Recap: Real Madrid beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 at the Bernabeu to secure their place in the last of the Champions League and put themselves in the driving seat to do so as group winners. Yet PSG will be wondering long into the night about quite how they managed to come away from the 90 minutes without anything to show for their considerable efforts.
There will be frustration, first, at the goal they conceded. In the 35th minute, a deflected shot caught Kevin Trapp coming unnecessarily out of his goal and allowed Nacho to find the corner of the net from a tight angle. It was doubtful whether the defender, on the pitch for only two minutes after replacing Marcelo, was aiming for the net rather than a teammate in the middle. And his first Champions League goal only added to the surreal nature of the contest in the Spanish capital.
Helped by outnumbering and outworking Real Madrid in midfield, PSG had more possession, more shots and more chances in the contest. For Laurent Blanc’s side it was close to the perfect away performance, yet the small, but crucial, details eluded them. Twice they were denied by the woodwork, first when Adrien Rabiot, on in place of Marco Verratti, struck a fine volley against the post and then when Angel di Maria, on his return to the Bernabeu, curled a free-kick against the crossbar. The clearest chance, though, fell to Edinson Cavani. But, played through by Di Maria, the forward got the ball horribly stuck under his foot.
In acknowledgement that his side were second best, Madrid coach Rafael Benitez pulled his two wide forwards back in the second half to stop the attacking threat of PSG’s full-backs. On the night it ultimately proved effective, but it will do little to quell the criticism that he has made Real Madrid a more defensive outfit. And you have to wonder, too, just how much Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed a match in which he was an increasingly isolated and marginal figure up front. Still, missing Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, and with James Rodriguez not getting off the bench on his return to the squad, Benitez can point to a hugely depleted forward line. And, while it may not be convincing, the results so far cannot be argued. Top of La Liga, they are now safely into the champions League knockout phase with two games to spare. Just one more win will ensure they do so as group winners.
FULL TIME Real Madrid 1-0 Paris Saint-Germain
Nacho’s seemingly fortuitous goal, two minutes after coming off the bench, wins it for Real Madrid, but PSG were the better team for the entire contest. The French champions will be left ruing hitting the woodwork twice and a failure to turn their dominance into goals. With Malmo losing to Shakhtar Donetsk, Real Madrid now qualify for the last 16. And they will now expect to do so as group winners, having taken a three-point edge on PSG.
91 mins: Three minutes of injury time to be played.
89 mins: PSG hit the frame of the goal for the second time in this match! Di Maria comes within inches of scoring on his return to the Bernabeu, curling a delightful free-kick over the wall but against the crossbar, with Navas well beaten. It just doesn't look like it'll be PSG's night.
86 mins: PSG haven’t created nearly as much after the interval, but Di Maria had an opening then yet tried to thread a difficult pass through to Ibrahimovic rather than shoot himself and Madrid were able to clear.
84 mins: Nacho stops Aurier with a good sliding the challenge. The Ivorian has not carried nearly the same impact in this second half, and that, at least, is a credit to Benitez’s tactical shift.
82 mins: Benitez makes his final change, replacing Isco with summer signing Mateo Kovacic.
80 mins: Real Madrid have taken an increasingly cautious approach in this second half. Clearly influenced by the danger PSG’s full-backs posed in the first half, Madrid’s wide players are playing far deeper now, making Ronaldo very much a lone presence in attack. He may get the result, but this is not exactly the type of performance to dispel the suggestion that Benitez has made Madrid more of a defensive-minded team. Of course, he may well point to hsi long list of unavailable forwards as a mitigating factor.
78 mins: A momentary scare for Real Madrid as their former player Di Maria whips a corner in straight against the outside of Navas’ post.
75 mins: Laurent Blanc is going for it now, taking off Blaise Matuidi for the speedy Brazilian Lucas Moura.
74 mins: Real Madrid go close to an unlikely second goal. From a deep cross from the right by Vazquez, Isco takes it down and fires a shot at the near post that Trapp blocks behind for a corner. PSG have to start taking more chances now and inevitably they’re going to leave gaps for Madrid to exploit.
70 mins: It’s a very odd game to watch right now. PSG continue to be the superior team in almost every area, yet they’re failing to provide the urgency and cuttign edge to recover their deficit.
