It took over an hour and a lot more work than they expected, but Real Madrid finally found a breakthrough and put away a very wasteful AS Roma attack with a 2-0 win. Those goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and James Rodríguez saw Madrid win their Champions League tie with a 4-0 aggregate score, casting the Italians out and stamping the Merengues' place in the quarterfinal round.
Roma actually seemed to catch Real Madrid off guard in the early goings of the match, using their speed to press high up the pitch and cause Madrid problems. That forced Madrid to drop deeper and hamstring their attack a bit, but Roma were unable to capitalize on the opportunities that afforded them, missing two easy goals through poor finishes from Edin Dzeko and Mohamed Salah.
Once Madrid was able to weather the storm and get comfortable, they started pelting the Italians' goal, forcing Wojciech Szczesny into action numerous times after the half-hour mark. The Polish international stood firm, though, and his steadfast performance in goal kept the scoreline in the match level and gave Roma a chance to come back in the tie -- though their finishing woes continued into the second half as Salah missed two more sitters on either side of the halftime whistle.
Madrid kept peppering Roma's goal in the second half, but they struggled to get scoring chances with real quality and threat to them. That is until Ronaldo had his say just after the hour mark, when he whipped in a header off a Lucas Vázquez cross that left Roma stunned and looking at a 3-0 aggregate deficit that seemed pretty insurmountable.
That goal apparently broke Roma's resolve, because all of a sudden Madrid were getting much more space going forward and had a ridiculously easy time creating a goal for James four minutes later to put the tie well and truly out of reach. They would have had a third only moments later, but Ronaldo scuffed his finish and sent a sitter wide.
Not even the magic of Francesco Totti could save Roma, though he did enter the match off the bench to a standing ovation from the Santiago Bernabéu crowd. They were honoring what will almost certainly be his final Champions League appearance, and he certainly stepped up to try to salvage something from the match for the team he's played for his entire career. Alas, Totti's efforts came to naught, and Real Madrid saw out the rest of the match with relative ease despite the Italian's attempts to get Roma back into the match.
The result sees Real Madrid advance to the Champions League quarterfinal with ease, while Roma are left heading back for the drawing board. Advancing against Madrid was always going to be a tough task, but Luciano Spalletti and company have to think they could have done better after their first-half performance. To get zero goals out of their various chances they created in the first hour has to be incredibly disappointing, and we'll likely be seeing Roma go through a number of changes and adjustments in the coming weeks to try to erase the problems that plagued them in Spain.
Real Madrid: Keylor Navas; Danilo, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Casemiro (Mateo Kovacic 83'), Luka Modric (Jesé 86'), Toni Kroos; James Rodríguez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale (Lucas Vázquez 61')
Goals: Ronaldo (63'), James (67')
AS Roma: Wojciech Szczesny; Alessandro Florenzi, Kostas Manolas, Ervin Zukanovic, Lucas Digne; Mohamed Salah (Maicon 86'), Miralem Pjanic (William Vainqueur 46'), Seydou Keita, Diego Perotti; Stephan El Shaarawy (Francesco Totti 74'), Edin Dzeko
Three things we learned
1. Roma really need to practice their finishing
Edin Dzeko missed a sitter early in the first half, and Mohamed Salah whiffed on a pair of chances begging for a Roma goal before the halftime whistle as well, then another early in the second half. Neither player has ever exactly been known for their top-shelf finishing, but them missing out on all four of those chances was an almost shocking display, especially with how badly Roma needed a first-half goal to put pressure on Madrid. Simply put, their wastefulness in front of goal cost them any chance of winning this tie, because with how poor Madrid's defense was, it was there for the taking.
2. Real Madrid look awfully vulnerable to pace
With Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy racing down the wings, Real Madrid were knocked off-kilter far more times than you probably would have thought coming into it. Part of that is the aggression with which their fullbacks play -- Marcelo and Danilo probably spend more time in their opponents' half than in their own -- but not many teams really seem to try to test them on that front. They managed to not give up any goals because of that shakiness, but that was much more down to Roma failing to finish the job than anything Madrid did to stop them.
3. Roma fell apart in a hurry
As soon as Real Madrid scored their first goal, Roma looked like they'd had the air sucked out of them. All the fight and hustle that they'd displayed in the first hour of the match disappeared as fast as it takes to snap your fingers, and Madrid took full advantage of it to score their second and nearly a third. Even once Roma got back on their feet a bit, it was clear that they didn't have the same fire as earlier in the match, and that any hope of a comeback was gone regardless of the scoreline. All those missed sitters really hurt them then -- if they had scored even just two of their four best chances, Madrid would only have had a one-goal lead when Ronaldo scored and a third for Roma would have given them the away goals tie breaker. The tie would have been wide open. Instead, it was over, and Roma faltering even further only deepened the hole they'd put themselves in.