PARIS: Holders Real Madrid eased into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 2-1 win at 10-man Paris Saint-Germain. Cristiano Ronaldo’s 12th goal in the competition and Casemiro’s late strike ensured Zinedine Zidane’s side progressed 5-2 on aggregate.
Leading 3-1 from the first leg, Real never looked in danger against the sedate hosts despite Edinson Cavani’s fortunate second-half equaliser. In the night’s other tie, Liverpool and Porto drew 0-0 at Anfield with Jurgen Klopp’s men progressing 5-0 on aggregate.
In the Parc des Princes Zidane’s Real Madrid set aside their LaLiga blues – they are 15 points behind arch-rivals Barcelona – to reach the quarter-finals of the competition they won last June.
Marco Verratti was sent off in the second half as PSG – already lacking the injured Brazilian superstar Neymar – lost hope of a maiden Champions League title.
Zidane believes his side’s season is recovering as the defending champions cruised into the Champions League quarter-finals.
He told the post-match press conference: “We’ve had difficult moments in the Liga and Copa del Rey, but it’s always difficult to maintain the same level while playing every three days.
“You can’t always win everything, but we’re winning now in the Liga and we have to look ahead to our game with Eibar on Saturday.”
“Paris were perhaps not as good, but that’s maybe because we played well. After the sending-off and the second goal, it got more difficult for them.”
Gareth Bale came on as a second-half substitute with speculation surrounding his Real future and Zidane insisted he remains part of his plans.
He added: “I respect all the players, including Gareth Bale. He wasn’t a starter in either leg, but he’s a very important player who causes lots of trouble to the opposition. We have to stay united, as we were tonight.”
PSG face punishment from UEFA after the game was briefly stopped twice because of smoke from the flares of the home fans.
The French giants are yet to win the Champions League and former boss Laurent Blanc was dismissed after guiding them to the quarter-finals in three consecutive seasons.
They have now exited the competition in the last 16 for the last two years under Unai Emery, who said: “We all want to win this competition quickly. We’ll continue with patience, and build a team that can win.
“I’m sure this team can win the Champions League. The supporters will see that Paris will win this competition one day.
“Losing to Madrid is not a disappointment, but going out in the last 16 is. But, the first leg was the key because we were better over the first 80 minutes than them.
“They controlled 60 per cent of this match and we couldn’t do enough in the 40 per cent we controlled.”