Football

Ron's historic goal helps down dismal PSG

Real star scores in ninth straight Champs League game, matching van Nistelrooy's feat

Holders Real Madrid cruised into the Champions League quarter-finals with Cristiano Ronaldo's second-half goal helping them to a 2-1 victory at Paris Saint-Germain yesterday morning (Singapore time) as the 12-time European champions went through 5-2 on aggregate.

Ronaldo headed home seven minutes into the second half and Casemiro added a second 10 minutes from time against a toothless PSG, who had Marco Verratti sent off for a second booking in the 66th minute.

Ronaldo scored for the ninth Champions League game in a row, matching Ruud van Nistelrooy's record in the competition, before PSG striker Edinson Cavani equalised with 19 minutes left. Casemiro then scored the winner for Real at the Parc des Princes.

Zinedine Zidane's side, who are aiming for their third straight Champions League crown, were solid throughout and fully deserved their win.

"We played well right from the beginning, pressing them high up the field. It was a perfect match. This is not an easy place to play well," said Zidane.

PSG never looked like turning the tie around in the absence of the injured Neymar and it was a horribly flat way for them to exit the competition.

"It was in the first leg that we lost the tie. We are all disappointed that things did not go as we hoped," Adrien Rabiot told beIN Sports.

"We controlled the game well in the first half, but couldn't get the goal to make them doubt themselves and, once we were down to 10 men, it became impossible."

Beleaguered PSG coach Unai Emery insisted that there was no shame in losing to Real.

"To be eliminated in the last 16 is a disappointment, but to lose against Real is not. They deserved to go through. There is no other analysis," said the Spaniard, who is out of contract at the end of this season.

Since Qatar Sports Investments took over in 2011, PSG have never reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, being eliminated in the last 16 twice in a row after four consecutive quarter-final exits.

Spending 400 million euros (S$653m) on Neymar and Kylian Mbappe did not help as the Brazilian played poorly in the first leg and his striking partner was nowhere to be seen yesterday.

"All that for this," wrote French sports daily L'Equipe on their front page.

"PSG disappeared without leaving a trace," the paper wrote in a column.

And, surprisingly, there was criticism from within the Parisian outfit. Germany winger Julian Draxler has apportioned the blame largely on Emery, blasting the coach's tactical decisions.

"I didn't know what was going on, I was surprised and angry," Draxler told ZDF Sport.

"Despite the equaliser, it did not change anything for us. We needed to keep pressing and playing offensively. We played the ball back and forth, but you cannot score just doing that.

"We needed to put pressure on the opponents right from the start. We didn't do that, so we deserved to be eliminated."

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said he was "disappointed by a few players", but he is convinced the club's method is the right one.

"I don't think it's a mindset problem. The players believed in it and we were ready," he said.

"We will not change our investment strategy. We will continue with our project, notably with Neymar and Mbappe because they are the future of the club."

Draxler, however, feels PSG are still missing something, which has stopped them from winning the Champions League.

"In the summer, we spent 400m euros and everyone was talking about how it was going to change things, but we have failed to get through again.

"I am still convinced this team have a lot to give, but you can see in games like this that there is still something missing if we want to win the big trophy.

"That should make us think again." - AFP, REUTERS

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