Perfect 10 Casemiro frustrates Cavani before sealing win for Real Madrid
Real Madrid sailed into the Champions League quarterfinals at the expense of Paris Saint-Germain with a 2-1 away victory, and the truth is Zinedine Zidane's side were scarcely troubled by Unai Emery's outfit -- the Frenchman winning the battle of the sacked-if-you-lose match by a country mile. Cristiano Ronaldo maintained his incredible record in Europe and Casemiro struck a fortunate second goal to put the tie beyond the hosts after he inadvertently teed up Edinson Cavani's equaliser.
Even before Marco Verratti crippled his side's chances -- earning a red card on 66 minutes for questioning the authority of referee Felix Brych who managed the game expertly -- the suspicion was that even Neymar may not have inspired PSG to victory was ingrained. Madrid were superior in every facet and Emery throwing on Lassana Diarra for Kylian Mbappe felt like an attempt at job-saving rather than game-chasing. PSG managed eight attempts on goal to Madrid's 22 and only three were on target. Zidane's side hit the woodwork as often as Keylor Navas was forced into a save.
After a nervous opening 10 minutes Madrid took complete control of the game and for 80 minutes never looked like losing over the 90, let alone on aggregate. Karim Benzema endured another miserable evening but that is a matter for June. With Toni Kroos, Isco, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale on the bench, the visitors were still a cut above their pretenders to the European throne.
Manager rating out of 10
9 -- Zidane opted for width in the knowledge that Mbappe and Angel Di Maria would interchange flanks, which also allowed Real to play swiftly from side to side with two extra players available to exploit spaces. Real's shape allowed the back four to keep theirs and Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio, both excellent throughout, contributed to the opening goal.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Keylor Navas, 7 -- May have expected a busier evening. Other than cutting out a dangerous Di Maria cross and making a decent save from Mbappe seconds later, he enjoyed a spectator's view of the action.
DF Dani Carvajal, 9 -- A fantastic covering block on Yuri Berchiche in the second half capped a phenomenal performance. Carvajal ruled his flank, putting in a game-high seven tackles while keeping both Mbappe and Di Maria away from the danger areas.
DF Raphael Varane, 8 -- Solid in the air and launched a few counters with quick-thinking passes from the back. Rarely missed a teammate and covered the lines well against the pace of PSG's runners.
DF Sergio Ramos, 9 -- Drew a fine save from Alphonse Areola after 17 minutes, the first decent chance of the game. Impeccable other than a yellow for a foul on Javier Pastore, PSG barely made a dent in the captain's sphere of influence. Like his side, Ramos rises to the European occasion.
DF Marcelo, 7 -- Alert to rectify a ball bouncing off his heel in the opening exchanges while Adrien Rabiot was poised to take advantage, the Brazilian outshone Dani Alves with six tackles and a willingness to hurtle after Di Maria, who Emery had instructed to test Marcelo's positional awareness.
MF Casemiro, 10 -- Finally answered the question of what this Madrid side relies on most. Dropping back to provide an extra central defender with telepathic understanding of Real's offside trap, he barely put a foot wrong. It's not jogo bonito but he did an excellent job of winding up Cavani and scored the PSG-deflating second with a huge deflection off Marquinhos. He still had enough in the tank to put in a stoppage-time challenge to deny the Uruguayan in one of his finest performances for Madrid.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 7 -- An excellent challenge on a flying Di Maria set the tone, but yellow 10 minutes later for scything down the Argentinean was enough for Zidane to hook the Croatia international first. Deployed as an all-action midfield destroyer, Kovacic warmed to his task a little over-exuberantly and was lucky Verratti got his marching orders before Brych turned attention to his foul count.
MF Lucas Vazquez, 8 - Preferred to Bale and gave the Welshman no cause for complaint, providing the cross for Ronaldo's opener and hitting the post late. The performance suggests that if both he and Bale are still at the club next season, the latter can expect an impact substitute role more often when fighting spirit is as vital as finesse. Vazquez provided both.
MF Marco Asensio, 7 -- Nicked the ball in midfield to start the move for Ronaldo's goal but was caught in possession several times. His running kept Real on the front foot and he rattled the post in the second half as he observed his orders to keep Alves pinned back.
FW Karim Benzema, 6 -- Two blocked shots and a few heavy touches in the first half aside, Benzema managed to pull PSG out of shape. In a one-on-one with Areola he took the best option and only a fine stop prevented Benzema getting his name on the score sheet. A triple step-over straight out for a goal kick better summed up his evening and he should have squared for Ronaldo in a two-on-one break at 1-1, as the Portuguese was quick to point out.
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 7 -- Got across Thiago Silva for a decent sighter that went just wide and then powered home Vazquez's cross to ensure his record of bagging in every Champions League game this season. A tendency to go down under every challenge -- real or imagined beforehand. He displayed rare nerves, but when the chance came, Ronaldo was there to make it count.
MF Toni Kroos, 6 -- On for Casemiro to add a little pause to the midfield and did just that.
FW Gareth Bale, NR -- On for Benzema, added an extra threat and teed up Vazquez for a post-botherer late on.
MF Isco, NR -- On for Asensio, tested Areola with a decent crack on the 90-minute mark.
Rob Train covers Real Madrid and the Spanish national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Cafc13Rob.