A brace from record-breaking Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo’s late deflected goal saw Real Madrid come from behind to defeat Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 in a thrilling tie and put one foot inside the Champions League’s quarter-finals.
Here, we examine the major talking points:
RONALDO THE RECORD BREAKER
On the biggest occasion, there is still no one else you’d rather turn to.
More records tumbled for Ronaldo on Wednesday night as he went about keeping Madrid in this tie.
His name will be marked in the annals for eternity as the first player to ever score 100 Champions League goals for one club. He has now also notched 10+ goals in seven-consecutive campaigns – no one else, Lionel Messi-included, has done so in more than two.
Hallmarks of an unmatched consistency at elite level.
The Ronaldo of 2018 is, of course, much changed to the beast we witnessed from 2010-16.
This was clear in the first half when Marcelo’s unfathomable first-half pass put him through. The absence of the extra yard of old ensured he found the face of goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, rather than the back of the net.
Yet, he kept his nerve for the penalty and his instincts put him in the right place late on to knock in the second.
Through force of will and unshakeable belief, he is still the Champions League’s apex predator.
7 - Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 10+ goals in seven consecutive Champions League campaigns, while no other player has done so in more than two. Heaven. pic.twitter.com/402CYUCRq2— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 14, 2018
PSG’S MISSPENT WEALTH
Balance is key to so much in this life.
PSG were given a harsh lesson in this maxim at Santiago Bernabeu.
Unprecedented amounts were committed last summer prising Neymar from Barcelona and – to be paid in the coming months – Kylian Mbappe from Monaco. But attackers the envy of the Europe have left a void in the heart of the side which cannot be filled while stringent Financial Fair Play-requirements are to be met.
Cultured centre midfielders Marco Verratti, Giovani Lo Celso and goalscorer Adrien Rabiot are more than enough to trample over Ligue 1 fodder.
But Wednesday’s grand total of just three interceptions from them speaks volumes.
Defensive midfield isn’t a position which can be successfully thrust upon someone.
This trio simply did not have the nous, physicality or diligence to stop the punishing Madrid rampage at the death. This had the hallmarks of last season’s painful collapse at Barcelona.
How they lacked a figure to match reported targets Danilo Pereira of Porto or Monaco’s Fabinho. Free transfers like Lassana Diarra just will not do.
ZIDANE COMES UP TRUMPS
Even in a career as rich as Zinedine Zidane’s, it is unlikely he has known such pressure.
The most-hyped round-of-16 tie in living memory experienced an interminable build-up.
This is what a 17-point deficit to hatred rivals Barcelona in La Liga and a shameful early exit in the Copa del Rey will do even to a man who has swept up eight major honours since January 2016, plus become the first coach to retain the continental trophy in the Champions League-era.
Zidane needed this. Madrid needed this.
All the disparaging remarks re-appeared about a man cruelly disparaged as “entrenador de palmas” – a coach who does nothing more than clap – when Rabiot took advantage of the usual lack of intensity in centre midfield to slot in the opener.
Zidane could have buckled. Instead, he was inspired.
Fed up of getting nowhere through the middle, wingers Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio were thrown on to provide alleviating width.
PSG’s game plan was shot and two telling goals went in. On such decisions are ties decided and managerial careers salvaged.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace to help Real Madrid recover from an early goal to win 3-1 in their Champions League round of 16 first leg tie against Paris Saint-Germain at the Bernabeu.
Adrien Rabiot opened the scoring for the visitors before Ronaldo equalised from the spot on the stroke of half-time.
The Portuguese then scored his second in the 83rd minute before Marcelo added another three minutes later.
Here, we anaylse Neymar’s performance.
Goals – 0
Assists – 1
Shots – 2
Shots on target – 1
Touches – 86
Passes – 49
Aerials won – 0
Key passes – 3
Dribbles – 13
Dispossessed – 6
Neymar dominated the build up to this encounter and once it got underway, he made sure he remained in the limelight, riding challenges and drawing fouls right from the get go. While his final ball let him down on a couple of occasions, he was the creator in chief for his team.
