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Champions League: Ronaldo helps tilt Roma tie in Madrid’s favour

CR7RonaldoReal Madrid have one foot in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals after capping a patient display in Rome with a 2-0 round of 16 first-leg victory.

The Stadio Olimpico did not witness a shot on target until the 57th minute but it was worth waiting for as Marcelo released Cristiano Ronaldo for a trademark strike, cutting in from the left. Roma rallied yet could not find an equaliser and substitute Jesé rounded off Zinédine Zidane’s coaching debut in the competition in style.

The first half soon established a routine, with Madrid content to build up slowly. The Roma rearguard bided their time before pouncing on anything loose and launching a rapid counter. The jet-heeled Mohamed Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy were the chief outlets, but while they provoked panic, Madrid’s covering defence was rarely unduly stretched.

Moments of real quality were conspicuous by their absence, and Wojciech Szczęsny’s decision to wear tracksuit bottoms appeared prudent – he was virtually a spectator. There was one big scare before half-time, however, as Ronaldo flicked the ball inside to the lively Marcelo, who pivoted nicely and whipped a volley just wide.

The pair combined again for the opening goal as Ronaldo sprang the offside trap to meet Marcelo’s slide-rule pass. He coolly stepped inside Alessandro Florenzi before lashing a deflected effort high into the roof of the net. Suddenly the game opened up, with chances coming thick and fast at both ends.

William Vainqueur flashed a shot narrowly wide and substitute Edin Džeko so nearly muscled his way in. Yet after Ronaldo headed off target, it was another replacement who delivered the killer blow. Four minutes after coming on, Jesé made a powerful run from midfield before slotting in.

Key player: Marcelo
The Brazil left-back was a doubt before the match with a shoulder problem but there was little sign of any issue in a typically full-blooded performance. While Salah kept him busy in defence, it was going forward that Marcelo came alive, going close to a goal himself before unlocking the Roma back line for Ronaldo.

Ronaldo ruins Roma’s plan
Luciano Spalletti said on the eve of the game that he was not going to assign one player to mark Ronaldo; rather it would be a team effort. For 57 minutes it worked a treat but then Ronaldo cleverly isolated Florenzi – and once he had collected Marcelo’s pass there was only one outcome.

Good time to end hoodoo
Two seasons ago Madrid travelled to Schalke at this stage seeking just their second win in 26 trips to Germany. A 6-1 victory did the job, laying the platform for the Décima. Zidane’s side are now well placed to end another hex: Madrid have lost their last eight two-legged ties against Italian opposition.