ROME: Napoli eased into the knockout stages of the Champions League with two first-half goals in a 2-0 home win over Sporting Braga.

The Italian side finished second, eight points behind Real Madrid in Group C, on 10 points, while Braga held on to third place and Europa League football with four points. Union Berlin lost 3-2 to Real Madrid and finished bottom on two points.

“Passing the group was our goal, we deserved to qualify and that’s good,” Napoli captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo said.

“There is a lot of work to do, to improve in some aspects, but we are playing good games, with good performances and this gives us hope for the new year.”

Napoli’s opening goal came in the ninth minute when Matteo Politano’s cross into the box was turned into his own goal by Serdar Saatci.

Napoli, who could afford to lose by one goal, wrapped up qualification in the 33rd minute when Victor Osimhen back heeled a Natan cross and then managed to nudge the loose ball into the net, leaving Braga needing to score four without reply.

It was Osimhen’s first Champions League goal this season but the Nigerian, who picked up the African Footballer of the Year award on Monday, did miss both games against Union Berlin through injury.

The Portuguese were quickest out of the blocks and fired an early warning when Rodrigo Zalazar’s backheel in the box fell to Bruma, but the striker pulled his shot wide of the post.

The own goal was a sucker punch for Braga as Saatci’s attempt at a block caught his heel and flew over the keeper Matheus, who scrambled to claw it away but the referee signalled that the ball had crossed the line.

Before Osimhen doubled the lead, Braga had a chance to equalise in the 25th minute when Andre Horta was allowed time and space to shoot from distance but his effort was tipped over for a corner by keeper Alex Meret.

“It wasn’t easy in the group, it was important not to concede goals, great saves from Meret. We’re happy for him, it’s important for everyone not to concede a goal,” Di Lorenzo said.

Bruma had another chance before the break but his low shot in the 44th minute was straight at the keeper.

In the second half, Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri was able to take off Osimhen and Politano with the result never in danger.

Napoli, Serie A champions, reached the quarter-finals in last season’s Champions League, where they were knocked out by fellow Italian club AC Milan.

In the other tie group winners Real Madrid’s Dani Ceballos scored an 89th-minute winner to secure a 3-2 victory at Union Berlin to make it six wins from six matches as the Germans ended their European run in last place.

The hosts had started well and Real goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga needed to pull off a spectacular one-handed save after just 55 seconds to deny Kevin Behrens from close range.

The Spaniards responded with a glancing header from Joselu that bounced off the crossbar in the 16th while he also fired wide in the 43rd before Luka Modric had a 45th-minute penalty saved by Frederik Ronnow.

Instead it was hosts who scored in a dramatic finale to the first half, with Kevin Volland pouncing on a David Alaba miskick to slot home in stoppage time.

Union needed to win to have any chance of qualifying for the Europa League but they came under increased pressure.

Union’s Ronnow came to their rescue once more in the 55th, palming a Rodrygo header from point-blank range wide but the Dane was beaten by Joselu’s header at the far post six minutes later.

The Real forward struck again in the 73rd with another header, this time at the near post from a superb Fran Garcia run and cross but the Germans briefly levelled through Alex Kral’s low drive in the 85th.

Ceballos made sure of the win in the 89th to lift Real to 18 points with Napoli also advancing to the knockout stage, finishing in second place on 10. Braga finished third on four with Union in last place on two points.

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