MADRID: European champions Real Madrid roared back to life from a dismal domestic campaign, coming from behind to beat runaway Ligue 1 leaders Paris St Germain 3-1 in a Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday.
Adrien Rabiot smashed PSG into the lead in the 33rd minute but Cristiano Ronaldo levelled from the penalty spot on the stroke of halftime, scoring his 100th Champions League goal for Real to set up a pulsating second half.
Ronaldo put Real in front in the 83rd minute with a scrappy strike from close range and Brazilian left back Marcelo further stretched the lead in the 86th, giving PSG a tough task in the second leg at the Parc des Princes on March 6.
The tie pitted 12-times European champions Real against the Qatar-backed Parisians who have never gone beyond the quarter-finals in the competition but boasted an attacking trio that cost over €460 million to assemble in transfer fees alone. The two squads’ combined cost exceeded €1.2 billion.
“This is a very important victory, these Champions League games are nights you always want to remember and we showed exactly how you need to play,” Real captain Sergio Ramos told reporters.
“We showed lots of personality and proved that despite all the speculation about us you can never presume Madrid are dead.”
Embattled Real coach Zinedine Zidane has faced serious questioning for his side falling 17 points behind Liga leaders Barcelona and reverted to almost the same line-up that outclassed Juventus to win last year’s final, leaving Gareth Bale out for Isco.
The hosts came out of the blocks fastest but did not carve out a clear opening until midway through the first half when Marcelo curled a low pass at the feet of Ronaldo, who fired a shot into the face of PSG goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
PSG had had less of the ball but looked deadly every time they came forward and opened the scoring when Kylian Mbappe flew past two players to play a low ball towards Neymar in the box but Nacho’s attempted clearance sent the ball to Rabiot, who buried it straight down the middle of the net.
Ronaldo fizzed a shot over the bar down the other end but made no mistake when Giovani Lo Celso was penalised for tugging Toni Kroos’s shirt in the area.
PSG were denied a penalty when a shot from Rabiot appeared to strike Madrid captain Sergio Ramos on the arm, while Mbappe spurned their best chance of the second half in striking straight at Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas. — REUTERS