Roma vs Real Madrid match report: Cristiano Ronaldo away day gives Zinedine Zidane winning return

Roma 0 Real Madrid 2

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Cristiano Ronaldo’s first away goal in three months inspired Real Madrid to victory in Italy and give manager Zinedine Zidane a winning return to the Champions League.

Having left a pre-match press conference prematurely the previous night after being irked by questioning, the Portuguese turned heads for the right reasons to put Real within sight of a place in the last eight for the sixth successive season.

Marcelo played Ronaldo in down the left side and the 31-year-old checked inside  on the corner of Roma’s penalty area before lofting an effort over on-loan Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczęsny, with the aid of a deflection off home captain Alessandro Florenzi. 

Jese added a second minutes after replacing James Rodriguez, drilling into the far corner to confirm the victory for Zidane’s visitors and maintain his unbeaten start to life in charge at the Bernabeu.

His last active participation in the Champions League came almost a decade ago, part of a Real ‘Galacticos’ side unable to rescue a last-16 tie against Arsenal at Highbury.

Victory for Barcelona in Gijon earlier in the evening moved the Catalan side further clear in the La Liga title race, emphasising the importance of this competition to Real. Without the injured Gareth Bale, they struggled to trouble Szczęsny before half-time, failing to register a shot on target in the opening period of a Champions League game for the first time in five years.

Marcelo went close with a volleyed effort from a lobbed Ronaldo pass and the midfielder, returning to a ground where he thundered in a header for Manchester United in 2008, went close with a free-kick. 

Roma threatened mainly through former Chelsea man Mohamed Salah and, after the break, Keylor Navas raced from his line to close out Stephan El Shaarawy. Edin Dzeko entered the fray and teed up William Vainqueur to power past Navas’ left-hand upright before also finding the side-netting. Benzema and Rodriguez went close with headers while Roma were denied a penalty when Dani Carvajal brought down Florenzi.

In the night’s other tie, Julian Draxler scored two fine goals to help Wolfsburg to a 3-2 victory at fellow knockout-stage debutants Gent. Max Kruse added a third before late replies from Sven Kums and Kalifa Coulibaly gave the Belgians hope ahead of next month’s second leg.