Paris Saint-Germain 1-2 Real Madrid (Agg 2-5): Cristiano Ronaldo and Casemiro punish ten-man PSG as holders win battle of the big-spenders
Paris Saint Germain’s Champions League aspirations went up in smoke for another season as Cristiano Ronaldo sent Real Madrid into the quarter-finals at their expense.
There had been firecrackers outside Madrid’s hotel the night before the game and the action had to be stopped momentarily because of flares behind the goal during the match. The only place PSG lacked fireworks was on the pitch.
Predictably it was Ronaldo rising out of a smoke-filled goalmouth five minutes into the second half to head in Lucas Vazquez’ cross for the decisive opener.
He had flirted with a move to the Parc des Princes in the summer and here he was dominating in Paris, but still wearing the white shirt of Madrid.
Edinson Cavani knocked in an equalizer with his knee but Marco Verratti had already been sent off and the game was long gone before Casemiro got a second and made it 5-2 on aggregate.
Real Madrid Tactics
Zinedine Zidane’s big call before the game was to leave Gareth Bale on the bench again, as he did in the first leg.
‘I have no doubts that Bale would have liked to have played more but there are lot of games to go and everyone is playing their part,’ he said afterwards.
‘He will play. He’s an important player for us but [his replacement] Lucas Vazquez is playing very well and so is Marco Asensio.’
The decision worked for him with those two combining for the opening goal but three minutes before half time PSG should have taken the lead.
Kylian Mbappe went past Marcelo and should have squared for Edinson Cavani who was waiting in the six-yard box to be served the ball for a tap-in. Instead he ignored Cavani and his shot was saved by Navas.
PSG paid for their miss in the second half. Asensio played a pass through Dani Alves’ legs to Vazquez who crossed to the back post. As soon as Ronaldo rose to meet the ball it was only going to end in one place.
He headed it down and past Areola who was not helped by the fog of flares in his own area.
UEFA will be asking PSG why so many flares made their way into the ground. PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi will be asking another question: who is going to replace Unai Emery at the end of the season?+26
‘Real Madrid were better than us tonight,’ said Emery who looked more lost than ever on 65 minutes when Verratti was sent off for shouting into referee Felix Brych’s face and picking up a second booking.
It was going to be more difficult than ever now. Asensio soon hit the outside of the post from Marcelo’s cross.
Cavani scored but it was a strike as disjointed as most of PSG’s pursuit of an unlikely comeback. Ramos’ clearance hit the Uruguayan’s knee and trickled past Keylor Navas.
Madrid responded with Casemiro shooting through a crowded box after Rabiot’s clearance went straight to him. The ball clipped Marquinhos and beat Areola to make it 2-1 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate.
What will Neymar have made of this? Mbappe was taken off before full time and so without both their big summer acquisitions PSG were out – once again left watching the latter stages of the Champions League from home.