A stunner from Cristiano Ronaldo and a late Jese Rodriguez strike saw Real Madrid beat Roma 2-0 in the first leg of their last-16 clash in the Champions League on Wednesday night and secured Real Madrid’s first Champions League victory under Zinedine Zidane as manager.
Neither side had a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes in Rome, but Ronaldo’s 12th Champions League goal of the season and a strike from substitute Jese in the second period saw Los Blancos secure a strong advantage ahead of the return leg in Madrid next month.
Neither Daniele de Rossi nor Francesco Totti made the starting XI for the home team, while Edin Dzeko was also left on the bench as head coach Luciano Spalletti went for a false-nine formation.
As expected, it was Real Madrid, who had Marcelo back from a shoulder problem, that started on the front foot in terms of ball possession, with Roma attempting to utilise their counter-attacking threat whenever the opportunity arose.
The first shot in anger came from Real Madrid and a certain Ronaldo in the eighth minute of action, but the Portuguese’s free kick from distance was always moving wide of the post.
The first half-chance of the match came to Roma in the 17th minute when Diego Perotti set up Stephan El Shaarawy inside the box, but the Italian’s close-range effort missed the target, which had been narrowed byKeylor Navas.
Marcelo’s forward runs were proving problematic for Roma in the first period and the Brazilian attempted a spectacular volley from the edge of the box 10 minutes before the break, only to watch his effort drop wide of the far post.
El Shaarawy, whose pace threatened to cause Real Madrid’s back-line problems, and Perotti both had their moments for Roma in the opening 45 minutes, but the referee brought a tense first period to a close with the two teams on level terms.
Ronaldo produced a sensational ball into James Rodriguez early in the second period, which was landing on the chest of the Colombian, who was through on goal, but William Vainqueur came from nowhere to produce an excellent clearance.
El Shaarawy’s pace took him away from Dani Carvajal at the other end in the 55th minute as Roma had a half-chance, but Real Madrid stopper Navas came out to make a fine challenge.
The visitors took the lead just before the hour when Marcelo set up Ronaldo, who cut inside Alessandro Florenzi before angling one into the top corner, albeit helped by a slight deflection from the Roma captain.
Ronaldo almost turned provider moments later after beating the offside trap and squaring the ball into space, but there were no grey shirts with him as Roma wobbled at the back.
Karim Benzema then tested Wojciech Szczesny, before Salah registered a shot on target for Roma. With 20 minutes remaining, the match had suddenly opened up as both teams looked to add to Ronaldo’s effort.
Salah’s pace again took him clear of Marcelo 20 minutes from time before the attacker set up Dzeko with a low cross, but Raphael Varane was across to make a fine challenge, before Vainqueur saw a thumping effort just miss the post.
Ronaldo should have had his second in the 74th minute when he headed a James cross towards the bottom corner, but the ball just dropped wide of the post as Roma survived a second goal.
Real Madrid continued to put the pressure on and had opportunities through Benzema and James to score a second, but the match headed for the final 10 minutes at 1-0 Real Madrid.
Roma should have been awarded a penalty in the 81st minute when Carvajal brought Florenzi to the ground inside the box, but the referee was not interested and waved play on.
Half-chances continued to arrive at both ends in the latter stages, but it was Real Madrid that grabbed the game’s all-important second goal in the 86th minute when Jese found the bottom corner with a low strike.
No team has ever recovered from a 2-0 first-leg home deficit in the Champions League.