Madrid: A Cristiano Ronaldo brace and a stinging strike by Marcelo was enough to see Real Madrid sink Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League clash on Wednesday night.
Zinedine Zidane’s men displayed their intent early on, starting the game with a lot of urgency and putting pressure as PSG started to play out from the back. That saw tackles flying in from both corners as both teams tried to win the ball and push the opposition on the back foot.
But it was the Ligue 1 outfit that broke the deadlock. Adrien Rabiot stunned the Bernabeu faithful to open the scoring but Ronaldo’s kick from the spot just before the nick of half-time cancelled out the Frenchman’s strike.
Opportunities continued to fling in the path of both teams, but substitute Marco Asensio changed the tale of the game later in the second half to hand his side the advantage.
The Spaniard drilled a low cross into the path of Ronaldo, who inadvertently tucked in the second goal for the defending champions. Minutes later, Asensio teed up Marcelo inside the box to help the hosts put the game to bed.
Here are five major talking points from the enthralling contest that unfolded between two of Europe’s biggest giants -
1) Cristiano Ronaldo shows Neymar who is the boss
The Real Madrid talisman displayed his big match pedigree with a delightful double, to prove that he is still one of the best in the business. After Giovani Lo Celso brought down Toni Kross inside the 18-yard-box, the Portuguese struck hard from the penalty spot to bring up his 100th Champions League goal for the club.
Despite proving wasteful early on, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner made amends by tucking the ball unwittingly to lift his side’s hopes.
Neymar, who is being potentially eyed as Ronaldo’s successor at the Santiago Bernabeu, will hope to take a few lessons from his rival as Unai Emery’s side eye revenge in the second leg.
7 - Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 10+ goals in seven consecutive Champions League campaigns, while no other player has done so in more than two. Heaven. pic.twitter.com/402CYUCRq2— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 14, 2018
2) Brazilian full-backs inject attacking threat
The match saw Brazil compatriots Dani Alves and Marcelo clash on a couple of occasions. However, despite their defensive duties, they offered much more going forward to their respective teams.
Marcelo burst with energy and speed down the left flank early on with Benzema playing in the number 9 role and Ronaldo playing on the right. Dani Alves, meanwhile, lovely interlinked with Marco Verrati and whipped in crosses for Edinson Cavani and Neymar to meet in the box.
Later on with Thomas Munier coming on for the Uruguayan, the former Juve man played on the right wing, giving him the option of both getting in the box or spreading wide and finding bodies. But it was Marcelo who came out on top in the night, getting a much deserved goal to seal the deal for the Los Blancos.
Marcelo vs. PSG— EiF Video (@EiF_Highlights) February 14, 2018
The best left back in the world and arguably of all time delivered yet again. Masterful.pic.twitter.com/0uFPh73mFO
3) Madrid, PSG's defensive frailties exposed
Both teams knew they couldn't play their full strength XI, given the nature of injuries and suspension. However, they very well prepared to tackle that weak spot and take the advantage.
Lo Celso, who had established himself as a starter for Emery’s side in recent times due to the absence of the injured Thiago Motta, was hounded right from the whistle.
The men in white went after him as he tried to screen the defence. With lines blocked in between, the PSG midfield could not provide much assistance and were made to extend play on the flanks.
Though his first booking was a harsh decision, the Spaniard lost possession in dangerous areas and was dispossessed easily whenever Real pressed hard.
Nacho, making way for the suspended Dani Carvajal also endured a similar fate on the night. With the Spaniard being deployed in an unnatural position, Neymar played cat and mouse with the defender.
The Brazilian baffled his marker, pulling out his position or cutting inside to disrupt Madrid's defensive shape.
Whenever Nacho got his opportunities going forward, he was thwarted by Yuri Berchiche on the left.
4) Zinedine Zidane gets his tactics spot on
Zinedine Zidane cut a frustrated figure on the touchlines and was the frustration was clearly taking a toll on the French manager before the first-half break. Madrid were made to run, toil and rework their way to breach the PSG backline.
However, after failed constant attempts, the Frenchman threw caution to the wind during the second half to get whatever he could from the game. With fresh legs in the form of Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez coming on, Madrid looked more lethal and sharp whenever they broke on the counter-attack.
The visitors, happy to sit back and escape with a draw, were pushed on the back foot and were made to pay the price. Zidane's tactical tweaks soon bore fruit as they found they way past Marquinhos and co well before the final whistle.
Real Madrid 3-1 PSG FT:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 14, 2018
Pass accuracy: 89%-87%
Chances created: 12-6
Two late Real Madrid goals sees them beat PSG in the first leg of their Champions League tie. pic.twitter.com/cIBbafp4PU
5) Second leg may be anybody’s share of cake
PSG will take heart going into the second leg at the Parc des Princes having escaped the Bernabeu with a crucial away goal. From the early position they were in, the Qatar club seemed liked they would grow into the game, but fortunes took a turn for the worse.
With the way Zidane’s men bounced back to take a slender two-goal lead will make PSG reconvene their plans if they are to come out on top at home and avoid another embarrassing exit.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 14, 2018