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Champions League

Ronaldo Shines Through PSG Flare Smoke As Real Race Into Quarter-Finals

Let’s take a look at some of the main causes of discussion from yesterday evening’s UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg clash between Unai Emery’s Paris Saint-Germain and Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes, as the visitors eased into the quarter-finals.

Ronaldo Continues Remarkable UCL Scoring Record

Portugal International Cristiano Ronaldo was on target once again for Zidane’s men in Paris last night and the goal was a landmark one too for many different reasons in the flare smoke from the home supporters.

With the score evenly posed at 0-0 early in the second period, Marco Asensio disposed Dani Alves and broke down the left side for Real, shifting the ball to Lucas Vazquez.

His inch-perfect delivery picked out Ronaldo at the far post, who rose above every defender to nod a powerful header down into the back of the net and past Alphonse Areola between the sticks.

The strike proved a real blow to the hosts, effectively putting the tie to bed but also saw the winger equal a record for scoring in consecutive Champions League matches, he has now netted in nine, the same number as Ruud van Nistelrooy for Manchester United in 2002.

In that time, which goes back to last year’s final in Wales, he has notched 14, 13 in this year’s competition, leading the way by some distance in that chart, his goal-scoring capabilities may just prove the key for the Spaniards in their victory quest this year.

Big-Game Specialist Casemiro Seals The Deal For Real After Cavani Consolation

Much like he did in last season’s UCL final against Juventus and UEFA Super Cup final against the Red Devils, Brazilian midfielder Casemiro delivered on the big stage once again for his team this time around.

His goal on Tuesday evening, which came about with just ten minutes remaining, put Real 1-2 ahead on the night and 2-5 ahead on aggregate, ending any chances the home side might have had to come back from the deficit.

It was the Brazil man’s first in this competition this term and came from yet another counter-attack for the away side, Ronaldo picking up and driving forward to slip Vazquez in, whose effort was scrambled away by first leg goal-scorer Adrien Rabiot.

The ball could only fall to Casemiro, his shrike taking a wicked deflection off Marquinhos and wrongfooting Areola, giving him next to no chance of keeping the ball out.

Before that, Edinson Cavani had given PSG a faint lifeline in bizarre circumstances, being in the right place at the right time as a Casemiro clearance hit his side and flew into the back of the net, it couldn’t kickstart a miraculous comeback, however.

Verratti Red Sums Up Possible Emery Farewell For PSG

If there was one moment on the evening that summarised the way that the whole tie and specifically second leg had panned out for the French side, it was the dismissal of Italian Marco Verratti.

Having already been on a booking from the first-half, the Italy International believed he was fouled on the edge of the box and earned himself a well-positioned free-kick.

But, when referee Felix Brych waved play on he reacted angrily and shouted in the face of the German, this resulted in a red card that he had rather foolishly bright on himself and left his team with an even steeper hill to climb.

This self-destructing nature of the loss will leave Emery, who is rumoured to be losing his job if Paris don’t win the UCL which is now impossible for them to achieve, very disappointed as he knows things could have been very different in this affair.

In the first leg at the Bernabeu, PSG allowed Real a late flurry of goals, having more than held their own throughout, missing plenty of chances at the other end, much like the second. It will be back to the drawing board for them next year.

Defending Champions Sail Into Last Eight

On the flip side, with a convincing three-goal win on aggregate when many wrote them off when the draw was made, Zidane’s men have taken another step towards successfully defending the UCL for the second tournament on the spin.

Finishing second in their group and getting the tougher draw hasn’t fazed them and despite very poor league form indeed, they are now emerging as favourites to claim a third successive tournament.

While his opposite number in the round of 16 Emery’s position may now be under threat due to his team’s fortunes in the competition, club legend Zidane’s situation may turn out to be quite the opposite.

If Madrid do manage to win three on the spin, it may be enough for the Frenchman to keep his job and with the pedigree that they have to offer in their ranks, who would write them off?

The draw for the quarter-finals will take place on 16 March and the only other known qualifier to that stage is Liverpool at the moment, though a draw against bitter rivals Barcelona is possible.

What Next?

So, now that the matter of European football has been attended to for Saint-Germain for another year and another few weeks at least for Los Blancos, both of these teams’ attention will now switch back to domestic league action, it’s now time to take a look at who they will be facing next.

There will be little rest for the French champions before they host Metz at the Parc des Princes on Saturday afternoon, looking to extend their impressive 14-point lead at the very summit of Ligue 1.

Whereas, Madrid aren’t faring so well in their native La Liga, occupying third place and a full 25 points adrift of leaders Barca, they travel to face Eibar also on Saturday, lunchtime.

Meanwhile, once they have found out who they will be facing in the quarter-finals mid-way through the month of March, Real will have just under three weeks to wait until they will be in last eight action, with the first-legs being played in early April.

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