Real Madrid have booked their spot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League courtesy of a 2-0 win over Roma in the second leg of their last-16 clash on Tuesday night.
Los Blancos entered the match as the firm favourites to make the last eight following a two-goal victory in the first leg in Rome, but it was far from comfortable despite the comprehensive nature of the overall scoreline.
The big news in the Real Madrid camp was the return of Welshman Gareth Bale, who went straight intoZinedine Zidane‘s XI despite being out of action with a calf problem since mid-January. Marcelo, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos also all returned, with Isco among those dropping to the bench.
As for Roma, an attacking first XI saw Edin Dzeko, Mohamed Salah, Diego Perotti and Stephan El Shaarawy all included in the final third.
However, Francesco Totti, who received a warm ovation from all four corners of the ground before kickoff, once again started on the bench for the in-form Serie A outfit.
A very open start saw both teams threaten with dangerous crosses, but the best of the lot came from Roma skipper Alessandro Florenzi, who whipped a wicked cross towards El Shaaraway in the sixth minute. The Italian almost made contact at the far post, but Danilo just did enough to put the attacker under pressure.
Real Madrid’s first sight of goal came in the eighth minute when Bale set up Marcelo inside the Roma box, but the left-back’s low effort was always moving wide of the post, before Kroos tested Wojciech Szczesnyfrom distance.
Roma had a golden chance to take the lead in the 14th minute when Salah embarked on a wonderful run before finding Dzeko in plenty of space, but the striker fired his effort wide of Keylor Navas‘s post.
Both teams continued to commit players forward as the 30-minute mark approached and Modric fired wide of the Roma goal, before El Shaaraway headed over the crossbar following another swift counter for the visitors.
Salah had an even better chance than Dzeko to put Roma ahead in the 28th minute, but the 23-year-old, whose speedy legs took him clear, fired wide of the post. Real Madrid remained two goals to the good on aggregate, but Roma really should have had at least one back at that stage of the contest.
Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo both had chances in the minutes that followed, but the former fired just over the crossbar, before the latter brought a smart save from Szczesny.
Real Madrid improved as the half approached its latter stages and came close again through Ronaldo andCasemiro, but whistles from the Bernabeu crowd was an indication of the home side’s struggles in the final third of the field.
Salah had another wonderful chance to send Roma ahead on the night early in the second period, but once again, the attacker missed the target from close range – moments after Szczesny had saved from James. Like Roma, Real Madrid were also guilty of poor finishing and Marcelo should have done better with a close-range attempt in the 54th minute.
Florenzi also came close for the visitors in the 56th minute, but Navas made a smart save, before the Costa Rican kept out a Kostas Manolas effort from the resulting corner as it somehow remained 0-0 on the night.
The end-to-end nature of the match continued as the hour passed, with Kroos and Ronaldo both firing wide for the home team. Finally the breakthrough came in the 64th minute, however, when Lucas Vasquezdelivered a low cross into Ronaldo, who could not miss from close range.
Real Madrid then had their second of the match just four minutes later when Ronaldo set up James, whose drilled effort found a route past Szczesny from close range.
The hosts should have had a third in the 70th minute when Vasquez again set up Ronaldo, but somehow the Portuguese missed the target during a period where Roma were all over the place at the back.
Ronaldo had another chance five minutes later when Marcelo, who played the majority of the night as an attacker, delivered a super cross towards the far post, but the 31-year-old volleyed over the crossbar.
The home side had opportunities to add more goals late on, but it remained at 2-0 on the night as Zidane ensured that Los Blancos would reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the sixth successive season.