Real Madrid 3 – 1 PSG – Match review from the Champions League

Marcelo of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 match between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on February 14, 2018 in Madrid, Spain(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
Marcelo of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 match between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on February 14, 2018 in Madrid, Spain(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images) /

Real Madrid came back after a shaky start and put three goals past Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. Real Madrid 3 – 1 PSG. Here’s your recap.

First Half

Zinedine Zidane loves to shock people, and it’s hard to imagine a bigger lineup surprise than Zidane’s choice to sit Gareth Bale in lieu of Isco. The diamond 4-4-2 with Isco as the spearhead and Benz and Ronaldo up top has been thoroughly criticized. Zidane’s reliance on that setup has often been associated with Madrid’s chronic problems in front of goal.

Real Madrid pressed PSG high in the opening moments, and were very successful at pinning the Parisians back into their own half. Isco and Modric in particular were key to this strategy. Madrid were definitely the more active side in attack over the course of the 45 minutes.

But the characteristic flaws that we’ve seen from Madrid all season began to rear their ugly head. Madrid have had a hard time keeping up their press and their intensity over the course of 90 minutes.

Madrid’s attack began to look flat after about 20 minutes, and began to circulate possession. After that opening spell of pressure from Madrid subsided, the match began to look really defensive. There was some great defending from both teams, with Varane and Casemiro putting in notable performances for Madrid.

And when Madrid turns the pressure off, teams find it very easy to begin penetrating Madrid’s back line. PSG began exploiting weaknesses and playing in balls over the top. Neymar also looked to exploit Nacho at the back, and caused problems for Madrid throughout. A few times Neymar looked like he was completely through on goal but last ditch efforts from Nacho and Varane, and a bit of clumsiness from the Brazilian himself, kept PSG off the scoresheet.

Madrid grew back into the match at around the 25th minute mark, and started turning up the heat in attack. It looked like Madrid were going to break through sooner or later, but then, PSG pushed back hard. The Parisians were the first to make it count in the half. Neymar played a beautiful cross into the area which found Rabiot. Rabiot put the ball directly into Navas’ face, but by that time Navas was diving the other direction and couldn’t really do anything about it.

Conceding the goal seemed to spark Madrid into life, and Los Blancos started to find their feet in attack once more. Madrid returned to pressing high, and started winning more corners. One of these corners was played short, and Toni Kroos found himself in space in the box. Kroos was dragged down by his collar and the ref awarded a deserved penalty. Ronaldo stepped up to the box and smashed it home. Real Madrid went into halftime level after a not very convincing performance.

Second Half

The second half began with a bit less intensity than the first, but much more defensive discipline from Real Madrid. PSG were hunting for a second goal, and Real Madrid were under siege at various during the second half.

But Real Madrid’s captain, Sergio Ramos, came up huge in the second half, putting his body on the line, blocking shots left and right, and cutting out PSG’s last pass into the box time after time. Ramos has come in for a lot of criticism for some of his lackluster defensive performances this season. But against PSG, it’s not hard to see why he’s ranked as one of the best defenders on the planet.

The match carried on as a tactical chess-match, with both teams cautiously but consistently testing each other out, and both teams remaining steady in defense. This all changed as Zidane began to make substitutions around the 65th minute. First it was Bale on for Benzema. Then, a few minutes later, it was Asensio and Vazquez on for Isco and Casemiro.

These decisions by Zidane won the match for Real Madrid. The added pace of Bale, Vazquez, and especially Asensio was simply too much for  PSG to handle. Madrid began playing long balls over the top to Asensio who used his pace to terrorize PSG’s back line. Asensio played in a dangerous cross that Areola had to push out, straight to Ronaldo’s knee, and back into the goal. The Dark Invader bagged his brace and Madrid went into the lead.

Madrid weren’t content with the one goal lead. With all the extra attacking options on the pitch, Madrid smelled blood in the water and went for the feeding frenzy. Madrid poured the pressure on and found another goal, once again through the creative work of Marco Asensio. Asensio pulled back to Marcelo who smashed a deflected goal in near post.

Next: Three advantages Madrid have over PSG.

The match ended 3-1, with Madrid fans having a new sense of hope that maybe their season isn’t ruined just yet. It’s true that PSG now have an away goal, but Madrid have a bit of a cushion now, and PSG will have to chase the game at home.  This was a superb win from Zidane.

Stay tuned to The Real Champs for more Real Madrid news.