Sunday, March 18, 2018

PSG 1-2 Real Madrid: Los Blancos cruise through to the quarter finals

Dan Steeden in Editorial, UEFA Champions League 6 Mar 2018

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French giants PSG welcomed Real Madrid to the Parc des Princes for the second leg Champions League tie between these two European heavyweights. The Parisians were looking to overturn a 1-3 aggregate deficit from the first leg, a feat that was definitely achievable, especially given their 4-0 win over Barcelona in the same stadium last season. Los Blancos meanwhile held the advantage, and knew that some smart game management would see them through.

A cagey start to a high-profile affair

Given the two-goal deficit it was little surprise that PSG came out of the blocks quickly in this game, and the home side looked dangerous in the opening exchanges after a number of nervy clearances from the Real Madrid defenders. It was obvious that Unai Emery had instructed his players to push for an early opener to lift the crowd, and they were utterly dominant in the first 10 minutes, pinning Real back into their own half. Angel Di Maria in particularly looked lively as the Parisians swarmed the visitors, but PSG’s tight grip on the game did little to create many practical, clear-cut chances.

As the home side drove forward to find a goal, Real Madrid began to look incredibly dangerous on the break, but it was from a corner that their best chance came. The ball fell at the feet of Sergio Ramos at the near post and the defender drove a low shot towards goal, but Alphonse Areola got down brilliantly to parry the effort away. Ramos’ shot was the first real opportunity of the game, and one that seemed to help the visitors settle into the game, taking back a share of the possession.

A half of few chances for both sides

With Zinedine Zidane’s team growing into the game, it became a cagey affair, with neither side looking able to really get a grip on the match. The defensive lines of both sides held firm in the face of attacking pressure and made it difficult for the forwards of both sides to create much penetration in behind. It quickly became a frustrating evening for the likes of Edinson Cavani, and the Uruguayan in particular cut an isolated figure up top as the majority of PSG’s crosses seemed to sail over his head.

The relatively slow tempo of the game suited Real Madrid, not least because with every minute that passed they got closer to the next round, but also because they could put pressure on the Parisians’ goal without throwing numbers forward and risking being caught on the break. Their surgeon-like approach eventually created a one-on-one chance for Karim Benzema after a defensive mistake, but the striker was denied by a brilliant save from Areola, who single-handedly kept his side in the tie. Despite a late surge of attacking pressure from PSG there was still no breakthrough and the sides headed into the break level, with Madrid well and truly in control of the tie.

Ronaldo grabs yet another Champions League goal

The second half began in a similar fashion to the first, with PSG racing out of the blocks in pursuit of a valuable goal. Thiago Motta had a great chance to get that goal just minutes after the break with an effort from the edge of the box, but the veteran midfielder skied his shot wildly over the bar.

The squandered opportunity soon proved costly as Real Madrid almost immediately went up the other end of the pitch and grabbed themselves a potentially tie-deciding away goal. Some great work on the left flank by Marco Asensio slipped Lucas Vazquez in down the wing, and the youngster found Cristiano Ronaldo with his cross. The legendary forward buried his subsequent header into the bottom corner, stunning the Parc des Princes into silence.

To their credit PSG responded excellently to the setback and Cavani almost levelled the scoring immediately with a close range effort, but this time it was Keylor Navas’ turn to pull off an impressive save, denying the striker a certain goal. With the home side’s increased attacking impetus again came a counter attacking threat from Real Madrid, and the pace of Vazquez and Ronaldo soon became a constant thorn in the side of Unai Emery’s team.

Verratti sees red as PSG fail to mount a comeback

It was actually a moment of stupidity that eventually looked to have put the tie completely out of sight of PSG however as Marco Verratti was shown a second yellow for dissent, reducing the home side to 10 men for the final 20 minutes. Despite the deficit in terms of score line and personnel however, the home side managed to grab a goal back just moments after the red card. It was a scrappy goal that eventually came off Cavani’s thigh after a series of pinball-esque ricochets, but it was one that handed PSG a faint flicker of hope, as well as turning the end of the game into an end-to-end affair.

As the home side once again began to throw numbers forward it was Real who benefitted, catching PSG on the break on multiple occasions and eventually grabbing the goal that put the final nail in the Parisians’ coffin. Ronaldo broke down the right flank, driving towards goal before finding Vazquez out wide. The Spaniard’s square pass was deflected into the path of Casemiro, whose shot struck Marquinhos and looped over the stranded Areola and into the net. The second goal allowed Los Blancos to have some fun in the final minutes, taking on some speculative shots and pulling out skill moves to toy with PSG. In the end 1-2 was what Real settled for as they cruised through to the quarter finals. 

Final Thoughts 

You would have been forgiven for expecting a lot more from a PSG side that headed into the home tie with a two-goal deficit, but in truth Unai Emery’s side never really looked like winning this match. Their attacking moves lacked much threat and they were soundly beaten by a superior Real Madrid side.

It never looked in doubt that Real Madrid would run out as winners of this tie, and Ronaldo was unsurprisingly on the score sheet once again. Los Blancos are masters of the Champions League and they showed it here, managing the game with intelligence and class. They will head into the next round as strong candidates to win yet another European title.

Match Report 

PSG: Areola, Alves, T. Silva, Marquinhos, Berchiche, Verratti, Motta (Pastore, 59’), Rabiot, Di Maria (Draxler, 76’), Cavani, Mbappe (Diarra, 85’)

Real Madrid: Navas, Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo, Vazquez, Casemiro, Kovacic (Kroos, 71’), Asensio (Isco, 82’), Benzema (Bale, 76’), Ronaldo

Goals: Ronaldo (0-1, 51’), Cavani (1-1, 71’), Casemiro (1-2, 80’)

Referee: Felix Brych 

Yellow Cards: Verratti (20’, 66’), Kovacic (32’), Ramos (78’), Cavani (84’) 

Red Cards: Verratti (66’) 

Player Ratings

PSG: Areola 7.5, Alves 6.5, T. Silva 7, Marquinhos 6, Berchiche 6, Verratti 5, Motta 6 (Pastore), Rabiot 6, Di Maria 6 (Draxler n/a), Cavani 7, Mbappe 6 (Diarra n/a)

Real Madrid: Navas 7, Carvajal 7, Varane 7, Ramos 7.5, Marcelo 7.5, Vazquez 7.5, Casemiro 8, Kovacic 6 (Kroos n/a), Asensio 8 (Isco n/a), Benzema 5.5 (Bale n/a), Ronaldo 8


Dan Steeden

Dan is a recent graduate of the University of Birmingham and an often frustrated Wigan Athletic fan. When not despairing at events unfolding at the DW Stadium he can be found fangirling over Antoine Griezmann or staying up into the early hours of the morning to cheer on the Seattle Seahawks.



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