Real Madrid had failed to win in their last visits to Italy with their last victory coming against Roma in 2004. Madrid finally put an end to this streak as they defeated the Romans 2-0. Zinedine Zidane made his managerial debut in the Champions League last night as his side put on an impressive display against a well drilled Roma.
Madrid’s class was evident from early on. They controlled the midfield and possession with Luca Modric and Toni Kroos pulling the strings. Despite this possession they failed to make a breakthrough in the first half mainly down to a rigid Roma defence.Marcelo combined well with Cristiano Ronaldo on the left hand side of the box which resulted in the Brazilian launching a spiraling volley just wide of the upright. Antonio Rüdiger and Kostas Manolas cleared their lines of danger and helped Roma launch several counter attacks. It was evident what Luciano Spalletti’s game plan was- use the pace of wingers Mohamed Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy to catch an over committed Real defence off guard. Salah was the focal point of most of Roma’s first half attacks the most notable beating Marcelo on the right wing before supplying the waiting El Shaarawy at the near post who saw his shot saved by Keylor Navas. El Shaarawy could have opened the scoring when he took down a long ball with a fine first touch knocking it into open space. As the Italian raced towards goal Raphael Varane produced a heroic tackle to clear the danger. Level at half time things were looking positive for the hosts.
The second half saw Roma start the stronger but Madrid soon began to up the ante. The breakthrough came on the 56th minute. Marcelo spotted Ronaldo who was charging forward followed by Roma’s captain Florenzi. Easily beating the young Italian for pace Ronaldo produced a fine chop creating space which allowed him to send the ball flying towards the top right hand corner of Wojciech Szczesny’s goal. A fantastic goal from Ronaldo who had failed to score an away goal since the 29th of November. Roma can take a tiny consolation in the fact Madrid’s opener was aided by a sizable deflection off the shin of Florenzi. However Roma were not out of the game. The Italian side showed great spirit as they searched for an equalizer. Edin Dzeko was brought on to add height to the Roma attack in place of El Shaarawy. Salah had a wonderful opportunity to level the sides when Radja Nainggolan found the Egyptian free on the right of Madrid’s box. The shot produced was easily saved by Navas and could been a turning point in the game if he had scored. Roma put Madrid under pressure and tested Navas and his defence utilizing Salah’s pace and Dzeko’s strength but they could not find the back of the net.
Real very nearly made it two nil when Ronaldo’s 72nd minute header beat the Roma defence and goalkeeper before rolling past the post and out of play. Dzeko missed another glorious opportunity with 80 minutes played when his quick turn and shot could only find the side netting.Real’s second goal eventually came when substitute Jese took off on a run from inside his on half making his way into Roma’s box before firing a low shot into the far corner giving Madrid a crucial second away goal.
Madrid are now in a brilliant position heading into the second leg on March the 8th with Roma needing three unanswered goals in the Bernabeu to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.The Roma players might feel hard done by as their appeals for a penalty moments before Jese’s goal were turned down by the referee. Ultimately, Real Madrid’s class overcame a tough battle against Roma’s gladiators.