The Brazilian would’ve been pleasantly surprised by the freedom he enjoyed. Nacho afforded Neymar far too much room, particularly in the first half. With Madrid not playing with traditional wingers, the full-back was outnumbered every time Yuri supported Neymar with an overlapping run.
His back-heeled assist for Rabiot to score was superb, showing great awareness. Once Cavani was taken off in the second half, he enjoyed a more central role along with Mbappe.
He breezed through the heart of Zinedine Zidane’s side on more than one occasion. In fact, he completed a remarkable 13 dribbles on the night. However, he should’ve scored right at the death from close range.
Creativity – There was plenty of skill on show from the Brazilian. He bamboozled Madrid’s defenders and won a lot of fouls. His dribbling made inroads into the hosts’ defence but he also created plenty of chances with his passing in the final third, his back-heel for Rabiot’s goal included.
Involvement – Sometimes players can go missing when so much is expected of them on a big occasion. Neymar seemed to thrive under the spotlight though. He had 86 touches in the game and made three key passes.
End product – While he did create chances and assisted PSG’s goal, he also failed to make the most of a couple of great chances. He failed to play Mbappe in inside the area in the first half and crucially missed a great chance right at the end.
33rd min ASSIST: Mbappe does well on the right and while his cross evades Cavani, Neymar – under pressure from Nacho – is able to back-heel it into the path of Rabiot who finishes with aplomb.
38th min PASS: Neymar drives at the Madrid defence, makes his way into the box and then sets up Cavani. The Uruguayan swivels and shoots but Casemiro gets a vital block in to deflect the ball just wide.
49th min PASS: Lo Celso releases Neymar down the left who plays in Mbappe with space in the box. The Frenchman drills a low shot past Ramos but Navas gets down quickly to make the save.
93rd min CHANCE: Right at the death, Neymar gets on the end of Julian Draxler’s low cross but from close range, is only able to lift it over the crossbar.
Neymar definitely brought his A-game. He was at his mesmerising best at times and maybe a calmer head inside the box would have seen him contribute even more. The Brazilian had the Madrid defenders scrambling though and was a constant threat. He was PSG’s go-to man in attack and will need to be so again if they are to recover in the second leg.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
Here are three things learned from the stunning win.
MANE STEALS THE LIMELIGHT
While there’s been plenty of talk about a Fab Four, and then a Fab Three after Philippe Coutinho left, Salah and Firmino have streaked away from their other partner in crime this season. There have been suggestions that Mane has struggled to adapt to no longer being Liverpool’s standout attacker, being forced into the shadows somewhat thanks to Salah’s incredible season.
A hat-trick in a knockout tie, away from home, should silence those doubts. His eye for goal remains undiminished, and while this was a strong team effort Mane deserved the plaudits for his display. The hat-trick in a 5-0 win has all but secured Liverpool’s passage to the Champions League quarterfinals – match-winning displays don’t come much better than that.
WIJNALDUM SENDS A REMINDER
Liverpool have had a bit of a merry-go-round in terms of their midfield selection this season, with five players vying for three spots. Last season, one of those spots would have been guaranteed to Georginio Wijnaldum, but he hasn’t hit the same heights this season, and has thus often been out of the starting XI.
Given a starting berth today, the Dutchman reminded everyone just how good he can be when he’s on his game. His energy and running in midfield set the tone for Liverpool, and earned the Reds their opener. He never tired, driving Liverpool forward throughout the game, and his control of the ball in possession, not to mention his quick movement and passing, was outstanding.
LIVERPOOL’S DEFENDERS SHOW PROGRESS
The arrival of Virgil Van Dijk has been crucial, no doubt, but this was a night where his colleagues were the ones putting in more eye-catching displays. Young Trent Alexander-Arnold was supposed to be in for a tough night against Yacine Brahimi, but the 19-year-old won that duel hands down, to the extent that Brahimi was hooked with over half an hour to go and Porto chasing the game.
Andy Robertson was equally solid at left-back, while the much-maligned Dejan Lovren, had an excellent outing, reading the game well, stepping up to intercept and stop Porto’s attacks, looking assured in the tackle and composed on the ball. And when needed, Van Dijk was brilliant, with the highlight a superb goal-saving tackle in the second half.