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Champions League: Ronaldo double as Real defeat PSG, Mane hat-trick as Liverpool crush Porto

By News Express on 15/02/2018

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•Ronaldo celebrates
•Ronaldo celebrates

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid came from behind to stun Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 in the first leg of their heavyweight Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.

Ronaldo scored his 100th Champions League goal for title-holders Real from the penalty spot late in the first half to cancel out Adrien Rabiot’s opener for the French side at the Santiago Bernabeu, set up by Neymar.

The Portuguese star then turned the ball home from close range with seven minutes left before Marcelo secured what could turn out to be a decisive first-leg lead ahead of the return in Paris on March 6 and sent nearly 80 000 home fans into raptures.

“These days are to be remembered, and what better way to do it than with the character we showed,” Real skipper Sergio Ramos told Spanish television.

“We need to keep playing like that, with the desire to defend the Champions League. You can never consider Real Madrid to be dead and buried.”

Rabiot said PSG were plagued by familiar problems

“We always say the same things and we always get caught out in the same way,” Rabiot told beIN Sports.

“The problem is it’s easy to score eight against Dijon, or four goals in league games. It is in these matches that you need to be decisive.” ”

The late collapse for PSG brings back echoes of the way they fell apart to lose 6-1 in Barcelona on their way to a humiliating exit at the same stage of the competition last season.

Neymar, in Barcelona’s ranks then, could not make the difference for PSG, who now have a huge job on their hands to turn the tie around.

Having looked set to come away with a precious draw, the defeat piles the pressure on coach Unai Emery, but for Real the outcome is an enormous boost for their boss Zinedine Zidane.

Under pressure himself with Real flagging domestically, he needed this win, and will earn praise for his substitutions, with Marco Asensio coming off the bench to set up each of the two late goals.

That was after Zidane had taken a risk by leaving out Gareth Bale, a key element in the side that has won three of the last four Champions Leagues. The Welshman’s place in the line-up was taken by Isco.

Emery went even further, dropping his captain Thiago Silva to make way for 22-year-old Presnel Kimpembe in the centre of the PSG defence.

DIFFICULT NIGHT FOR NEYMAR

Real supporters chose an image of a famous fan in Rafael Nadal to adorn a display unfurled at the south end of the ground as the sides came out, hoping their team could draw inspiration from someone who has conquered Paris 10 times as French Open champion.

The hosts started well too, while Neymar struggled, slipping when one pass was aimed towards him, complaining as a Luka Modric challenge sent him to the floor and picking up a yellow card for a foul on Nacho.

Ronaldo, meanwhile, saw Alphonse Areola make a fine save from his net-bound shot after he had been released by Marcelo, and not long after that, in the 33rd minute, PSG scored.

Neymar could claim an assist, although it didn't look like the Brazilian meant to help Kylian Mbappe’s low ball across the box from the right into the path of Rabiot, who swept home unmarked.

PSG had a precious away goal, but they could not hold their lead until the break as Giovani Lo Celso gave away a penalty for a foul on Toni Kroos.

Areola, having just made a superb save from Karim Benzema, could do nothing to keep out Ronaldo’s spot-kick.

The visitors had chances to go ahead again in the second half, Keylor Navas saving well from Mbappe and Sergio Ramos blocking bravely from Rabiot.

Emery then surprisingly took off Edinson Cavani and replaced him with Thomas Meunier, a right-back. But it was Zidane’s decision to send on Asensio that proved crucial.

In the space of three late minutes, Asensio saw one cross palmed out by Areola and then rebound into the net off Ronaldo’s thigh, before another assist was finished off by Marcelo, potentially finishing the tie in the process.

Also last night, Sadio Mane scored a brilliant treble as Liverpool romped to a 5-0 thrashing of Porto at the Estadio do Dragao to march towards the Champions League quarterfinals.

Mane fired the away side ahead in the first leg of the last-16 clash, before Mohamed Salah's audacious finish for his 30th goal of the season quickly made it two.

The Senegalese forward slotted in his second as Liverpool completely outclassed their opponents, with Roberto Firmino adding his name to the scoresheet with 20 minutes to play, before Mane’s searing strike completed his first European hat-trick.

“It was important to play as a team and we did, we played great football from the beginning,” Mane told BT Sport.

“We created so many chances and we scored five. It was well deserved.”

Playing in the last 16 of the competition for the first time in nine years, Liverpool are now all but certain to reach the quarterfinals ahead of the second leg at Anfield on March 6.

Jurgen Klopp's men had scored 23 goals in the group stage and continued that scintillating form in Portugal to become the top-scorers in this season’s competition, while the defensive frailties that have plagued them at times this season never resurfaced as Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk put in accomplished displays at the back.

“I saw a lot of fantastic performances tonight. The result is only possible if they are all spot on,” said Klopp.

“Of course, Sadio is man of the match, three fantastic goals, but they all did well and that is the only way to be successful.”

Sergio Conceicao’s deflated Porto will now turn their attentions back to domestic matters, where they hold a two-point lead in the league and are in the Cup semifinals.

Roared on by the home fans, Porto started brightly and Brazilian midfielder Otavio was denied an early goal by a last-ditch tackle from Lovren.

But it didn’t take Liverpool long to grow into the game, as left-back Andrew Robertson fired over on his Champions League debut and Ivan Marcano’s brave block prevented Firmino from heading in.

But the five-time European champions were gifted the lead in the 25th minute as Porto goalkeeper Jose Sa, who has replaced former Real Madrid great Iker Casillas this season, allowed Mane’s tame strike to squirm underneath his body and into the net.

Mane has been overshadowed so far this term by the blistering performances of Firmino and Salah, but the Senegalese forward's first goal in six games was his fourth in the Champions League.

SALAH’S DELIGHTFUL SKILL

Liverpool took total control of the tie just four minutes later as Salah scored in style.

James Milner’s strike crashed into the post, but the Egyptian star was on hand to flick the ball over the onrushing Sa with a magnificent piece of skill and slot into the net.

The visitors were utterly dominant, but Tiquinho Soares, playing in place of the injured Vincent Aboubakar, fired narrowly wide for Porto on the stroke of half-time.

Porto had plenty of the ball but were always vulnerable to Liverpool’s waves of rapid counter-attacks, and Mane made it three shortly after the restart.

The away side cut the Portuguese league leaders to shreds with a series of first-time flicks and passes, and after Firmino was denied by Sa, Mane was on hand to tap in the rebound.

The visitors’ relentless pressure meant another goal was almost inevitable, and it arrived when Milner picked out Firmino from a posse of unmarked Liverpool shirts in the centre to slot home his seventh Champions League goal of the campaign.

The English outfit still weren’t finished, though, as Mane’s long-range effort flew past Sa with five minutes remaining to round off the procession in fine fashion.

•Pieced together from different AFP reports.

Source News Express

Posted 15/02/2018 05:51:51 AM

 

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