Real Madrid got off to a poor start against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night, but fought back to take a two-goal lead into the second leg of their UEFA Champions League tie. Adrien Rabiot got the Parisians on the board first, but Real Madrid came away 3-1 victors thanks to a brace from Cristiano Ronaldo and a late goal from Marcelo.
PSG had the better of the early play, but Madrid actually had the first of the game’s great chances. On a counter, Marcelo picked out Ronaldo with an incredible diagonal pass, but Alphonse Areola rushed out of his goal and saved the ensuing shot with his face.
Five minutes later, PSG took the lead through Rabiot. Nacho executed a tackle to get the ball away from Neymar in the box, but it only bounced as far as Rabiot, who was in the right place at the right time to apply a finish.
Not Ronaldo, not Neymar, not Benzema, Cavani or Mbappe. It's Adrien Rabiot who opens the scoring between Real Madrid and PSG. https://t.co/GAdEOXAIBU— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 14, 2018
Areola made another terrific save on a hard shot by Karim Benzema in the 43rd minute, but his clean sheet would disappear just a minute later. Off the ensuing set piece, Toni Kroos got around Giovani Lo Celso, who pulled Kroos back by his shoulder. Kroos sold the foul hard to make sure the referee gave a penalty, and Ronaldo converted from the spot to score his 100th Champions League goal in a Real Madrid shirt.
Ronaldo nets his 100th Champions League goal for Real. What a milestone. https://t.co/FwrJRfM3bL— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 14, 2018
Kylian Mbappe forced Keylor Navas into a good reaction save of a low shot in the 49th minute, but PSG seemed to mostly lose their punch after that. An intense first half gave way to a slower second until Real Madrid started making substitutions, swinging the match in their favor. Gareth Bale replaced Benzema first, then Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez went on to replace Isco and Casemiro in the 79th minute. From that point on, Madrid looked dangerous, and turned their improved play into two goals.
Asensio set up Madrid’s second in the 83rd minute, picking the ball up from Luca Modric and squaring across the six-yard box. Areola got a hand to the ball, but tipped it right at Ronaldo, who got his knee up to redirect it over the line.
Right place, right time. Who else, but Cristiano Ronaldo. https://t.co/j5avwseaek— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 14, 2018
Asensio was the provider once again three minutes later, hitting a perfect low cross towards Marcelo, who had made an underlapping run into the box. The left back finished like a striker, padding his team’s lead heading to Paris.
Real Madrid: Navas; Marcelo, Ramos, Varane, Nacho, Casemiro (Vazquez 79’), Modric, Kroos, Isco (Asensio 79’), Ronaldo, Benzema (Bale 68’)
Goals: Ronaldo (pen 45’, 83’), Marcelo (86’)
Paris Saint-Germain: Areola; Berchiche, Kimpembe, Marquinhos, Alves, Rabiot, Verratti, Lo Celso (Draxler 84’), Neymar, Cavani (Meunier 66’), Mbappe
Goals: Rabiot (33’)
3 things we learned from Real Madrid vs. PSG
Marcelo was Madrid’s best player: In a season where Real Madrid has struggled and critics have picked apart every part of their game, Marcelo has largely avoided the vitriol directed at some of his teammates. The Brazilian left back is having one of the best seasons of his career, and he was at his best on Wednesday night. He was by far Madrid’s best creator, with almost all of his team’s promising attacks coming down the left flank. And when he scored in the 86th minute, it couldn’t have been more deserved.
PSG missed Thiago Motta: At 35 years old, Thiago Motta clearly doesn’t have much time left at the highest level, but he’s still a big part of the PSG lineup. With him out injured, Unai Emery turned to attacking midfielder Giovani Lo Celso to play a more defensive position, and it didn’t work. PSG was wide open in midfield for the entire match and was lucky to hold Los Merengues to just one goal up until the 83rd minute.
Zidane made the right subs: Real Madrid was mostly poor for the first 60 minutes, but all of Zinedine Zidane’s substitutions made positive impacts. Taking off Casemiro was a risk, but, replacing him with Lucas Vazquez gave Madrid more width and opened up space across the pitch. Gareth Bale was much more active than Karim Benzema, and Marco Asensio performed the best of all, setting up two goals after he replaced Isco.