Real Madrid's late double stuns PSG - 5 things we learned as Cristiano Ronaldo's double outweighs Neymar's star turn

Real Madrid 3 PSG 1: The Portuguese scored twice on an otherwise off night

Wednesday 14 February 2018 13:53 GMT
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid beat PSG 3-1
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid beat PSG 3-1 (Getty)

Cristiano Ronaldo jammed a late goal, with Marcelo adding an unlikely third, to hand Real Madrid an untidy and undeserved win over Paris Saint-Germain.

The Portuguese was quiet all night but converted a first-half penalty to level the scores and then a late winner that bounced inadvertently off his knee - having been offside earlier in the same move.

It was a harsh way for things to end for PSG, who had been the better side for much of the game.

And when they went ahead early through Adrien Rabiot in the first half it appeared that the power in European football might have been shifting north. But then, as ever, there was Ronaldo.

But what did we learn?

1. Unai Emery ballsy and brave in team selection

The Spaniard did anything but take the easy way out when selecting his team for the trip to the Bernabeu. Thiago Silva, a veteran of countless high-profile Serie A, Ligue 1, World Cup and Champions League games, was ditched in favour of 22-year-old centre-back Presnel Kimpembe.

Lassana Diarra, a former Real Madrid man himself and obvious defensive option, was overlooked in favour of young Argentine Giovani Lo Celso – a brilliant player, make no mistake, but one whose greatest talents lie in playmaking.

It was bold and it was brave. As ever, these decisions pay their balance at the exit and while Kimpembe made a couple of mistakes that his team never paid the price for, Lo Celso was exposed defensively and gave away the equalising penalty just before half-time. Indeed, with the Argentinean already having acquired a booking there is an argument he should have received his marching orders before the break as well but he was handed a reprieve, PSG weren’t so lucky.

Lo Celso's struggles, in the biggest game of his career, are on his coach though. Emery is clearly lacking a top-class defensive midfielder - hence his signing of Lass in January - but there were alternatives here. He exposed a young player and they were duly punished.

2. Zidane changes shape to try and stem PSG flow

Zinedine Zidane saw his side overcome at times, but escaped with a win (Getty)

Gareth Bale was benched and Isco played in his place to try and give Madrid more control of a game they feared could very quickly lose it. The Malaga native started on the right of midfield, drifting forward to join Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

In reality, it was another set of legs to do the running for Madrid’s forwards. Benzema and Ronaldo were invisible for much of the night. The Portuguese netted a penalty but missed a one-on-one and otherwise laboured.

You mightn’t have realised how ineffective the hosts’ front two were if it hadn’t been for PSG absolutely shredding Zidane’s defence whenever it was their turn to come forward. Zizou’s plan hadn’t worked.

As ever, though, Cristiano Ronaldo was there to bail him out.

3. Two sides that look a step off the elite

PSG were probably the slicker looking side, marginally better than Madrid on the night. But neither team provided a cohesive, convincing display that established them as leading contenders for the overall prize.

Because that is what tonight could have been.

Had PSG come to the Bernabeu and walked all over their hosts there would have been talk of a sea change and PSG billed as genuine candidates for the big-eared trophy.

If Madrid had put the Parisian upstarts back in their place then the vocal, partisan media in the Spanish capital would have loudly wondered how anybody doubted the twelve-time champs.

Instead we got a game where the visitors enjoyed slight ascendancy and in which few questions were convincingly answered.

But if one is ‘would Manchester City be worried by either of these teams?’ then on tonight’s evidence it is a resounding negative.

4. Neymar is undoubtedly the class act

It was a barely believable glut of talent smeared across the teamsheets that Marta and her chums in the Real Madrid media team had printed out and distributed to the packed house of travelling journalists.

But on a night where generationally-great players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Dani Alves and Luka Modric were on the field, it spoke volumes that Neymar was, by far, the most impressive player out there.

Of course, much of the build-up to this game has focused on Real Madrid’s pursuit of Neymar, of their continued delusion that he only moved to Paris to eventually facilitate a return to La Liga with the club from the Bernabeu.

But aside from Florentino Perez’s desperate dreams and, later on Tuesday, Diego Torres’ eyebrow-raising revelations, the real thing to notice with Neymar was his immense quality and how visibly incapable Madrid were of dealing with his threat.

If there is one man you’d bet on sealing this tie in Paris, it is the Brazilian that everyone so covets. But those two late goals have changed the complexion of the tie so much that now it feels he has to, rather than he might do.

5. Madrid really are never out of it

Wow. Barely deserved and never coming, Madrid's late double makes them considerable favourites to progress from this tie.

You would think that people had learned their lesson about writing off this club but time and again in the Champions League they defy the odds. Even when losing. Even when inferior, as tonight.

This club is famed for its remontadas (comebacks) but usually those come after a first-leg defeat. This came inside 90 minutes, in a game where they were second-best and underwhelming. Classic Madrid.

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