France international Karim Benzema struck a hat-trick as Real Madrid helped send Auxerre tumbling out of Europe with their fifth win in six games in Champions League Group G.Benzema, who has struggled for goals since joining Madrid in a big-money move from Lyon in the summer of 2009, netted in the 11th, 72nd and 88th minutes while in-form Cristiano Ronaldo was also on the scoresheet at the Bernabeu.
The result means Madrid finish the group stages with 16 points out of a possible 18, but for Auxerre it is the end of the road after they lost out to Ajax in the race for third place and a Europa League berth.
Having already assured themselves of top spot prior to the game Madrid, for whom coach Jose Mourinho was serving a one-match touchline ban, opted to give some of their fringe players a chance against the French outfit.
The rejigged Madrid started well nevertheless and Mahamadou Diarra, captain for the evening, headed a decent chance over before the hosts took the lead in the 11th minute.
Ronaldo did well down the left before sending over an inch-perfect cross that the stooping Benzema headed into the roof of the net from just a yard out.
That was Madrid’s 300th Champions League goal, and just the fourth of the season in all competitions for Benzema.
In contrast to the struggling Frenchman, top scorer Ronaldo had netted 21 goals already this campaign coming into the game and he should have made it 22 when he flung himself at Pedro Leon’s right-wing cross but saw his header shave the right-hand post.
Madrid did not have it all their own way in the opening period though, and they were indebted to stand-in goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek for keeping them in front.
The veteran Pole, making a rare appearance for the Spanish giants, did superbly to keep out Jean-Pascal Mignot’s downward header with his foot in the 26th minute.
He then produced an equally brilliant save in the 43rd minute to tip behind Dennis Oliech’s low drive.
Dudek’s night would end soon after that, however, as he was forced to be substituted after receiving a blow to the face in a collision with an Auxerre forward, Antonio Adan the man to replace him.
Auxerre did not get the chance to test the newcomer before they found themselves 2-0 down, though, as Madrid netted just five minutes into the second half.
Marcelo played a good pass across the edge of the area to Ronaldo, who took one touch before slamming an unstoppable shot past Olivier Sorin and into the roof of the net.
Madrid added a third goal in the 72nd minute to ensure beyond any doubt that they would be celebrating a 14th successive home win in all competitions.
Mahamadou Diarra lofted a pass to Benzema, who drilled in a low shot that Sorin got a hand to but was just unable to keep out.
Sorin can consider himself unfortunate not to have saved that, but the 29-year-old must have wanted the ground to swallow him up in the 88th minute as he gifted Benzema the chance for his treble.
In looking to return possession to a team-mate, Sorin passed the ball straight to Benzema to the right of the area and the Madrid striker coolly lobbed the ball into an empty net to complete his hat-trick.