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Immediate Reaction: PSG 1 - 2 Real Madrid

Zidane’s men get it done with a professional performance. Onward to the quarter finals!

Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Real Madrid beat PSG at Parc des Princes 1 - 2 (Ronaldo, Casemiro; Cavani) and advance to the quarter finals of the Champions League. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.

Cristiano Ronaldo continues to blow our brains. He’s one of the players in the team that somehow, as great as he is, doesn’t get talked about enough in our post-game coverage — Partly because you can only say so much about how great he is. He pops up when it matters constantly, and on nights like this, his balls hang out of his shorts — almost touching the grass beneath his feet. He popped again tonight. He wasn’t great throughout, as he stifled counters and had some misplaced passes — but he popped up as he does. He is the best off-ball mover the game has ever seen, and his header opened the scoring in the second half.

But it wasn’t just Ronaldo. That goal had an overarching architect, and it was Marco Asensio. Asensio, composed throughout, if not relatively quiet, picked Dani Alves’s pocket in the second half, ran down the left flank, pulled it back, surveyed the field, found a vertical pass to an open Vazquez (who made a great run, to be sure), then Vazquez played the perfect cross to Ronaldo.

That goal crushed PSG. They had the majority of the possession, but Real Madrid looked the more dangerous. Without Neymar, Emery’s men did look defanged in the final third, and Di Maria — though a handful as always -- was dealt well with by Carvajal. Sergio Ramos was good (look out, big game Sergio is here) and helped Marcelo by doubling up on the flanks when Mbappe looked to get into space. Varane and Casemiro constantly mopped up PSG’s crosses.

Shortly after Real Madrid’s opening goal, it all unravelled for PSG when Veratti received a second yellow for barking at the referee. To be fair, they responded as best they could, with a fortuitous Cavani goal — but Real Madrid were in another gear, and attacked in waves while snuffing out PSG’s attacks. Casemiro iced this game late, and a 1 - 2 loss probably flattered PSG, by the end of it.

Some bullet-points from Kiyan’s notebook

  • A lot of question marks about the starting line-up, particularly the decision to start Lucas Vazquez over Gareth Bale. Bale is the better two player, and I would rather have seen him there as a safety net, but — who could complain? Zidane surely saw Bale as an asset in the second half when the game was presumably going to open up, and, Vazquez left his soul out there. Bale did eventually come on, but it was as a forward in 4-4-2 insert Om Arvind spelling bee celebration gif
  • Asensio — God bless the mother who gave birth to you.
  • Mateo Kovacic: 10/10. If the MM crew doesn’t give him a 100% rating tonight I have failed as your chief editor. He was outstanding, and next week’s column will primarily be about his performance. He showed up with key interventions throughout, was a ball-carrying force, dispossessed Mbappe and Di Maria early on when they were about to get in a dangerous position, and was the best player on the pitch for either team.
  • A bit shaky from Marcelo in the first half. He looked (uncharacteristically) unnerved as PSG made it a point to deny him space and hound him. Of course, in the second half, Marcelo came good when the team’s nerves settled a bit. We were lucky a couple of his defensive gambles didn’t cost us, but it’s always fun seeing him go in party mode late.
  • Carvajal — great defensive work on Di Maria.
  • Real Madrid really could’ve (should’ve) score more goals in this game. Benzema missed a breakaway in the first half, then scuffed a 2v1 counter with Ronaldo in the second. It was a great win, but somehow it felt like it could’ve been more satisfying than it was. (I’m not complaining. I promise.)
  • Keylor denied Mbappe twice again, for the second consecutive game.
  • Catch all my Patrons tomorrow night on the podcast. Congratulations fam.

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