Football: Real on target in the Italian job

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) celebrates his goal with captain Sergio Ramos and manager Zinedine Zidane in their 2-0 win over AS Roma. The Portuguese is currently the top scorer of this season's Champions League, with 12 goals to his name.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) celebrates his goal with captain Sergio Ramos and manager Zinedine Zidane in their 2-0 win over AS Roma. The Portuguese is currently the top scorer of this season's Champions League, with 12 goals to his name.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ronaldo and Jese strike to give coach Zidane a victorious managerial debut in first leg

ROME • A day after Cristiano Ronaldo stormed out of a pre-match press conference when asked about his failure to score away from the Bernabeu since November 29, he let his feet do the talking.

With over 56 minutes played in Real Madrid's Champions League last 16, first-leg clash at Roma, he audaciously controlled a pass from Marcelo on the left edge of the box, before unleashing a powerful, curling shot that deflected off Alessandro Florenzi and looped over keeper Wojciech Szczesny into the net.

The emphatic finish sparked a joyous celebration from the Portuguese who raced across to embrace Zinedine Zidane, who was making his debut as a head coach in the competition.

There was more joy for the Frenchman in the 86th minute, when substitute Jese added the Spanish team's second with a solo run into the box and a shot across the face of goal that flew inside the far post.

The 2-0 victory gives Real a huge advantage ahead of the return leg in three weeks' time, with statistics suggesting Real have a 100 per cent chance to go through to the last eight.

  • FAR AND AWAY THE BEST MAN

  • 5 Cristiano Ronaldo has scored five away goals in the Champions League this season - more than any other player.

    44 Overall he has 44 away goals in this competition - at least nine more than any other player, with Barcelona's Lionel Messi on 35.

    40 Ronaldo is the first player to score 40 goals in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

    60 The Portuguese star has also scored in the highest number of Champions League matches.

"Statistics don't count, especially when there's still another 90 minutes to play," said Zidane.

Ronaldo showed just how quickly things can change, making a mockery out of the statistic that suggested his scoring record away from home was poor this season.

Even though the hosts kept men behind the ball - preventing Real from registering a shot on target in the first half for the first time in the Champions League in five years - their resistance was eventually broken by the Portuguese.

It was the forward's 12th goal in seven Champions League games this term.

"Everyone expects Ronaldo to score, and he fulfilled expectations," said Zidane.

As Zidane rejoiced, Roma manager Luciano Spalletti was left wishing he could have turned back time.

The Italian was in charge at Roma in 2008 when the Giallorossi beat Real 2-1 twice in succession in the last 16 on their way to a quarter-final defeat to Manchester United.

But despite dominating for long spells, Roma ultimately came up short in the final third of the pitch.

"You give a player like Ronaldo an inch, and he takes a mile. The difference is in the fact that when you give players of Real's quality an opening, they seize on it," Spalletti said after watching his team take 10 shots at goal.

"We just didn't put our chances away, and that's the thing I'm most sorry about."

Real twice had Raphael Varane to thank for coming to their rescue, as the centre-back superbly intercepted a ball from Mohamed Salah to Diego Perotti, before blocking a shot by Stephan El Shaarawy.

Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas also denied El Shaarawy after one of Roma's fast and dangerous counter-attacks, coming out sharply to save at the Italian's feet.

Roma, who saw 40 per cent of the ball, were unlucky not to earn a penalty when Alessandro Florenzi went down under the studs-up challenge of Dani Carvajal.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline 'REAL ON TARGET IN THE ITALIAN JOB'. Print Edition | Subscribe