Ronaldo ends road scoring drought in win
ROME >> Cristiano Ronaldo ended his away scoring drought with an impressive second-half goal as Real Madrid won 2-0 at Roma on Wednesday in the first leg of the Round of 16 in the Champions League.
The victory also marked a successful debut for Zinedine Zidane as Madrid's manager in the elite competition, with the 10-time champion taking a big step toward the quarterfinals.
It was Ronaldo's first goal on the road since Nov. 29, when he scored a penalty against Eibar.
"Everyone expects (Ronaldo) to score and today he was able to," Zidane said. "I'm happy for these two away goals and that we didn't concede any goals."
Shortly before the hour mark, Ronaldo collected a pass up the left flank from Marcelo, rapidly cut inside — moving the ball with a deft flick of his legs — and launched a powerful shot that deflected off Roma fullback Alessandro Florenzi.
"He's a player against whom you can't concede anything. He can go right or left, it doesn't matter which way," Florenzi said. "I was also unlucky, because I deflected the shot and the ball went in right under the crossbar."
After scoring, Ronaldo ran toward Zidane and hugged the French great, who replaced Rafa Benitez last month.
Substitute Jese then sealed the victory with an angled shot four minutes from the end after Roma failed to take advantage of several opportunities for an equalizer.
At the final whistle, Zidane congratulated each of his players one by one, including those who didn't play.
"I do it because the team is the most important thing," said Zidane, who scored the winning goal for Madrid in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen. "It's the players who make the difference and today it was Ronaldo — it's often him — but everyone's contribution is important, even those who don't play much. We win all together."
It was the 89th career goal in the Champions League for the three-time FIFA world player of the year — adding to his record haul — and his 12th this season.
The return leg is on March 8 in Madrid.
New Roma coach Luciano Spalletti, who replaced Rudi Garcia last month, wasn't too disappointed.
"We played a great match," Spalletti said. "We were just unfortunate on several chances and we're still conceding too much in defense."
Still, the scoreline was an improvement for Roma compared to recent encounters with European powers.
Roma was beaten 6-1 at Barcelona in November and fell 7-1 to Bayern Munich at home last season.
The Giallorossi also lost 7-1 at home to Manchester United in the 2007 quarterfinals — a match in which Ronaldo scored twice.
While Madrid controlled for long stretches Wednesday, Zidane's side had trouble finding the target until Ronaldo's goal.
The visitors' only significant chance in the first half was a long-distance volley from Marcelo that just missed the target shortly after the half-hour mark.
Roma relied on counterattacks and the speed of Mohamed Salah on the right flank, although it was Stephan El Shaarawy who had the better opportunities, chipping high in the 17th following a precise cross from newly-signed Diego Perotti.
El Shaarawy, who was recently loaned from AC Milan, also had a chance seconds before the break but was stopped by Raphael Varane just as he was about to shoot.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, struggled to make an impact early on, shooting a long free kick well wide for his only sight of goal in the first period
Neither side managed a shot on target in the first half.
Early in the second, James Rodriguez had his head bloodied when William Vainqueur reached up with his boot to intercept a cross from Ronaldo and made contact with the Colombia international.
Roma substitute Edin Dzeko set up Vainqueur for a long-distance attempt at an equalizer that went wide and Ronaldo then nearly scored again. His delicate header made fans inside the Stadio Olimpico hold their breath as it went across the box before ending up just wide.
Jese, who replaced Rodriguez, then had an easy time beating Roma defender Lucas Digne for Madrid's second goal, with goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny having no chance.
Ronaldo then exited to a standing ovation from the small pocket of about 1,000 Madrid fans, who chanted "Ronaldo, Ronaldo."
The night's other first-leg match saw Wolfsburg beat AA Ghent 3-2 in Belgium.
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