Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid was one game football fans had been waiting for weeks and the second leg of the mammoth UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie at the Parc des Princes didn’t disappoint with Los Blancos edging Les Parisiens 2-1 in a hard-fought contest on Tuesday night.
A 5-2 aggregate win for the 12-time champions in the end, but it wasn’t always plain sailing for Zinedine Zidane’s men, who truly took control of the tie only after Marco Verratti’s red card in the second-half.
At half-time, Real had the better of the chances but the scores were level at 0-0.
Cristiano Ronaldo would, as is his wont, pop up with a crucial goal to seemingly take the tie away from PSG before Verratti got sent off for a second bookable offence.
Edinson Cavani scored a fortuitous goal to give the hosts a glimmer of hope but Real weren’t in a mood to ship any more and Casemiro would ensure the defending champions’ progression with a deflected effort late in the half.
The Statesman has outlined the five major talking points from a dramatic continental tie in the French capital.
Injuries force Zidane’s hand, but Real show depth in squad
Isco, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos were missing from the starting XI due to a variety of niggling injuries, but Real showed they have the depth in their squad to cope.
Gareth Bale didn’t start as well, although his omission was more on form than due to an injury concern.
The ones who replaced the aforementioned players in the starting XI were Mateo Kovacic, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez.
The Spanish duo were magnificent, working hard on the wing and while Kovacic didn’t have an outstanding outing, he did the job of disrupting PSG’s attacks fairly well.
But Asensio shone in what was a midfield role, combining excellently with Vazquez to set up Cristiano Ronaldo for the opener.
And Vazquez’s graft was on display for Casemiro’s opener as well, as Real showed they just had more bite when it came down to it.
Red mist nearly descends on CR7
Yes, Marco Verratti was the one who got himself sent off but should Ronaldo have seen red for his wild swipe at Dani Alves?
The former Barcelona man kept a close tab on the Portuguese winger from the off, with Ronaldo looking for a foul almost every time he took on the fullback.
And in the 16th minute itself, there was a potential flashpoint, with Ronaldo taking aim at Dani Alves, only to miss out, much to the relief of his own side.
For once, his accuracy wasn’t there but the intent clearly was.
Not the first time the CR7 has been guilty of petulance and had he made contact, a sending-off would very much have been on the cards.
PSG’s supporters bring the fire, but disrupt own team’s rhythm?
Nobody can doubt whether the PSG fans had their hearts in the right place, but the fact that referee Felix Brych had to stop the game on several occasions, a game in which Les Parisiens were always trailing, suggests perhaps they went overboard with their support.
The noise was deafening, creating a spine-tingling atmosphere, but the excessive use of flares made it difficult for both sides to play their game.
Eye-watering smoke and high-intensity football (or any other sport, for that matter) don’t exactly mix well, do they?
In the end, it went in the favour of Los Blancos, for the disruptions killed time and perhaps the acrid smoke around the PSG box in the second-half helped Ronaldo power home the killer goal.
Les Parisiens let occasion get better of themselves
The scoreline may have read 2-1 in PSG’s favour, but this was not a vintage Real Madrid performance, far from it, yet they managed to ease through in the end.
Angel Di Maria, starting in place of the injured Neymar, was not just poor, he was awful. The Argentine struggled to beat his marker when in a one-on-one situation and when your winger can’t do that, you’re in trouble.
Marco Verratti was having an outstanding game when he let his heart rule over his mind, getting sent off for dissent. Had he kept his mouth shut, or just not protested so vociferously, the hosts wouldn’t have had to finish the game with 10 men.
Edinson Cavani was another attacker who had a sub-par display, got himself a caution for his lacklustre showing. He tried admirably, to his credit, to win the ball back but a striker has to score goals and be sharp in the final third and while he did score, far more was expected.
Kylian Mbappe, Dani Alves…the list could go on and on.
With so many of their stars not on top of their game, was it really a surprise to see them crash out of the continental competition?
Traditional heavyweights still rule the roost in Europe
For all of PSG’s outlay in the summer, it seems the traditional heavyweights like Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona are still the teams to beat.
Les Parisiens clearly have a lot of shoring up to do in defence and midfield, with even their vaunted forward line failing to click on the night.
Thiago Motta’s legs aren’t there anymore, Kylian Mbappe may yet be the real deal but he’s still far from the finished product.
Edinson Cavani, as mentioned earlier, hasn’t quite cut it on the big stage and Dani Alves is perhaps past his prime.
Manchester City may not have spent as much as PSG in the summer (they did spend a considerable sum though) but even they have looked stronger contenders than Les Parisiens.
For Unai Emery, the writing’s on the wall and come the summer, it would take a brave man to bet on the Spaniard staying on.
They have been outstanding domestically but the UEFA Champions League is what their Qatari owners splurged on their squad for and for the second year in a row, they disappointed against Spanish opposition to exit at a relatively-early stage of the competition.