Let’s take a look at some of the main causes of discussion from the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg clash between Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid and Unai Emery’s Paris Saint-German at the Bernabeu Stadium yesterday evening, as the hosts took the initiative in Madrid.
Late Flurry Puts Real in Driving Seat
Two goals in the space of three second-half minutes for Zidane’s men proved the key component for them to be taking a lead into the second leg of this one back in Paris.
The first of the strikes came on 83 in Spain with the scores evenly poised at 1-1 and the visitors looking like they may escape with a respectable result away from home.
Cristiano Ronaldo was the man to get it, sealing a brace, which we will get on to later, and full-back Marcelo then followed him in, only the Brazilian’s third of the campaign and his first in the Champions League.
The defending champions, vying for three in a row in this competition, were able to maintain their lead in the closing stages and will now surely be the favourites to book their place in the Quarter-Finals of this year’s tournament.
Rampant Ronaldo Shines on the Big Stage
The highest scorer on the European stage with 11 and world icon Ronaldo was never going to leave his home Stadium last night without his name next to a healthy chunk of the action.
The Portuguese International stamped his mark on the affair with the aforementioned double of strikes either side of half-time to extend his lead of Harry Kane as the UCL’s top-scorer to four.
His first came at a key time to level up the scores, converting calmly from the penalty spot after the Referee had pulled up Giovani Lo Celso for a pulling Toni Kroos to the ground just inside the area, Ronaldo’s 100th UCL strike for Los Blancos.
There was a slight bit of fortune in his second of the evening which put his team into the lead for the first time, Alphonse Areola pushing Marco Asensio’s cross into his path to tap-in with his body, but he’ll take it and Real will take a two-goal lead to France.
PSG Left to Rue Key Moments in Both Boxes
No matter how prolific the home side were in front of goal in the affair, there can be little understating that things could have indeed panned out very differently in the encounter.
Paris’ famed front three of Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and the world’s most expensive star Neymar were all guilty of not having their shooting boots on in either of the two halves.
This was most vividly seen in the second period when they had the better of the play, holding the Madrid box to siege at times and somehow not being able to breakthrough.
However, perhaps their biggest lapses in concentration came in a defensive sense and the clearest example of this was the late first-half penalty incident when Le Celso needlessly hauled down Kroos and gifted away a goal, as a result, one of the competition favourites now look to be heading for the exit early on.
Rabiot Away Goal Gives Frenchmen Hope
If there was one shade of positivity that Emery’s side could take away from Spain’s Capital on Wednesday evening, it was surely the fact that they managed to net.
In the knockout stages of the Champions League, away goals can count for double should the overall tie finish level, meaning that a 2-0 home win would be enough for them to progress in the return leg.
The French club achieved this through an unlikely scorer, defensive midfielder Adrien Rabiot getting forward on the off-chance and slipping under the radar of Zidane’s defence.
A Neymar pull-back from a Cavani delivery fell to him just inside the area and he calmly stepped up to stroke the ball past Keylor Navas, Germain’s belief and encouragement will stem from this silky moment and it may just be enough for them in the end.
So, with the matter of European Football now attended to for these two teams for the next couple of weeks, their attention will turn back to domestic action in their own Countries, let’s find out who they face next.
Sunday evening will see the Vikings return to La Liga action, they sit fourth in the division and a full 17 points adrift of rivals Barcelona at the top, travelling to face off with Real Betis.
Meanwhile, the story couldn’t be more different for the Red and Blues, who are in possession of a 12-point advantage at the summit of Ligue 1, hosting Strasbourg on Saturday afternoon next up.
This will all lead up to the second leg of this tie, which will be held early in the month of March, Tuesday 6 Match 2018 to be more precise at the Parc des Princes in Paris, who will make it into the last eight? Join us again then to find out.