Madrid routs Plzen, keeps thriving under coach Solari

Real midfielder Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal during the Champions League group G soccer match between Real Madrid and Viktoria Plzen at the Doosan arena in Pilsen, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Plzen midfielder Jan Kopic, right, heads the ball past Real defender Alvaro Odriozola during their Champions League group G soccer match between Real Madrid and Viktoria Plzen at the Doosan arena in Pilsen, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Real midfielder Gareth Bale, left, celebrates with his teammates after scoring his side's fourth goal during their Champions League group G soccer match between Real Madrid and Viktoria Plzen at the Doosan arena in Pilsen, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Real midfielder Gareth Bale, left, celebrates with his teammates after scoring his side's fourth goal during their Champions League group G soccer match between Real Madrid and Viktoria Plzen at the Doosan arena in Pilsen, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Real midfielder Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal during the Champions League group G soccer match between Real Madrid and Viktoria Plzen at the Doosan arena in Pilsen, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Real forward Karim Benzema, right, celebrates with his teammate Real defender Alvaro Odriozola after scoring his side's third goal during the Champions League group G soccer match between Real Madrid and Viktoria Plzen at the Doosan arena in Pilsen, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Real forward Karim Benzema, right, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during their Champions League group G soccer match between Real Madrid and Viktoria Plzen at the Doosan arena in Pilsen, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Real forward Karim Benzema, left, celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the Champions League group G soccer match between Real Madrid and Viktoria Plzen at the Doosan arena in Pilsen, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

PLZEN, Czech Republic — Karim Benzema scored twice in the first half to lead resurgent Real Madrid to a 5-0 win at Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Casemiro, Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos also scored for the three-time defending champions, who have won three straight in all competitions since Julen Lopetegui was fired and interim coach Santiago Solari took over.

The victory puts Madrid level on nine points with Roma, which won 2-1 at CSKA Moscow earlier Wednesday.

Madrid and Roma can both seal a place in the knockout stage with one win from their final two games.

Czech champion Viktoria Plzen, playing in the group stage for the first time since 2013, stayed on one point and was eliminated.

Madrid had struggled in a 2-1 win over Viktoria Plzen at home in the team's second-to-last match under Lopetegui, who was eventually fired after a demoralizing 5-1 loss to Barcelona at Camp Nou Stadium.

Madrid has outscored opponents 11-0 with former player Solari. The Spanish team lost five of its last seven matches with Lopetegui, conceding 13 goals and scoring four.

The Czech hosts started well and almost opened the scoring when Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez deflected a ball onto the crossbar.

Madrid struggled to control the game until Benzema's superb goal in the 21st minute. The French striker entered the area and cleared three defenders before sending a low shot underneath goalkeeper Ales Hruska.

It got better still for Madrid when Casemiro, in his 50th Champions League appearance, added to the lead two minutes later with a header from a corner. Benzema netted his second goal with a header after being set up by Gareth Bale, and the Wales forward found the net in the 40th from inside the area. Kroos closed the scoring with a second-half lob over Hruska after a pass by substitute Vinicius Junior.

Solari, a former Argentina and Madrid midfielder, was announced as an interim coach but hasn't been ruled out as a candidate for the permanent coaching position. Former Chelsea coach Antonio Conte and Belgium manager Roberto Martinez were touted as possible replacements for Lopetegui, but talks about them faded significantly after Solari put the team back on track.

Madrid routed third-division club Melilla 4-0 in Solari's debut, then defeated Valladolid to halt the team's five-match winless streak in the Spanish league.

Solari left Luka Modric on the bench on Wednesday, starting with Dani Ceballos in midfield along with Kroos and Casemiro. In attack, he used Lucas Vazquez to play with Benzema and Bale.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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