67 mins: David Luiz picks up the game’s second yellow card after taking down Isco, and the Brazilian, only just back from injury, will now miss PSG’s next Champions League match against Malmo.
63 mins: Real Madrid make their second substitution with Lucas Vazquez replacing the afforementioned disappointing Jese.
61 mins: Jese has been a particular disappointment so far, and now wastes a good opportunity to catch PSG on the break when overrunning the ball.
59 mins: Real Madrid are enjoying a decent amount of possession in the last few minutes, but they’re really struggling to create anything going forward. Ronaldo is an isolated figure in the central striker role, lacking the support of the injured Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.
56 mins: Trapp reacts well to turn ISco’s deflected effort behind, but there was a better opportunity for Real Madrid moments before, if Ronaldo had only let the ball run for Toni Kroos rather than taking the ball off his teammate’s toes on the edge of the box.
53 mins: PSG work the ball well through midfield and then out wide for a full-back yet again. Ibrahomvic was waiting in the middle from Maxwell’s cross, but Madrid are able to cut it out. Plenty of nice touches by Rabioit since coming on. The 20-year-old has plenty of competition for a place in this PSG midfield, but his talent is not in question.
49 mins: Ronaldo fires over the bar, but the better chance was at the other end, where his former teammate Di Maria latched onto a long ball over the top but could only pick out Navas with his shot. PSG can’t keep spurning these opportunities.
48 mins: Kevin Trapp almost put his side in big trouble after a dangerous pass out to Thiago Motta. Trapp is fortunate that it results in nothing more than the midfielder being on the receiving end of a hard challenge from Casemiro.
Second Half Kickoff! Real Madrid get the game back underway, with no more changes for either side during the interval.
HALF TIME Real Madrid 1-0 PSG
If ever a scoreline didn’t tell the real story it’s this one. PSG have dominated proceedings at the Bernabeu, controlling the midfield and not allowing any space for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo. PSG’s full-backs have been a constant threat going forward, too, but Laurent Blanc’s side just haven’t been able to find the back of the net. Rabiot, who replaced Verratti, fired against the post, while Cavani made a mess of a clear chance late in the half. Real Madrid, meanwhile, despite being decidedly average, lead thanks to asurely fortunate strike from Nacho, on in place of Marcelo, after an error from Kevin Trapp.
45+3 mins: Real Madrid produce their best move of the match, ending with Isco having a shot blocked behind by Trapp. And straight up the other end, Cavani misses a glorious opportunity, getting the ball horribly stuck under his feet after being played clean through by Di Maria.
44 mins: PSG go close again. Ibrahimovic volleys a corner into the danger zone, but Cavani is ruled offside as he tries to force the ball in from close range.
Here's that goal from Nacho that has Real Madrid in front very much against the run of play.
40 mins: How’s that not gone in? Maxwell puts in a quite superb cross, just begging for Cavani to head it home but the forward somehow fails to make contact with the ball. This half continues to be dominated by PSG, yet they’re behind.
39 mins: Rabiot goes close with a well-struck shot that flies past the post. PSG now need to find an equalizer, but they must still be wondering how they’re behind after being well in control of the match.
GOAL! Real Madrid 1-0 PSG (Nacho, 35)
An improbable goal and an even more unlikely scorer. Toni Kroos’ shot loops up off of Thiago Silva and Trapp comes out wide to try and grab it. Instead the ball spins into the path of Nacho, who, from an improbable angle finds the far corner of the net. The defender appeared to be looking for a teammate, but he won’t care after netting the first Champions League goal of his career just two minutes after coming on.
31 mins: It’s the full-backs, and especially Aurier, getting forward, that are continuing to be the most threatening outlet for PSG. Aurier again threatens down the right but his cross from a promising position goes straight into the hands of Navas. Marcelo, who has been given a tough time by Aurier, now looks like he’s going to have to go off with an injury.
32 mins: Marcelo can’t go on, and that’s now one player on each side who’s had to limp off. Nacho, who’s primarily a center-back, is on for Real Madrid, which will take away a big weapon from Madrid’s attack.
29 mins: From similar distance to Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic produces a much more dangerous effort from a free-kick. The striker sends his effort zipping over the wall and just wide of goal as Keylor Navas dives across.
26 mins: Ronaldo lines up a free-kick from distance, but it canons into the side of Ibrahimovic’s head and is taken at the second attempt by Trapp.
