Dani Ceballos scored with a minute remaining to maintain Real Madrid’s unblemished Champions League record intact this season, as the Spanish giant defeated Union Berlin 3-2 on Tuesday.
Madrid entered the game assured of top position in their group, but went down just before halftime, with Union striker Kevin Volland scoring on the counter after Luca Modric’s penalty was saved.
Union needed to win to keep their Europa League chances alive after being eliminated from the Champions League, but they surrendered two Joselu goals in ten minutes, deafening the Berlin Olympic Stadium crowd.
Alex Kral gave the home side hope late in the game, scoring Union’s second goal shortly after coming on, but Real reclaimed the lead moments later, Dani Ceballos’ deflected shot sliding into the net late on.
Carlo Ancelotti, coach of Real Madrid, reacted on the “slightly unusual match,” claiming his team had the game “well controlled for 40 minutes and then two mad minutes made it complicated for us.”
Nenad Bjelica, the home team coach, remarked “Real Madrid make you run a lot, until you’re running on empty — but that also happens to better teams than Union Berlin.”
Union conceded a late goal to drop points, just like they did in Madrid and Berlin against Braga. According to Bjelica, “there’s been a lot of bad luck there.”
“We’ll try and learn from that and do better.”
Union’s maiden Champions League campaign, in only their fourth season in the top flight, ends with two draws and four defeats.
Modric fails to convert a penalty.
Bjelica, who was in charge of the Union for the fourth time, lauded Jude Bellingham before the game, but said countryman Modric was “still the best in the world.”
Bellingham, who is nearly half the age of the 38-year-old Croatian veteran, sparkled early, forcing Frederik Ronnow into a save and striking just wide of the post seconds later.
Despite coach Carlo Ancelotti making five pre-match changes, the 14-time Champions League winners were a class above the debutants in the opening minutes, dominating possession and field position.
Union held on until a poor handball by Diego Leite led Modric to the spot in the last seconds of the half.
Ronnow, diving to his right, got a boot to the low strike, his third penalty save in five attempts this season across all competitions.
The ball was lofted forward by the Denmark goalkeeper, Kevin Behrens, who found his namesake Volland, who put Union ahead after David Alaba made a mistake.
Madrid’s experience shone through, with the visitors remaining composed and dominating possession, Joselu heading in a superb Rodrygo cross 15 minutes into the second half.
Ten minutes later, the Madrid striker doubled his tally, netting with his head from an even closer position to take the lead.
“We had more width in the second-half” Ancelotti, the manager of Real Madrid, stated, “when you have a player like Joselu, who is excellent in the air, you have to use that strength.”
Joselu, who earned his Spain debut in March at the age of 33, has eight goals in 21 outings since joining Real Madrid on loan from Espanyol in the summer.
Union had hoped to preserve their perfect record under Bjelica alive with Kral’s late strike, but Bellingham found Ceballos on the break to score.