Uefa Champions League

Dream down the drain: Despite spending billions Paris club’s quest for European glory crushed

Record Ronaldo goal and Casemiro ease holders past Parisians and into quarters as they chase three Champions League titles in a row

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2018, 10:59am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2018, 10:18pm

Paris Saint-Germain’s dream of joining Europe’s elite with a Uefa Champions League trophy will have to wait another season, as Real Madrid delivered a brutal reality check by cruising through to the quarter-finals 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.

PSG still have not reached the semi-finals since their 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 remain a club more hopeful than convincing.

Despite huge investment from cash-rich Qatari owners QSI since 2011, PSG have not been past the quarter-finals 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 per cent of the game and we didn’t do enough with the 40 per cent we had. Losing to Real Madrid itself isn’t a disappointment, but being knocked out in the last 16 is.”

“Our fans got behind us, I apologise 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 they belong 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.”

In the night’s other match, five-time champion Liverpool eased into the last eight, drawing 0-0 at home to two-time winner Porto after winning the away leg 5-0.

The atmosphere was electric at Parc des Princes in Paris, with thick smoke engulfing the stadium a pre-match pyrotechnics were set off. PSG’s exuberant fans were asked to “stop letting off flares” over the stadium loud speaker just after the interval.

This was all part of a concerted effort to motivate the players. The club’s communications department had released a video, urging fans to rally behind the team seemingly as a matter of urgency for the city itself. Neymar also posted a video on Twitter, with the words “Vous allez le Faire” (You will do it).

Banners around the ground encouraged the team and some fans had already taken matters into their own hands. Late into the night before the game, a small group of PSG Ultras let off bangers, chanted “Paris” and banged a drum outside the Real Madrid team hotel.

But all this bluster seemed more like bluff.

“Tactically we played the right way, we believe in what we’re doing,” Zidane said. “We closed them down high up the pitch.”