Real Madrid put a firm foot in the Champions League quarterfinals against one of the pre-tournament favourites with a 3-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday. Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a brace and Marcelo added the coup de grace five minutes from time as the home side cancelled out Adrien Rabiot's opener.
What better day for the Bernabeu to fall in love with their team again? The result means a single away goal will leave PSG requiring four at the Parc des Princes to progress after Madrid produced a performance reminiscent of the best of last season.
There is a time and place to put the ball into the stands, and there were several in the second half, when Zinedine Zidane's side invited unnecessary danger during a 15-minute period of PSG dominion. Real rode their luck occasionally and had the visitors been more effective in front of goal, the result might have been different -- a warning for the return leg.
Manager rating out of 10
10 -- Zidane needed a result as much as he needed a tactical flourish to silence observers who have accused him of lacking in-game management. He provided a masterclass. When PSG switched to 4-4-2 after the withdrawal of focal point Edinson Cavani, forcing Dani Alves and Yuri Berchiche to push forward, Zidane threw on Gareth Bale to counter Emery's bet. Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez were then added to exploit the spaces offered. The former provoked two goals in the final 10 minutes and the latter muddied Emery's tactical water further by tracking Neymar's runs after a lengthy pep talk from his boss. Voila.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Keylor Navas, 8 -- His first save on 30 minutes was a regulation job from Neymar. His next two were wonderful stops to deny Kylian Mbappe when it seemed the France international was destined to score.
DF Nacho, 8 -- Put down an early marker on Neymar and largely had the better of his duel with PSG's star man. Unfortunate on the Rabiot goal as he was shadowing the Brazilian without any support. Eventually went in the book for scything Neymar down on the break but performed his task to the letter.
DF Sergio Ramos, 8 -- Colossal in the air and put in a vital block in the 54th minute in a true captain's performance. When Madrid went 1-0 down, Ramos took his team by the scruff of the neck and dragged them through a tricky period of the game.
DF Raphael Varane, 7 -- Made an excellent block to deny Cavani in the first half but was often second best against the bustling Uruguayan and failed to track Rabiot's unmarked appearance in the box when Nacho was covering. Otherwise, stuck in some tackles and got his head to a few crosses.
DF Marcelo, 9 -- Jogo bonito, backed up by defensive solidity? It must have been some chat from Zidane. An incredible ball for Ronaldo, a slaloming run through the PSG defence and a ruleta to leave Alves looking the fool capped a wonderful showing. A first-time volley late on handed his side a considerable advantage in Paris.
MF Casemiro, 9 -- Wonderful control and poise to escape three PSG players in his own half showed the Brazilian can play a bit, but a providential block on Cavani with his side a goal down is his real purpose. Typically, almost doubled the tackle rate of everyone else on the pitch.
MF Toni Kroos, 7 -- Won a vital penalty somewhat dubiously in a performance where he inevitably topped the pass success standings.
MF Luka Modric, 6 -- Found himself isolated at times and lost Rabiot for the goal in a game spent dragged out to the right, from where he could offer little on the front foot. Did pull off a chest-shoulder control worthy of Zidane, though.
MF Isco, 7 -- A combative performance with a solid shift in defence, Isco lost possession as many times as he recovered it but not many players can wriggle out of the holes the Malagueno can and none can thread such incisive passes. When Real needed a foot on the ball, Isco's was available.
FW Karim Benzema, 7 -- Off to more cheers than jeers and deservedly. A nice backheel to tee up Modric and drawing a sprawling save from Alphonse Areola were the highlights but Benzema's innate ability to link midfield and attack and provide an extra threat on either flank helped to wear PSG down.
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 9 -- His 100th and 101st Champions League goals for Madrid made it eight consecutive games scoring in Europe. A one-on-one with Areola, which smacked the PSG keeper in the face, might have been better hit low but his determination in the move for 2-1 reignited a lost cause to force the chance and he buried his spot kick expertly under no small amount of pressure.
FW Gareth Bale, 6 -- On for Benzema, Bale probably doesn't fancy the tag of the world's most expensive impact sub, but did his bit to throw PSG off their stride.
MF Lucas Vazquez, NR -- On for Casemiro, filled in for the Brazilian in defensive duties.
MF Marco Asensio, NR -- On for Isco, provoked the second goal with a fizzing cross and found Marcelo with a deft delivery to make it 3-1 in a potentially tie-deciding cameo.