PARIS – Paris Saint-Germain’s dream of joining Europe’s elite with a Champions League trophy will have to wait another season, as Real Madrid delivered a brutal reality check by cruising through to the quarterfinals with a 2-1 win on Tuesday night.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s powerful header — his 12th goal of the competition — and a deflected effort from midfielder Casemiro either side of a close-range finish from PSG’s Edinson Cavani sent Madrid through 5-2 on aggregate.
Peaking at the right time, Madrid can be confident of challenging for a third straight title and 13th overall.
PSG still has not reached the semifinals since its lone appearance in 1995. PSG’s ambitious club motto of “Dream Bigger” should perhaps now be revised. On this evidence, and last season’s humiliation at the hands of Barcelona, PSG remains a club more hopeful than convincing. Despite huge investment from cash-rich Qatari owners QSI since 2011, PSG has not been past the quarterfinals in that time.
“We needed our heads and our hearts today. But we didn’t have both, we didn’t play as well as Real Madrid,” dejected PSG coach Unai Emery said. “Madrid deserved to go through. I think they controlled 60 percent of the game and we didn’t do enough with the 40 percent we had. Losing to Real Madrid itself isn’t a disappointment, but being knocked out in the last 16 is.”
Elsewhere on Tuesday, a familiar name took its place in the quarterfinals.
“It’s time we showed up again,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said after his team secured a place in the last eight for the first time in nine years.
It couldn’t have been an easier passage for the five-time European champions, either, as they coasted to a 0-0 draw against Porto to clinch a 5-0 aggregate win in the last 16.
Having scored five goals without reply in a dazzling first-leg display in Portugal three weeks ago, this was always going to be a procession for Liverpool at Anfield — a ground that has been something of a fortress this season.
At times, it felt like the English club was going through the motions, especially since it faces a huge Premier League game against Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday.
No major injuries were sustained — captain Jordan Henderson had strapping applied to his right thigh after the game, but Klopp said it was nothing more than a dead leg — and Liverpool rarely looked like conceding.
Now, Liverpool can look forward to the draw for the quarterfinals on March 16. The team is the competition’s top scorer this season with 28 goals and will be feared by the other qualifiers.
“This year, we belong there,” Klopp said, “it should not be a surprise. There will be seven other very good teams — maybe four of them will be from England, which doesn’t make to easier, to be honest. But we have a chance, for sure, to go through to the semifinals.”
Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, PSG’s fragile defense crumbled and its attack offered little threat without the injured Neymar. The biggest bang from this PSG side was from the fireworks constantly let off by a section of fans behind one goal.
Cavani’s goal gave PSG some hope with 20 minutes left. But with midfielder Marco Verratti already sent off, scoring two more to force extra time was beyond a lackluster PSG side.
Instead, midfielder Casemiro’s deflected shot looped past stranded goalkeeper Alphonse Areola in the 80th. He was gifted the ball after midfielder Adrien Rabiot dealt poorly with Lucas Vazquez’s cross.
To compound a miserable night for PSG fans, who so badly want to believe this side can conquer Europe, Verratti showed terrible composure to in getting sent off midway through the second half. He got a second yellow card, having protested vehemently with referee Felix Brych after not getting a free kick.
“Our fans got behind us, I apologize to them,” Rabiot said. “We tried but we couldn’t do it.”
Ronaldo had already done his usual damage.
The Champions League’s all-time leading scorer was given far too much space and leapt triumphantly to beat Areola with a downward header in the 51st minute. He had netted twice in the first leg.
Ronaldo is hitting top form at a crucial time and has scored in nine Champions League games in a row, matching Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record.
This was a huge test for a PSG side desperate to prove it belongs among Europe’s elite, especially after spectacularly failing last year — becoming the first team eliminated after winning the first leg 4-0. Barcelona won the return 6-1.
“Maybe tonight they weren’t so good, but it’s also because we played very well,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “Obviously it became harder for them when we scored the second goal.”
After losing to Liverpool, Porto coach Sergio Conceicao was confident about the English team’s chances in the competition.
“Liverpool are definitely one of the teams that can win the competition,” he said. “They are a really strong team, everyone knows that.”