MADRID : Karim Benzema struck twice to lead Real Madrid to an unconvincing 2-1 home win over Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday and move the Spanish side clear at the top of Champions League Group D.
Real, who beat Shakhtar 5-0 in Ukraine last month, lead the standings with nine points, two more than Inter Milan who beat Moldova's Sheriff Tiraspol 3-1.
Real went ahead in the 15th minute when Vinicius Jr. stole the ball from a Shakhtar defender and set up Benzema to score with a powerful shot from inside the box.
Shakhtar equalised five minutes before halftime with a stunning counter-attack finished off by Fernando.
Benzema and Vinicius Jr. combined again for the Real winner just after the hour mark, the latter linking up well with Casemiro before teeing up the France striker to find the net again.
"It’s hard when you play a game every three or four days, the team felt a little bit of fatigue. But sometimes you just have to win, even if you win ugly," Benzema told reporters.
Shakhtar created opportunities, Allan Patrick giving Real an early scare when his powerful strike from outside the box crashed against the post.
Fernando had a good chance to put Shakhtar ahead just before halftime from another counter-attack but he was denied by Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The visitors continued to cause problems for the record 13-times European Cup winners but Vinicius Jr. and Benzema ensured that Real secured the three points.
Shakhtar are bottom of the group standings with one point.
(Reporting by Fernando Kallas, editing by Ed Osmond)