The intense and dynamic Bernabeu served as host to a match which the football fanatics have been actively awaiting since the Champions League Round of 16 draws back in December. The exhilarating clash concluded with the men in white leaving the stadium gratified.
Notwithstanding the exhibition of a wobbly performance, Real Madrid have stood tall on their aspired stage – the Champions League. The Spanish side’s recent form saw Paris Saint-Germain grow as the favourites to propel through to the quarterfinals, however, a brilliant second half secured Madrid the first leg of an eventful draw.
Marco Asensio has once again taken the breath away from the gaffer, as the midfield maestro established his trademark in the significant fixture by creating goals for Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo in the latter half. Regardless, all eyes were on the Ballon d’Or laureate, who marked his 100th European goal for the Galacticos in spite of being in a terrible form in front of goal this season.
Unai Emery has certainly endured quite a blow, after watching his side being fragmented by the Spanish giants. Furthermore, the result would particularly sting a bit for Neymar, who couldn’t mark his name on the scoresheet, where Ronaldo had two up his name.
While the home side has seized a potentially crucial advantage in the first half of the critical tie, the supporters now have set sights on the second leg, which is due in a few weeks’ time. Regardless, following are a few chief characteristics which left behind an impression on the widely anticipated fixture:
Los Blancos sprang the match off with the formal 4-3-1-2 formation, which saw Isco operating as the CAM with Ronaldo and Benzema up front. With the introduction of Isco, Zidane endeavoured to bolster up the midfield, peculiarly prioritising control over counter-attack.
The visitors resorted to the 4-3-3 formation, with Mbappe, Neymar and Cavani comprising the offensive line. Much to the absence of Thiago Motta, Unai Emery pushed Lo Celso to operate in a deeper role with which he had a little experience on, with Adrien Rabiot and Marco Verratti on either side. Accordingly, the Madrid gaffer hoped to employ the situation, exerting pressure over the Argentine.
Nonetheless, in a surprising turn of events, both the managers switched formations in the second half. Withdrawing Cavani, the PSG boss sent out Dani Alves rather than a forward in order to push through the flanks, while Thomas Meunier came in at right-back.
Disregarding the lacklustre performance from Cavani, his perpetual runs and the wild presence had assisted Neymar by a big deal. And with the experienced forward off the pitch, the away side’s offensive tactics relied solely on Neymar.
Both teams shifted to a 4-4-2 style, with Zidane switching out Benzema for Bale, as Ronaldo and the Welshman prepared to drive the Galacticos from the helm. The former Tottenham star, although was unable establish his trademark by scoring, helped the Spanish giants principally with his pace on and off the ball, and his quick direct play played a huge part in picking apart the opposition’s high line in the second half.
Real Madrid’s Intense Initial Pressing
Zidane hoped to exploit the errors the opposition committed, as the men in white pushed the opponents, hard pressing as soon as the game kicked off. For what it’s worth, their efforts bestowed them with a corner within 40 seconds of the intense operations.
However, with Neymar providing an outlet to the opposition’s relentless pressure by making use of the width of the pitch, Real backed down in the hopes of proceeding further with the utmost caution, implying that PSG did well to soak up the initial attempts of Madrid to ascertain authority.
Furthermore, Marcelo remained a threat to the French capital club on the left flank throughout the active fixture. Initially, one would have wondered whether the Brazilian would have had his hands full with Kylian Mbappe, but regardless, the 29-year-old was seen advancing through the left, committing relentless runs, while the French youngster solely focused on waiting to exploit the fruitful moment to counterattack, which hardly manifested in the entirety of 90 minutes.
Furthermore, being primarily focused on counter-attacks, the Frenchman hardly tracked back as much as Neymar did, presenting Marcelo with the freedom to make use of his side’s offensive territory effectively. The Brazil international further dazzled his opponents with one of his passes which curled in beautifully behind the opponents’ defence, connecting with Ronaldo, but the Portuguese’s shot was well blocked by Alphonse Areola.
Marco Asensio: The One Making Real Tick
Zidane preferred to deploy Casemiro to supervise the centre midfield as the game kicked off. However, one of the issues that manifested persistently was the Brazilian’s lack of technical ability. Despite making a few key involvements in the game, the 25-year-old was dispossessed three times altogether, permitting the visitors to push and attack from lethal positions with potential advantage.
Nevertheless, with Casemiro finding it hard to impose himself, the prolific gaffer decided to introduce Marco Asensio to take over the midfield. Since then, up until the final whistle, the game was elegantly in the grasp of the talented youngster. Plus, in the 10 minutes he was permitted to operate on the pitch, the Spaniard made two significant contributions, which fascinated the home crowd adequately to get them bouncing off enthusiasm.
The starlet’s cross, which occurred to have bounced off the keeper’s gloves, was converted by Ronaldo, as Areola failed to cope up with the instant rebound. The Spaniard then harmonized with Toni Kroos and Marcelo flawlessly in a perfect execution of triangle passing just prior to setting up the left-back for his illustrious side’s third goal.