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Football | Champions League

Benzema, Higuain back on target for Real



Real Madrid forwards Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain have faced criticism in recent weeks due to a lack of goals but the pair came good on Wednesday, helping the La Liga champions move within touching distance of the Champions League semifinals.

The ever-reliable Cristiano Ronaldo fired Real ahead against Turkey's Galatasaray in the ninth minute of the quarterfinal at the Bernabeu, lifting him to the top of the scoring chart on nine goals, before Benzema added a second 20 minutes later.

The France striker was replaced by Argentina international Higuain in the 65th minute and he made it 3-0 17 minutes from time as Real virtually assured themselves of a place in the last four ahead of next week's second leg in Istanbul.

"Higuain and Benzema got their goals and that is good for their confidence," coach Jose Mourinho told a news conference.

"But even if they hadn't scored I would have been happy with the job they did today," added the Portuguese, who is bidding to lead Real to a 10th European crown that has eluded the Spanish giants since 2002.

The relatively poor form of Benzema and Higuain is one reason while Real's La Liga title defence has faltered this season, leaving them 13 points adrift of arch rivals Barcelona with nine games remaining.

At the same stage of the 2011-12 league campaign, Higuain had netted 17 goals and Benzema 14 but this term they have scored only 11 and eight respectively.

Benzema, who scored his fourth goal in the Champions League this season on his 50th appearance in the competition, has also struggled for France.

He was roundly booed by the home fans in Paris when he was substituted in the second half of last month's 1-0 World Cup qualifier defeat to Spain.

"We are relaxed," Higuain told reporters.

"The coach has already said that he has never pressured us to score goals," he added.

"I got to come on for 20 minutes to help the team and I was lucky enough to get that goal."

Benzema added: "We played a great match and I'm always happy when the team wins. I managed to score too. That's very good for me and for the club."

On what was a near-perfect night for Real, midfielder Xabi Alonso and centre back Sergio Ramos both picked up yellow cards late in the game to trigger one-match suspensions.

The Spain internationals can now serve out their bans in the second leg, giving them a clean slate for the semifinals should Real advance as expected.

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