Real Madrid pulled off a repeat of their 2-0 first-leg win against Roma to cruise into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 4-0 aggregate victory.
Madrid’s chances of domestic glory have taken a major hit since they won at the Stadio Olimpico on February 17, leaving the Champions League as their best hope of silverware this season.
And, after a first half in which Madrid attempted 18 shots without success, Cristiano Ronaldo – scorer of four goals in a 7-1 victory over Celta Vigo on Saturday – broke the deadlock, before teeing up James Rodriguez for the second.
It could have been a very different outcome had Roma – enjoying a run of seven consecutive Serie A wins – taken their chances at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday, though.
Edin Dzeko and Mohamed Salah blew golden opportunities to reduce the aggregate deficit during the opening period, before the latter was equally wasteful at the beginning of the second.
Ronaldo and James made Luciano Spalletti’s men pay for that profligacy with two goals in four minutes to see Madrid into the last eight for the sixth season in succession.
Gareth Bale returned to the Madrid starting XI having scored from the bench against Celta and was on hand to set up Marcelo, himself involved from the start for the first time following a spell on the sidelines, for an early chance.
The Brazilian full-back could only guide Bale’s left-wing cross wide. Dzeko should have punished that miss after 14 minutes, but failed to find the target from close range.
It was Zinedine Zidane’s men who controlled possession for much of the first half and Wojciech Szczesny had to be alert to get down and keep out Luka Modric’s low drive from 25 yards, which took a deflection on its way through.
Miralem Pjanic called for Roma to produce a “perfect” performance in the build-up to the fixture, but the Italians saw another glorious opportunity go begging as the match approached the half-hour mark – Salah finding the side-netting as goalkeeper Keylor Navas made himself big, although the whistle should arguably have been blown for an earlier foul on Danilo.
Ronaldo drifted in from the left to force another crucial save from Szczesny and the Pole ensured the scores remained level – on the night, at least – at half-time when he dived to his left to deny Casemiro.
A period of frantic activity in the Roma box led to an acrobatic effort from James that was well saved by Szczesny, before Salah left the visitors’ with the feeling that it was not going to be their day.
Having fired just wide from a promising position before the interval, the Egyptian’s second chance suffered the same fate after the ball fell into his path to leave him one on one with Navas.
Madrid continued to pull the trigger from all angles and Szczesny kept out efforts from Ronaldo and Marcelo, while Alessandro Florenzi tested Navas at the other end after knocking the ball beyond Sergio Ramos.
Ronaldo’s 64th-minute goal came after good work by Lucas Vazquez on the right – the substitute sending in a cross that the Portuguese lifted over the on-rushing Szczesny, who took a blow to the face as he came to meet the ball.
And it was game over four minutes later, when Ronaldo brought the ball forward before spreading wide for James to fire between Szczesny’s legs.
Ronaldo should have made it 3-0 moments later, but his uncharacteristic miss mattered little as Madrid sailed into the last eight.
Key Opta Stats:
– Real Madrid have progressed against an Italian opponent in a knockout stage of European competition for the first time since 1987-88; against Diego Maradona’s Napoli.
– Ronaldo scored his 13th Champions League goal of the season; two more than opponents Roma have as a team.
– The Portuguese has scored five goals in his last six Champions League appearances against Roma.
– Keylor Navas has now gone eight consecutive Champions League appearances without conceding, one game away from equaling Jens Lehmann’s record by a goalkeeper (nine in 2005-06).
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