Spanish giants Real Madrid clinched a berth in the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions' League beating Belarus champions BATE Borisov 1-0 in their Group H clash on Tuesday. Raul Gonzalez netted the only goal of the match to add three points to Real's balance leaving the Spanish side with nine points from five matches, four ahead of second-placed Zenit St Petersburg.
Last year's Russian champions Zenit recorded a 0-0 draw with group leaders Juventus in the earlier Group H match.
Real coach Bernd Schuster said he was happy with the result and praised Italy's side Juventus for their help. "It was really important to gain a place in the knockout phase today," the German said. "It could be difficult for us to play two important matches against Barcelona (in the Spanish league) and Zenit so closely in December. And of course Juventus helped us a lot with their draw with Zenit."
Chasing the win to make sure of their passage, Real got off to a lively start through veteran forward Raul, who fired in from close range with a ricochet effort off the crossbar from Royston Drenthe's cross just six minutes into the game. Raul's goal put him equal with AC Milan's Filippo Inzaghi as the competition's all-time top scorer with 64 goals.
Real dominated the proceedings before the break and created several more chances but failed to increase their lead as BATE defended stoutly, the back line well marshalled by goalie Sergei Veremko.
After the interval BATE, spurred by the home crowd, upped the tempo pinning Real back but failed to create any serious threat. Real were sitting comfortably on their lead, while Raul missed another clear chance to increase his side's lead, hitting the crossbar in the 72nd minute.
In the closing stages the visitors kept the match under complete control, stifling BATE's attacking efforts to render their final group match with Zenit at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium a meaningless affair.