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Martinez fires Inter to Champions League Round of 16; Sociedad seals place with Benfica win

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Lautaro Martínez came off the bench and scored as Inter Milan won 1-0 at Salzburg on Wednesday to advance to the knockout stage of the Champions League with two matches to spare.

Martínez was one of the players initially rested by Inter coach Simone Inzaghi. He was brought on in the 68th minute along with Nicolò Barella, who won the penalty which Martínez tucked away in the 85th.

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It was the 14th goal of the season in all competitions for Argentine World Cup winner Martínez.

Inter, last season’s runner-up, is level on 10 points with Real Sociedad at the top of Group D. Sociedad also booked its place in the round of 16 thanks to Inter’s result, after earlier beating Benfica 3-1. Salzburg has three points and Benfica zero.

Serie A leader Inter knew victory in Austria would see it advance in Europe and the team was coming off a run of five straight wins.

The match was played at a high tempo from the start but both teams struggled to create clear opportunities before Inzaghi brought on Martínez and Barella.

The last time Martínez entered the game as a second-half substitute for Inter, he scored four goals against Salernitana in September in Serie A.

He almost broke the deadlock eight minutes from time in Salzburg but home goalkeeper Alexander Schlager pulled off a fantastic save to tip Martínez’s header onto the crossbar.

However, Martínez gave Inter the lead from the spot three minutes later after Salzburg midfielder Mads Bidstrup blocked Barella’s shot with his arm.

Sociedad beats Benfica 3-1 to reach UCL knockouts for 2nd time in history

Real Sociedad scored three times in the first 21 minutes to defeat Benfica 3-1 and reach the Champions League round of 16 for the second time in its history on Wednesday.

Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal celebrates after the UEFA Champions League match against Benfica.

Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal celebrates after the UEFA Champions League match against Benfica.
| Photo Credit:
Vincent West/ REUTERS

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Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal celebrates after the UEFA Champions League match against Benfica.
| Photo Credit:
Vincent West/ REUTERS

Sociedad came out pressing and overwhelmed Benfica in a near-perfect first half in which it also missed a penalty kick with Brais Méndez, who was trying to become the first Spanish player to score at least once in four consecutive Champions League matches.

“We could have gone into halftime having scored four or five goals and the game would have been over,” Sociedad forward Mikel Oyarzabal said. “There could have been some doubts after their goal, but we were able to stay in control.”

Mikel Merino opened the scoring in the sixth minute, Oyarzabal netted in the 11th and Barrenetxea got the third in the 21st. Benfica pulled one closer with Rafa Silva in the 49th.

“We had a very difficult start,” Benfica forward Casper Tengstedt said. “They were good and we knew that. But it’s difficult when you are 3-0 down at halftime. We did a little bit better (in the second half) but it was not enough.”

The match was briefly stopped early in the second half after Benfica fans threw flares toward Sociedad supporters. Benfica players were seen asking the fans to stop throwing them. There were no reports of injuries.

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