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Ceballos scores late for Real Madrid to beat Union Berlin, stay perfect in Champions League

Dani Ceballos Real Madrid Dani Ceballos - The Canadian Press

BERLIN (AP) — Dani Ceballos scored late for Real Madrid to come from behind to beat Union Berlin 3-2 and complete a perfect Champions League group stage on Tuesday.

Ceballos grabbed the winner in the 89th minute, four minutes after Union substitute Alex Král equalized and kept alive Union’s hopes of clinching a Europa League place. The German team had needed a win and a favor from Napoli against Braga in the other group game to clinch a Europa League spot as the third-place finisher in the group.

Instead, Madrid made it six wins from six games in Group C. It’s the third time Madrid achieved the feat after doing so 2011 and 2014.

“Every time you pull on this jersey, you can't give anything away,” said Joselu, who scored Madrid's other two goals. “I think there's a weight when you put on this shirt that means you never give up, every game is important.”

The 14-time champion was already assured of topping the group, but coach Carlo Ancelotti said his team wanted to show its respect for the competition and named a strong starting lineup including Jude Bellingham, Rodrygo and Luka Modrić.

They dominated the first half, but Union goalkeeper Frederik Rønnow saved Modrić’s penalty in the 45th, then launched a huge kickout that Kevin Behrens headed on and David Alaba failed to control. Kevin Volland held off Lucas Vázquez’ challenge to give Union an unlikely lead before the break.

Rønnow produced a brilliant reflex to stop Rodrygo’s header early in the second half when it seemed the Brazilian had to score, and Union’s fans sang as belief in a historic result began to grow — Union had never won a Champions League game in its competition debut.

Then Rodrygo crossed from the right for Joselu to equalize in the 61st and Fran García set up his second from the other side in the 72nd.

Joselu thought he’d sealed the result, but Madrid needed Ceballos to be sure after Král restored the home fans' belief.

Despite the late kickoff and early start for school the next morning, many had brought their children to the game, knowing it was a rare opportunity to see arguably Europe’s most storied club in person.

They stayed long after the final whistle to celebrate the team's effort despite its exit from European competition for this season. Union was only promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time in 2019 and few foresaw at the time that the club could be playing in the Champions League four years later.

“When you need to score a third goal after making it 2-2, Real Madrid is too good not to use it for a counterattack,” Union coach Nenad Bjelica said. “In the end we didn’t win because Real were too strong for us, but we can still be very proud.”


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