Real Madrid embarrassed by CSKA Moscow in record home loss
Real Madrid was assured of a place in the knockout phase of the Champions League heading into the final match day, but for a club of its stature there is no such thing as a meaningless game.
Thus newish manager Santi Solari is sure to be feeling the heat after the three-time defending champions incredibly lost 3-0 at home to last-place CSKA Moscow in Group G on Wednesday.
It was Los Blancos’ worst ever European defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium and the first time the Kings of Europe lost a group stage game at home since 2009.
Just as surprising was CSKA Moscow doing the double over Real Madrid — winning 1-0 in Russia in October — yet not even finishing in a Europa League position. CSKA was pipped by Plzen, which defeated the other team in the group already through, Roma, 2-1.
That result will pile even more pressure on Roma boss Eusebio di Francesco, whose side are now winless in five games and blew a late two-goal advantage to Cagliari in Serie A last weekend. Only roughly seven months ago di Francesco guided Roma to the Champions League semifinals.
“We can’t be making fools of ourselves the way we are,” Roma midfielder Alessandro Florenzi told Sky Italia.
In keeping with the theme of big clubs already into the second round who were upset, Valencia and Young Boys collected 2-1 home wins in Group H over Manchester United and Juventus, respectively.
Only one spot remained in the round of 16 entering Wednesday, to be filled by Lyon or Shakhtar Donetsk in Group F. They met in snowy Kiev and the French Ligue 1 outfit avoided defeat, tying 1-1, to progress.
Fielded young squad
Even though Solari — who replaced Julen Lopetegui in October — fielded the youngest Real Madrid side since 2005 and omitted Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric, the host still featured the likes of Karim Benzema, Marcelo, Isco and Marco Asensio. And Gareth Bale, he of the dazzling bicycle kick against Liverpool in last season’s final, played all of the second half.
On Tuesday, Real Madrid’s arch rival Barcelona also rested plenty of its regulars but still managed a 1-1 draw with perhaps tougher opposition, Tottenham.
“I’m down because although we were through we wanted to finish the group with a win and we didn’t do that,” Solari, the former Real Madrid midfielder, was quoted as saying by UEFA. “We started the game well, especially the first 30-35 minutes, but we weren’t good enough in either box and they punished us.
“I didn’t like what I saw in the second half. It is my job to get the side ready and I picked a young group today, but this allowed them to get some minutes into their legs and gain experience.”
By the time Bale came on, CSKA led 2-0 thanks to a 37th-minute strike from Fedor Chalov and 43rd-minute effort from Georgi Schennikov. Arnor Sigurdsson rounded out Real Madrid’s misery in the 73rd minute.
CSKA became the first team in 12 years, according to UEFA, to finish last in a group despite amassing a healthy seven points.
Early Christmas present
“It’s sad to say the least to beat Real Madrid, earn seven points, but finish bottom and get eliminated from Europe,” CSKA manager Viktor Goncharenko was quoted as saying by UEFA. “But we only have ourselves to blame.
“In any case, we’ve made sure we’ll spend the holidays in a great mood after tonight’s win.”
Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t in a great mood for Juventus. Ronaldo, sorely missed by Real Madrid, saw his late header strike the post in Switzerland.
But Juventus stayed atop the group and lead Serie A.
The Red Devils of Manchester, meanwhile, find themselves eight points adrift of the Champions League places in England ahead of Sunday’s crunch clash at Liverpool. Liverpool will be full of confidence after advancing in dramatic fashion Tuesday and leading the Premier League.
Lyon finished behind Manchester City — a 2-1 winner over Hoffenheim — in Group F while Bayern Munich held off Ajax for top spot in Group E following a thrilling 3-3 draw in Amsterdam. Ajax led 2-1 prior to Robert Lewandowski’s penalty leveler in the 87th minute that sparked a flurry of goals.
Kingsley Coman made it 3-2 for the German powerhouse, only for Nicolas Tagliafico to reply in the fifth minute of injury time.