24 mins: It’s all PSG right now. The visitors put another effort at goal, with Di Maria ending a long spell of possession by shooting just wide from the edge of the box. This is close to an ideal away performance right now from Laurent Blanc’s side. They just need a goal to show for their efforts.
22 mins: PSG go even closer to grabbing the lead. Raphael Varane is caught out of position, allowing Zlatan Ibrahimovic far too much space in the box. The Swede tries to bend the ball round Sergio Ramos and into the far corner, but gets his angles fractionally wrong.
21 mins: There’s the first big chance of the match. Aurier does well getting down the right to meet Di Maria’s clever pass and he pulls the ball back for Matuidi, but on the midfielder’s weaker right foot he doesn’t strike it cleanly and Keylor Navas comfortably saves.
17 mins: Verratti didn’t last for much longer. The Italian limps back off and is replaced by Adrien Rabiot. That’s a significant early blow for PSG, with Verratti an instrumental figure with and without the ball in the French side’s midfield.
15 mins: Thiago Silva takes a poor touch in his own box and so nearly allows the alert Ronaldo to sneak in for a chance. The Brazilian just recovers in time. Both Isco and Verratti now back on.
13 mins: Real Madrid are still down to 10 men with Isco getting his head wound patched up on the sidelines. Aurier came off the better of the two, but PSG now have a concern over Marco Verratti, who hobbles off the field.
10 mins: Sergio Ramos, still forward from a corner, puts a fine deep cross into the PSG box, but Serge Aurier clears the danger with a good defensive header. The Ivorian defender pays for his efforts, though, suffering a nasty clash of heads with Isco. Both players down receiving treatment.
7 mins: PSG closing down well in the opening exchanges, not letting Real Madrid build any easy attacks. Jese Rodriguez frustrated on the edge of the box as he south to find an opening.
4 mins: Cristiano Ronaldo unleashes his first, and almost certainly not his last, shot of the match, but from all of 30 yards he fails to get hold of it and it’s easy for PSG goalkeeper Kevin Trapp.
3 mins: Early opening for PSG as Edinson Cavani breaks into the box, but the Uruguayan forward can’t stay on his feet as he tries to manufacture a shooting chance.
KICKOFF! Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti get this heavyweight clash underway at the Bernabeu.
2:10 p.m. EDT: The lineups for both teams are in. The big news for Real Madrid is the return to the substitute’s bench of James Rodriguez, after nearly two months out injured. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas and captain Sergio Ramos are back in the starting lineup after missing the weekend win over Las Palmas. PSG also welcome a player back from injury, with David Luiz included after close to a month out.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) November 3, 2015
— PSG Officiel (@PSG_inside) November 3, 2015
Preview: Two clubs with ambitions of going all the way in this season’s Champions League will go head to head at the Bernabeu on Tuesday, when 10-times European Cup winners Real Madrid host French champions Paris Saint-Germain. The duo go into the game level on seven points at the top of Group A after playing out a goalless draw in the French capital two weeks ago. It means the result on Tuesday could go a long way to deciding which team finishes top of the group and goes onto secure what in theory will be a more favorable draw in the Round of 16.
For PSG, the match is also another chance to demonstrate their ability to compete with Europe’s elite. In the last three seasons, despite landing the Ligue Un title on each occasion, PSG have been eliminated at the Champions League quarterfinal stage. Having spent huge sums since being taken over by Qatari Sports Investments, the club is now seeking to break into the final four and ultimately deliver a first ever European Cup.
A victory against the most successful club in the competition’s history would be welcome encouragement toward that goal. Yet Real Madrid have yet to taste a single defeat under new manager Rafael Benitez. A 3-1 victory over Las Palmas on Saturday kept the team top of La Liga, on goal difference from fierce rivals Barcelona. Despite the positive results, Benitez has been forced to defend against criticism for perceived defensive tactics. Yet he can point to an injury list that has denied him the use of key players like James Rodríguez, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale for long spells.
He is expected to receive a boost on Tuesday, with James back in contention after nearly two months on the sidelines. If he does feature, the Colombian is likely to come up against the man he essentially replaced at the Bernabeu, Ángel di María. The Argentine won the Champions League with Madrid in 2014, before leaving for an ill-fated single season at Manchester United that ended when he joined PSG this summer.