By Alasdair Mackenzie
ROME (Reuters) – Real Madrid secured first place in Champions League Group G and ended AS Roma’s eight-match unbeaten home run in Europe with a 2-0 victory at the Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday although the Italians are also through to the last 16.
Real’s win thanks to second-half goals from Gareth Bale and Lucas Vazquez means the European champions are guaranteed to top the group due to a better head-to-head over the hosts.
Like Real, Roma had already clinched a place in the knockout stages with one game to spare thanks to Viktoria Plzen’s 2-1 win at CSKA Moscow in the early kick-off, which leaves Eusebio di Francesco’s side five points clear of third place.
Real and Roma went into the game locked on nine points but having both suffered shock domestic league defeats at the weekend, the Italians losing 1-0 at lowly Udinese while Madrid suffered a stunning 3-0 reverse away to mid-table Eibar.
Roma were without injured striker Edin Dzeko, the Champions League joint-top scorer this season with five goals, and the Bosnian’s absence was felt during a wasteful first half.
Real keeper Thibaut Courtois blocked Patrik Schick’s effort from point-blank range before an Aleksander Kolarov strike from distance whistled wide, but Cengiz Under spurned the best chance just before the break when he fired over from close range.
The home side were made to pay for their profligacy as Real went in front within two minutes of the restart as Welshman Gareth Bale pounced on a poor header back towards his own goal by Federico Fazio before finishing into the corner.
Santiago Solari’s side doubled the advantage just before the hour. Bale curled a cross to the back post and Karim Benzema’s knock-down put the ball on a plate for Vazquez to tap in.
That knocked the stuffing out of Roma and it was the visitors who threatened to find a third, with Marcelo and Benzema both testing Robin Olsen in the Roma goal.
The result ended a run of eight home Champions League games without defeat for Roma as Real became the first away team to win at the Olimpico in Europe since Porto in August 2016.
(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie, Editing by Ken Ferris)