Title defenders Real Madrid made a huge statement on Wednesday night after a comeback win against Paris-Saint Germain in the first leg of the Champions League round-of-16. Madrid’s talisman Cristiano Ronaldo netted a brace that included his landmark 100th Champions League goal for a single club.
The hosts, fresh from a 5-2 battering of Real Sociedad, unleashed their Champions League mode early in the game as they dominated possession and didn’t shy away from taking the shots. However, their attacking play caught their defence napping as Adrien Rabiot slotted home the all important away goal from close range. Kylian Mbappe’s cross wasn’t handled well as slick Neymar backheel in box meant Rabiot had a free shot from close range.
Cristiano converted from 12 yards to level the score just on the stroke of half-time. The penalty was Cristiano’s 100th Champions League goal in the Madrid shirt. That equaliser also made the Portuguese the first man to score in seven consecutive Champions League matches. He had scored in all the six Group Stage matches.
As for the visitors, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani missed glorious opportunities to put them in front, while Karim Benzema’s worst run of form continued. Both strikers, Cavani and Benzema were taken off early in the second half though. Although he didn’t score, Neymar was tormenting the Madrid defence with his blistering runs in the final third.
Leaving Gareth Bale on the bench and starting Isco was a big call taken by Zidane, but the introduction of Marco Asensio was a masterstroke. His entrance proved to be decisive and pave the way for a Real triumph. The 20-year-old made an instant impact on the wing, bagging two assists within just seven minutes of his introduction. Asensio assisted Cristiano Ronaldo for his second, with a low driving cross in the box and then set up Marcelo for Real’s third and seal the game.
Zidane was pleased with his team’s performance but was wary of the second leg in two weeks’ time. “This club has 12 Champions Leagues and there is a reason for that,” Zidane said. “We can be very happy with what we did against a very good team tonight.”
While Unai Emery lamented the referee’s decisions against PSG. “It was a repeat,” Emery said, when the 6-1 defeat at Barcelona last season was brought up. He was not talking about the result or the collapse but refereeing which he said “damaged” PSG, his focus drawn to the penalty Madrid were given.