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UCL R16 stage – The Los Blancos’ road to Kiev – pt2
- Updated: May 11, 2018
Real Madrid continued their course on the road to Kiev after the final UCL Group game win against Dortmund and now had to wait for a likely big gun in the round of 16 after finishing second in Group H. This meant they would have to come up against one of the group winners from other groups. Then came the 11th of December, 2017, for the 2017/18 UCL round of 16 draws to take place, and the Los Blancos were drawn to face PSG.
The French Champions were a necessary evil that Zidane’s men would have to overcome in their quest for a third consecutive UCL win. They were drawn against the highest scoring scoring side from the group stages of the UCL. A PSG side that paraded the likes of Neymar, Cavani, Kylian Mbappe, Di Maria, amongst others.
Pundits saw a possible whitewash of the Los Blancos as they compared both sides with an eye on Madrid’s poor domestic run, and PSG’s impressive run both domestically and on the European stage. The Ligue 1 giants were uncharacteristically touted as the favorites to progress over two legs. Well, Zidane and his men sure had something cooking, and Unai Emery and his men would have a first hand taste of the footballing menu.
The first leg of the tie was scheduled to be hosted by Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu while the Parc Des Princes would host the second leg. Then came the day, and PSG lined up with the trio of Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani in attack, while Madrid had the duo of Benzema and Ronaldo being assisted by Isco from behind. Fans, critics, and rivals were geared up for an exciting encounter. Both sides showed intent from the kickoff, with PSG getting the opener and the Madrid net bulged courtesy of a goal from the unlikeliest of sources on the night in the 33rd minute, Adrien Rabiot.
One would have fancied one or two from the front trio of PSG’s attack to appear on the scoresheet. Well, it was not the case as Real Madrid were awarded a penalty after a foul, which Ronaldo stepped up to slot past the keeper in the 45th minute to keep his run of scoring in all games of the 2017/18 UCL at the time. Madrid sure knew how to prosecute these supposedly tough ties, against supposed big guns, but fast forward to now on the road to Kiev and you would notice that this tie which was supposed to be a bane to the Los Blancos was one of the easiest they had to prosecute on the road to Kiev.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid weren’t done yet, and would go on to get their only home win in the knock out phases of the 2017/18 UCL with Ronaldo grabbing another to complete his brace in the 83rd minute, and Marcelo crowning the performance up with a third in the 86th minute. Real Madrid emerged unscathed from the first leg, and pundits yet again admitted that a 2 nil win for PSG at the Parc Des Prince to eliminate Madrid from the competition was highly likely. Well, they were going to be disappointed yet again.
PSG suffered a huge blow ahead of the 2nd leg as Neymar was ruled out due to injury. This meant that hey would have to make do with an attack line of Di Maria, Cavani, and Mbappe from the start. Both sides played out a goalless first half, with Neymar’s absence from his side’s attacking line being noticeable. If anyone was going to break the deadlock in the game, the bet would surely be on Ronaldo who opened the scoring to put Madrid in the driving seat in the 51st minute.
The goal put PSG out of sorts, as a rush of blood to the head saw key midfielder Marco Verratti receive his marching orders on the night after a second yellow. They needed 3 goals against Madrid to equal the tie but we’re now down to 10 men. All hope was lost at that point. However, Cavani rose to the occasion to score the equalizer in the 71st minute to put some respect on the aggregate score, but Casemiro would have none of that as he provided the winner for the Los Merengues in the 80th minute to set them on a quarterfinal course on the road to Kiev.
The Los Blancos not only emerged unscathed from the so called waterloo of a tie, but won the two legs with a 5:2 aggregate scoreline. A result that surely put PSG yet again on a thinking course as their credentials in Europe regardless of their spending power have been questioned constantly for failing to live up to the billing when much is expected from them.
Madrid were dominant over the two legs, as they got more possession in each of the two legs, 51% to 49%, and 49% to 51%. They also had more shots on targets over the two legs, 8 to 4, and 4 to 6, respectively in their favor.
This was just the beginning, as Madrid would go on to show in subsequent fixtures that they had gradually become masters in prosecuting knockout games in the competition. The date was subsequently set for a draw that would determine the opponent that would stand in their way and act as a block on the Los Blancos’ road to Kiev.