Real Madrid sealed their safe passage through to the Round of 16, beating AS Roma 2-0 at Stadio Olimpico to clinch top spot in Group G in the process.
The two sides were already safely through to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League after Viktoria Plzen handed a shock 2-1 defeat to CSKA Moscow earlier on the night. But, top spot in Group G was still up for grabs, with Roma needing to win by at least four goals to leapfrog Real Madrid into top spot.
The Giallorossi did look up to the task in the early exchanges, even conjuring up the best chance of the first half only to see Cengiz Under miss a glorious chance from point blank range. Roma’s wastefulness though, would come back to haunt them just a few minutes into the second half.
The goal came courtesy another error by a Roma player, with Gareth Bale pouncing on the mistake before scoring his third Champions League goal of the season. Twelve minutes later, Real Madrid doubled their advantage, with Lucas Vazquez finishing a fine team move.
The UEFA Champions League holders could have added to their lead in the final half-an-hour, but Robin Olsen kept Roma in the game for the remainder of the game. In the end though, the hosts could not find the elusive goal, as the match ended in a 2-0 win for Real Madrid.
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With the three points, Los Blancos confirmed their status as Group G winners, and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Santiago Solari’s men, following their return to winning ways.
Thibaut Courtois: 7/10
A largely quiet outing for Courtois, with Roma never really managing to test him much. The only time the Belgian custodian looked a little uneasy was when the hosts pressed him inside his own box. But, he looked to negate that by playing the ball long.
Did make one fine save, as he denied Patrik Schick in brilliant fashion with the score still level. Would be relieved to have kept a clean sheet after two games without a shut-out.
Dani Carvajal: 6/10
Back into the starting lineup after a couple of months, Carvajal was solid for the most part on the defensive front, making a number of vital blocks inside the Real Madrid box. But, he very nearly played a part in conceding the opener before Cengiz Under fluffed his lines. On the ball, meanwhile, Carvajal was far from his best, with the rustiness evident in his game.
Raphael Varane: 6/10
It has been a trial by fire for Varane lately. But, the Frenchman was much improved on Tuesday, as after a few nervy moments against Schick early on, he managed to compose himself, negating the Czech striker completely for the better part of the final hour. Will look to build on this performance.
Sergio Ramos: 7/10
Ramos was another player who gave a good account of himself to take the attention away from the recent controversy he has been embroiled in. With Marcelo often caught out of position, the Real Madrid captain had to deal with Under, who kept him on his toes for much of the game. But, he acquitted himself rather well, while also making some important clearances in a solid outing.
A typical Marcelo game, but one wherein the cutting edge was missing from his forays in the final third. At the back, the Brazilian defender was often caught out of position, leaving his side susceptible to counter-attacks, and Ramos with a lot to do at times. A rare blip.
Luka Modric: 6/10
2018-19 has been a season to forget for Modric, but there were some signs of improvement from the Croat. He still wasn’t nearly at his best, but the veteran midfielder showed the required urgency to make things happen around the AS Roma box while linking up well with Toni Kroos. Perhaps the reassuring presence of Marcos Llorente alleviated some of the pressure off him.
Marcos Llorente: 8.5/10
Llorente has been one of the forgotten players since returning from a loan spell at Alaves. But, when finally handed a rare start on Tuesday, the young Spaniard provided a timely reminder of his abilities. A bundle of energy from the get-go, Llorente made a few crucial interceptions to nip counter-attacks in the bud.
His composed presence in the middle of the park helped Real Madrid control the game. A performance that proved that he is the rightful alternative to Casemiro; a display that could well be the turning point of his Real Madrid career.
Toni Kroos: 7/10
Kroos is another player who has been subjected to a lot of criticism lately for not pulling his weight. But, the German helped assert Real Madrid’s control with decisive passes in the final third, especially during the first half, when AS Roma looked to be in the ascendancy. Will hope to build on this performance.
Lucas Vazquez: 6/10
Lucas Vazquez did get the goal that rounded off the win for Real Madrid. But, his first touch was lacking a lot of times. Was sloppy on the ball on a few occasions and got away with a handball in the Real Madrid box as well. In the right place at the right time to score a confidence boosting goal.
Karim Benzema: 7/10
Benzema might not have been able to find the back of the net for a second successive game. But, this was another outing wherein the Frenchman ran himself into the ground, stretching the Roma defence with his hold-up play. Provided a smart assist to Vazquez, cushioning the ball perfectly into the winger’s path.
Gareth Bale: 7/10
Bale has been one of the stars who have disappointed this season. But, he can’t seem to be doing much wrong in the UEFA Champions League. Tuesday’s performance was far from his best one, but the Welshman showed great awareness to pounce on a mistake by Federico Fazio before calmly slotting the ball past Robin Olsen.
Bale would be keen to keep the heavy touches in check, though. The role on the left flank does seem to suit him, giving Santiago Solari an alternate option if his struggles on the right continue.
Mariano Diaz: N/A
With the win all but secured, Solari used the last 15 minutes to get Mariano back to his sharpest with a 15-minute cameo. Did look rusty after his recent injury, although the appearance would have helped him immensely.
Federico Valverde: N/A
Another player who was given a run out on the pitch, Valverde showed a lot of industry and purpose in his short stint. Almost scored his first senior goal as well with a deflected shot.
Marco Asensio: N/A
Asensio was rightly dropped after a number of poor performances in recent weeks. And, on Tuesday, he barely had any time to make an impression upon replacing Bale.