UEFA Champions League
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu
First-half substitute Nacho scored the only goal of the game for Real Madrid as they defeated French champions PSG to book their place into the UEFA Champions League last 16. He came on after Marcelo struggled with an injury as Angel Di Maria came back to the Bernabeu for the first time as a non-Madridista.
After brief spells on the ball from the hosts, it was the visitors who looked more like the home-side. Madrid had played some nice intricate football in the the opposition half, but couldn’t fashion an opening in the early stages, much to the credit of the Parisian’s disciplined defense, who weren’t shy to have a go themselves. The first proper attempt for the away side came through Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but his effort flew high over the bar. With Marco Verratti struggling with an injury, he was replaced by Adrien Rabiot on 16 minutes.
Four minutes later, they had an even better chance, Serge Aurier’s cut-back was miscued by Blaise Matuidi and his effort was straight down Keylor Navas’ throat. Minutes later, PSG were dominating, Real Madrid’s sloppy and lazy defending enabled Ibrahimovic time on the ball to curl a shot that just narrowly missed the target. Twenty-five minutes into the game and Cristiano Ronaldo was yet to have a proper sniff on Kevin Trapp’s goal, but he had a chance from a freekick close to 30-yards out. His deflected effort was gathered at the second attempt by the German stopper. The French side then had a freekick of their own from similar range. Ibrahimovic was over it and his effort came agonisingly wide again.
Minutes later, Marcelo had to be taken off as a result of an injury and Nacho came on, in his place. The substitute made an immediate impact, two minutes of his introduction, the wing-back latched onto the loose ball after Toni Kroos’ effort was blocked, and with Trapp out-of-position, his cross-come-shot found its way into the back of the net to give Los Blancos the lead, some-what against the run of the play. After the goal, the visitors made an immediate response and were inches away, their own substitute, Rabiot, volleying against the post. He came close again, moments later, this time his drive flashed wide of the target. Then Maxwell played in a brilliant delivery, but neither Edison Cavani or Ibrahimovic could make contact and Madrid survived.
With the number of injuries and substitutions, it came as no surprise that there would be four minutes of additional time and Madrid almost took full advantage. Isco came close, his deflected shot made Trapp work at his near-post, which the in-space Ronaldo was furious with. From the resulting corner, PSG broke and should have drawn level; an eye-of-the-needle pass from former Madridista, Angel Di Maria found Cavani, but the once prolific striker, couldn’t capitalise: his poor miscued shot was cleared off-the-line by Raphael Varane. That was the last action of the first-half as referee Mark Clattenburg blew his whistle to bring the first half to an end.
Neither side made a change at the break and the second period began with the same pace as how the first one ended. Real Madrid started the better of the two this time. A deflected drive from Isco was well-tipped behind by Trapp, as Madrid looked to extend the lead. There wasn’t much action of real note in the second half as both sides cancelled each other out. The closest either side came to scoring was when substitute Lucas Vasquez crossed for Isco and his effort was saved by the legs of Trapp. Then Di Maria had a chance of getting an equaliser, his corner coming back off the post. At the other end, Luka Modric’s dummy allowed Kroos space and his shot tested Trapp at his near post, pulling off a fine save to keep the Parisians in the game.
Three minutes from normal time, substitute Lucas Moura was brought down cynically by Casemiro to concede a freekick just outside the box and it was Di Maria to take. Could the former Los Blancos man draw his team level? His freekick came inches away, clipping the top of the woodwork as Navas stood rooted to the spot.The woodwork coming to Madrid’s rescue for the third time in the match. That was the last action of the game as Real Madrid held on to extend their unbeaten run in the season.
The victory for Madrid meant that they guaranteed qualification with two games to spare, as Shakhtar Donetsk beat Malmo by four goals to nil. The 10-time champions remain in first place with ten points. The defeat for PSG meant that they remain in second with seven points. Shakhtar Donetsk’s victory against Malmo meant that they leapfrogged their opponents on goal difference, whilst Malmo dropped to fourth, still on three points.