Real still the favourites to retain European title: Solari

Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari was impressed at the way his side bounced back following their 3-0 loss to Eibar.
Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari was impressed at the way his side bounced back following their 3-0 loss to Eibar. PHOTO: AFP

ROME • Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari was happy to "move on" after his side bounced back from their shock LaLiga loss to Eibar at the weekend by beating Roma 2-0 away to top Group G and qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League.

Real, on 12 points, will finish in first place regardless of the results in the final round of fixtures due to their superior head-to-head record over Roma, who also qualified in second. Real won 3-0 at home in the reverse fixture in September.

Tuesday's trip to the Stadio Olimpico was Solari's first match in European football's top-tier club competition and the three-time defending champions lived up to their reputation in Rome.

Second-half goals from Gareth Bale and Lucas Vazquez sealed the win to progress to the knockout stage in February and ended Roma's eight-match unbeaten run at home - dating back to August 2016 - in the Champions League.

And Solari felt that the impressive manner of the victory would consign the 3-0 Eibar loss to distant memory, saying: "It was important to show a sense of responsibility as a team and individuals.

"We are very happy. Matches last 90 minutes, we knew how to grow into the game."

The Argentinian added that his side responded well to a scare which almost saw them go behind on the stroke of half-time after Roma's Cengiz Under shot wide when it seemed easier to score.

"They had one incredible chance after an error of ours (by Dani Carvajal), which we talked about in the dressing room," he said of Under's miss, which went viral on social media. "In the second half, we improved with our accuracy."

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  • Gareth Bale has scored or helped made a goal in every of the five Champions League games this season. It is his best run in the competition as he steps up his contribution to Real Madrid after Cristiano Ronaldo's departure.

The 42-year-old also felt that the 13-time European champions were still " the favourites" to lift this season's trophy despite their turbulent domestic form, which led to Julen Lopetegui being sacked last month, because "no team has equalled our number of titles".

"It is always the case because of our history," he insisted.

"It doesn't depend on how we played today or the other day."

Elsewhere, South Korea's Jeong Woo-yeong, 19, came off the bench for his Bayern Munich debut as the six-time defending German Bundesliga champions also qualified for the last 16 with a 5-1 home rout of Benfica.

Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski both scored twice before Franck Ribery's first goal of the term completed the thrashing as Bayern reached the knockout stage for the 11th season in a row.

Ajax Amsterdam also made it to the last 16 for the first time since the 2005-06 season after Dusan Tadic's brace gave the Dutch side a 2-0 win at 10-man AEK Athens.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2018, with the headline 'Real still the favourites to retain European title: Solari'. Print Edition | Subscribe