Paris Saint-Germain showed its strength against the European champions, but it wasn’t enough to stop Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo scored a goal in each half as Real Madrid came from behind to defeat PSG 3-1 in their first-leg match in the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday, taking a commanding lead into the second leg in Paris on March 6.
Milestone for Ronaldo
Ronaldo increased his Champions League tally with Madrid to 101 goals in 95 matches, a record for a player with the same club. He has 11 goals in seven Champions League matches this season, the most of any player.
“It’s always special when you score and the team wins,” Ronaldo said. “It was an important victory. It’s not over yet but we have a good advantage for the second leg.”
Ronaldo has scored in each of the first seven Champions League matches this season, also a record. He has netted at least 10 goals in the tournament for seven straight seasons.
“We always end up saying the same things about him,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said of Ronaldo. “He always makes the difference in important games and that’s what he did tonight.”
On a mission to become a major force in European soccer, PSG played well from the start in an exciting back-and-forth match against the two-time defending champions, but the late goals significantly hurt their chances of finally succeeding in the Champions League.
This was PSG’s first significant test since the Qatari-funded club spent a record 222 million euros to sign Neymar from Barcelona in a bid to break into the continent’s elite.
“Our team played a great game, we showed a lot of personality,” PSG coach Unai Emery said. “We deserved a better result.”
Triumph against PSG could help Madrid turn its fortunes around in what has been an up-and-down season for the Spanish powerhouse. Zidane’s job has been in doubt after a series of poor results in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey.
“This club has 12 Champions League titles and there’s a reason for that,” Zidane said. “The players know how important this competition is. We showed our worth for the whole 90 minutes.”
PSG open scoring
PSG struck first with a goal by Adrien Rabiot, but Ronaldo equalized by converting a penalty kick just before halftime and added to the lead in the 83rd. Marcelo sealed the victory three minutes later.
Madrid, which has won the Champions League in three of the last four seasons, had appeared in control but PSG opened the scoring in the 33rd with Rabiot’s shot from inside the area on a play that involved all three PSG forwards. Kylian Mbappe started it with a run on the right side, then Edinson Cavani smartly let the ball through after Mbappe’s cross into the area and it ended with Rabiot after Neymar’s attempt was deflected by a defender.
Not long before the goal, Ronaldo squandered one of the game’s best chances in a one-on-one situation with Alphonse Areola, his shot hitting the goalkeeper’s face. Ronaldo also missed soon after, sending a close-range shot over the crossbar.
But he was perfect from the penalty spot just before halftime after Toni Kroos was gently pulled inside the area by Giovani Lo Celso, the young midfielder who was a surprise addition to the starting lineup in place of Lassana Diarra.
Areola dived the correct way — to his right — but wasn’t able to stop Ronaldo’s firm shot. Areola had just made a brilliant save on Karim Benzema’s well-placed strike from just outside the area.
It was PSG which was in command in the second half, creating most of the significant chances, but Ronaldo struck again by scoring the go-ahead and slightly chaotic goal with his knee after Areola parried a low cross by substitute Marco Asensio.
It only got better for Madrid when Marcelo scored from inside the area after another cross from Asensio from the left side.
“In the end we always get beaten the same way,” Rabiot said. “It’s annoying and I’m very disappointed. It’s easy to score eight past Dijon and score four or five in the [French] league, but we have to be decisive in games like this.”
The match had to be briefly stopped in the second half after a cross by Neymar hit the face of referee Gianluca Rocchi, who continued after receiving medical assistance.
Liverpool crushes Porto
Liverpool put one foot in the Champions League quarterfinals with a 5-0 away rout of Porto in the first leg of their last-16 match on Wednesday.
Sadio Mane scored a hat trick and Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino provided the other two goals to give the Premier League side a huge advantage ahead of the second leg at Anfield on March 6.
Sadio Mane of Liverpool celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 0-3 during Liverpool’s 5-0 victory over FC Porto on Wednesday. (Robbie Jay Barratt/Getty Images)
“It was hard work, but in the end the boys enjoyed it,” Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp said after the club’s first appearance in the knockout stage of the Champions League for almost nine years.
“I saw a lot of fantastic performances tonight and a result like this is only possible if everyone is really at the top of their game,” Klopp said. “They did it well and that’s the only way to be successful.”
‘We weren’t expecting this’
Liverpool is the top-scoring side in the competition with 28 goals.
“We knew we were facing a great team but we weren’t expecting this,” said Porto defender Alex Telles, whose team was without injured midfielders Danilo Pereira and Andre Andre. Striker Vincent Aboubakar was also out with a muscle problem.
A mistake from Porto goalkeeper Jose Sa allowed Mane’s shot to squirm under his body after a slow start from the visitors, and Salah displayed all his class to make it 2-0 four minutes later inside the first half-hour.
James Milner hit the post but Salah was well-placed to take the rebound, lift it with his left foot and then head it past Sa before slotting into the empty net without letting it touch the ground.
It was the African player of the year’s sixth goal in the competition, and his ninth in eight games across all competitions.
The home side showed promise after the break but was caught on a counterattack when Sa saved Firmino’s effort, only to push the ball toward Mane’s feet. The Senegal striker needed no second invitation for his second goal.
Sa was playing in place of Iker Casillas, dropped earlier this season after falling out of favor with Porto coach Sergio Conceicao, who must have been reconsidering his decision after a shaky performance from the 24-year-old Sa.
At the other end, Virgil van Dijk marshaled Liverpool’s defence on his Champions League debut for the club following his winter switch from Southampton.
Firmino got the goal his performance deserved with a simple finish inside the left post from Milner’s cross with 20 minutes remaining, and Mane took advantage of some lax defending to seal the win with a fine strike from distance late on.
“We needed to play as a team and that’s what we did,” Mane said after his first hat trick for Liverpool. “We played great football, created great chances and scored five goals. I enjoyed the fifth goal the most.”
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