Cristiano Ronaldo’s deflected goal helped silence his critics, and Jese Rodriguez added a late tally to lift Real Madrid past AS Roma in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday in Rome.
The second leg comes March 8 at the Bernabeu in Spain. Real was fortunate to avoid conceding a late penalty. The match was frenetic, fun, but ultimately a bummer for the fortunes of leg No. 2.
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Stadio Olimpico was electric from the start, and Roma frustrated the favorites by playing extremely well-disciplined in banks of four or five.
Yet Real tracked back with fury, and closed down some promising Roma breaks with great tackles. Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane specifically shown in the opening 45 minutes.
And Cristiano Ronaldo was booed almost every time he touched the ball. One of those touches was a cheeky looped pass that Marcelo nearly bent inside of the frame from a wild angle.
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12 – @realmadrid have kept 12 clean sheets in their last 16 Champions League games. Fortress.
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) February 17, 2016
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Stephan El Shaarawy showed some danger after Varane cut him off in the first half, followed by a sliding Keylor Navas save in the second. Mohamed Salah was also particularly dangerous for i Lupi.
That’s when Ronaldo struck, racing by Alessandro Florenzi to reach a long ball. The Portuguese star cut back to lose Florenzi before ripping a deflected shot around Wojciech Szczesny. Was he offside?
James Rodriguez took an absolute beating at the hands of the Roma defense, needing stitches to his head after a high-cleated follow through and treatment on his shoulder after a rough Kostas Manolas tackle.
Roma had its second-half chances as well, as Salah stayed dangerous and William Vainqueur belted a 20-yard shot just beyond the far post. Edin Dzeko‘s 79th minute chance wasn’t ideal thanks to Varane, and the shot went off the outside of the net.
Ronaldo nearly put the tie away when his in-tight header beat Szczesny but bounced just wide of the goal.
Salah should’ve equalized, but a terrible first touch allowed Navas to rescue a prime Roma chance in the 83rd minute.
Super sub Jese salted the tie away when he pushed a low shot past Lucas Digne’s legs and by a diving Szczesny.