder Militao if they reach the latter rounds.

Bellingham will be back long before then – on Saturday when Real Madrid try to get back to the top of La Liga against Valencia.


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