Luka Modric, Keylor Navas impress as Real Madrid eliminate Roma
Real Madrid earned a place in the quarterfinals of the Champions League after a 2-0 win over AS Roma on Tuesday night. Despite qualifying for the next round, this home victory, added to their 2-0 success in Rome three weeks ago, tells a slightly misleading story.
In both matches, Roma enjoyed sufficient chances to challenge Real Madrid's ticket to the final eight, but eventually the Madridistas' superior accuracy in front of goal prevailed.
Coach Zinedine Zidane will be happy with the result and the dynamism his side showed for long spells of the match, but will also be concerned with how easily Roma managed to get to scoring positions on the counter, especially during the first hour.
Real Madrid now travel to the Canary Islands, where they will face Union Deportiva Las Palmas on Sunday night, aiming to maintain their third position in La Liga.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Keylor Navas, 9 -- Another fantastic display by Navas, who had to face Roma's strikers one-on-one at least four times. His great reflexes and ability to come out of goal helped Real Madrid to keep a blank sheet against all odds.
DF Danilo, 7 -- Since he became the best player of the team in the otherwise lacklustre display against Atletico Madrid two weeks ago, the Brazilian has started to play with unprecedented determination. At times he even showed glimpses of why Real Madrid paid €30 million for him.
DF Pepe, 7 -- The Portuguese defender thrives in high-profile matches, and this was no exception. Although he did not have to deal with the fast side of Roma's attack, he did well with and without the ball.
DF Sergio Ramos, 5 -- The skipper had to deal with the toughest dance couple of the night, the impressively fast and quite skilled Mohamed Salah. Ramos is clearly not in good enough form to play twice a week, and he got skinned at least three times in the first 60 minutes, but was saved by Navas' outstanding ability to leave strikers with no space in one-on-one situations. Ramos improved in the last 30 minutes, but the reasons for concern are still there.
DF Marcelo, 6 -- Marcelo offered his usual mixture of offensive devotion and defensive absences. He left Ramos without cover more often than he should have, but also led a few attacking moves that could have finished fruitfully for Real Madrid. He's not going to change at this point.
MF Casemiro, 7 -- Casemiro added the spice that his side's midfield demanded in this match. His tireless defensive activity liberated Luka Modric and Toni Kroos to move forward and reach scoring positions more often than we've become accustomed to see. He was wasteful with the ball at times, something uncharacteristic of the Brazilian. In any case, the team look more confident in attack when he starts.
MF Luka Modric, 9 -- Outstanding match from the Croatian. Appeared virtually everywhere on the pitch, regardless of the situation, always helping his team. Passing, dribbling, tackling and even shooting. Modric did everything well.
MF Toni Kroos, 7 -- Even though the German participated less often than usual, he received the ball closer to the opposition's goal. This helped him to find Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo in scoring positions in several instances. Took a couple of shots himself as well.
MF James Rodriguez, 6 -- His first 30 minutes were simply terrible, to the extent that the Santiago Bernabeu faithful booed him at times. When most of us thought he'd be replaced at halftime, Zidane decided to leave him on the pitch. The Colombian rewarded the coach's faith with a quite decent final half hour, and a goal that finished the match.
FW Gareth Bale, 7 -- Back in the starting XI after his injury, he looked the part during the first half. His movements and crosses on the left wing wreaked havoc on Roma's right side, and he was unlucky that his fellow teammates did not finish at least two of his plays. After halftime, he looked exhausted and forgot to track back, something he had done before the interval.
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 8 -- Scored the opener, assisted James for the second and moved all over the final third offering his teammates options to find him in scoring positions. That said, he should have done better with his finishing in a couple of occasions.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 8 -- Replaced Bale after 60 minutes. Vazquez was instrumental for Real Madrid's first goal and took advantage of Roma's broken defence in the final half hour to show his speed and passing skills.
FW Jese Rodriguez, NR -- Replaced Modric after 75 minutes. Looked for scoring chances, but wasn't inspired.
MF Mateo Kovacic, NR -- Replaced Casemiro after 83 minutes. Showed his usual willingness to impress.
Eduardo Alvarez covers Real Madrid and the Spanish national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @alvarez.