1. Cristiano Ronaldo can’t stop scoring
It would be fair to say Ronaldo enjoys playing in the UEFA Champions League. The tournament’s all-time leading scorer with 90 goals, Ronaldo netted a competition-record 11 times in this season’s group stage and added one in either leg against Roma to help Madrid to a 4-0 aggregate victory. The Portuguese’s latest strike came on his record 57th knockout stage appearance just when Real needed it most. It was a far cry from Roma’s finishing at the other end.
2. Madrid win ugly
The hallmark of champions, they say, is grinding out victories when not at your best – which is exactly what the Merengues did. With Roma sensing a comeback despite a 2-0 first-leg deficit, the Italian side had a number of clear-cut chances and were the better team for large periods of the opening hour. Madrid struggled to gain a foothold, grateful for a combination of profligate finishing and fine goalkeeping, before the hosts’ stars stepped up.
3. Mohamed Salah a shining light
On another night the Egypt winger would have stolen the headlines. His dynamic performance was a joy. His neat footwork and electric pace helped him exploit space vacated behind attacking full-back Marcelo. It caused problems for Zinédine Zidane’s men all evening. Unfortunately for the visitors, Salah did not have his shooting boots on, missing two gilt-edged opportunities. If the 23-year-old can develop a clinical streak, he should grace the latter rounds of this competition for years to come.
4. Keylor Navas proves unbeatable
Maybe not the biggest name in Madrid’s glittering squad, yet Costa Rican international Navas is having a stellar campaign. The custodian has saved his side on numerous occasions and is yet to concede in eight UEFA Champions League matches, sitting behind only Jens Lehmann (853) in minutes played without conceding in the competition. He conjured outstanding stops to deny Alessandro Florenzi, Kostas Manolas and Diego Perotti and was quickly off his line to put off Salah and Edin Džeko in one-on-ones.
5. Bernabéu salutes Francesco Totti
Totti’s name was greeted with applause from all corners before kick-off. The 39-year-old was later afforded something reserved for only a select group of opposition players when taking to the field on 74 minutes: a standing ovation from the Madrid crowd. “He deserves the applause for his career,” coach Luciano Spalletti observed. “The Bernabéu is a stadium that has always known how to recognise great players.” As did the Merengues players. Marcelo sprinted over to the Roma No10 at full time to ask for his shirt – though it was Sergio Ramos showing off Totti’s top during post-match formalities.
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