Real advance after beating Sporting 2-1

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November 23, 2016
AP Real Madrid's Karim Benzema (left) celebrates after scoring the winning goal during the Champions League Group F match between Sporting and Real Madrid at the Alvalade stadium in Lisbon yesterday. Real Madrid won 2-1.

LISBON, Portugal (AP):

Defending champions Real Madrid advanced from the group stage of the Champions League for the 20th straight time after beating 10-man Sporting Lisbon 2-1 yesterday.

Karim Benzema came off the bench to get the late winner in the 87th minute.

A draw would have been enough to get Madrid through to the knockout stages anyway, but victory gave the team a chance to finish first in Group F - with a home victory over Borussia Dortmund in the final round.

"It was important that we won here," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "We achieved what we came to get. We are going to play a final against Dortmund now."

The German side, which routed Legia Warsaw 8-4, has a two-point lead over Madrid.

Benzema salvaged Madrid's victory with a header after a well-placed cross by Sergio Ramos. That came just seven minutes after Sporting midfielder Adrien Silva equalised by converting a controversial penalty kick. The penalty was awarded after the ball hit Fabio Coentrao's arm, which he had just thrust into the air to complain of a hand ball by Sporting.

"We had our difficult moments in the game but that's normal," Zidane said. "But we managed to score a wonderful second through Karim Benzema."

Benzema had been doubtful to play during the week because of an injury but his recovery proved crucial. He entered the match in the 67th to replace Francisco "Isco" Alarcon.

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