PARIS: Real Madrid and Liverpool as expected booked their places in the quarter-finals of the Champions League early this morning.
Real cruised into the next round with Cristiano Ronaldo’s second-half goal helping them to a 2-1 victory at Paris St Germain as the 12-time European champions went through 5-2 on aggregate in the last 16, second leg match.
Ronaldo headed home seven minutes into the second half and Casemiro added a second 10 minutes from time against a toothless PSG, who were without their injured talisman Neymar and 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, only for Casemiro to give Real victory at the Parc des Princes.
Zinedine Zidane’s side, who are 15 points adrift of arch-rivals Barcelona in La Liga, were solid throughout as the home side rarely threatened and fully deserved their win.
Liverpool also eased into the quarter-finals with a goalless draw against Porto, completing a routine aggregate victory after their 5-0 first-leg win in Portugal.
In a predictably low-key game, Liverpool striker Sadio Mane, whose hat-trick in Porto helped ensure there was little at stake at Anfield, came closest to breaking the deadlock.
Mane was off target with an effort at full-stretch from a Joe Gomez cross in the 18th minute and then hit the post in the 31st minute after taking down a ball from James Milner and releasing a low diagonal drive.
Porto’s best effort came in the 52nd minute when Ghanaian winger Majeed Waris’ shot from the edge of the box was pushed wide by Liverpool keeper Loris Karius.
Substitute Danny Ings then forced a fine save out of Porto’s veteran Spanish keeper Iker Casillas with a looping header in the final stages.
Real were already in the box seat coming into the match, having won 3-1 when the clubs met in Spain last month when Ronaldo scored twice.
Clearly, the French club sorely missed the services of Neymar, the world’s most expensive player who has undergone foot surgery, as they suffered their fifth straight quarter-final eliminations.
Angel Di Maria, a Champions League winner with Madrid in 2014, replaced Neymar but his presence did not make a significant impact in the Paris line-up for a possible comeback win.
PSG’s defeat may mean severe consequences for them this season.
Elimination may have hastened the departure of Spanish coach Unai Emery, who is out of contract in June.
He has never completely won over the doubters and has never previously made it past the last 16 in this competition, with the 6-1 humiliation in Barcelona a year ago still fresh in the memory.