Cristiano Ronaldo hails 'important advantage' after Real Madrid beat PSG
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo said his side have an "important advantage" after he scored twice in Wednesday's 3-1 Champions League round-of-16 first-leg victory at home to Paris Saint Germain.
PSG struck first at the Bernabeu when Adrien Rabiot smashed home after mayhem in the Madrid defence, but Ronaldo levelled from the penalty spot just before half-time -- his 100th goal for in the Champions League for Real -- after Toni Kroos had been fouled by Giovani Lo Celso.
Both teams then had chances to go ahead before Ronaldo netted his second from close range with seven minutes left, with Marcelo's late strike making the holders big favourites to progress from the second leg on March 6.
The Portuguese told Gol TV after the final whistle that his team had suffered when conceding the opener, but had the experience in the competition to keep playing their game and secure the victory.
"It was an important win," Ronaldo said. "We started the game well, but suffered a goal, but this is the Champions League. Madrid have experience and know games are 90 minutes, and today we wanted a good result at home.
"That is what happened. After the first goal we equalised and in the second half we scored two goals and got an important advantage."
Ronaldo said Madrid had been aware of the danger of PSG's trident of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, but Zinedine Zidane's side had been able to ensure they had enough possession to do damage themselves.
"Perfect to score just before half-time as we knew Paris are a very dangerous team, especially up front with the three forwards they have," he said. "But we knew we had to pressure them, to win the ball back.
"That is what happens. In the second half we waited a bit more, but we played better, made more chances, and scored more goals."
Having extended his lead as the competition's top scorer this season with 12 goals in seven appearances, Ronaldo said Madrid's plan for the second leg would be to win the game and qualify without any problems.
"When you score and your team wins it always special," he said. "That happened today. But we know the tie is not over yet, we have to win there too, score goals, to be relaxed and go through to the next round."
Zidane spoke of Madrid's Champions League pedigree at his postmatch news conference and Ronaldo said the players could feel during the game the special atmosphere the competition brought.
"Real Madrid loves to play in the Champions League, the fans too, and we could feel that on the pitch," he said.
Real defender Sergio Ramos believes the manner of his team's success in coming from behind is crucial ahead of the return fixture in Paris.
"Vital win,'' Ramos said after the match. "This was one of the Champions League [wins] which I'll remember throughout my career and the way we won is important for the return leg.
"We must continue on in this way and defend our Champions League title. We did brilliantly.
"This is no time to dwell on things and this team, despite conceding a goal, looked for that win with real integrity against a focused side.
"Despite what we all say, Real Madrid can never be written off.''
Winners of the Champions League in three of the last four seasons, Madrid have struggled domestically in La Liga and the Copa del Rey, but Zidane said that when the biggest games came around his players showed their worth.
"This club has 12 Champions Leagues, and there is a reason for that," Zidane said. "The players know what is on the line, that it is an important competition, that we always want to show the worth this club and this team always has.
"Today we showed that from minute one to minute 90. Not just with the ball, as we know that with the ball we can do great things, but we defended very well too, with intensity."
Ronaldo, 33, ended up making a much bigger impact on the game than PSG talisman Neymar, but Zidane preferred not to single out.the Portuguese for too much praise, pointing out the difficulty of trying to find new things to say about the five-time Ballon D'Or winner.
"Everybody played their role," he said. "[About Ronaldo] it is difficult to say the same thing every day. He has always shown he can make the difference."
Zidane had surprised by starting an extra midfielder in Isco and benching attacker Gareth Bale, with the Wales international then one of three late attacking substitutions which helped decide the game.
"With Isco we were looking for superiority in the centre of the park," he said. "He played really well, not just with the ball, but also without it. He was very mobile, and that was key, above all at the start of the game.
"Towards the end we changed things a bit, as we wanted to put a bit more depth and width with Lucas [Vazquez] and [Marcos] Asensio, who did very well with Gareth up top. That is what we looked for, and it went well for us."
When local reporters started talking about the quarterfinals already, the Frenchman showed caution and said the second leg at the Parc des Princes could still be difficult for his side.
"We must be happy with what we did ourselves, against a very good opponent, who can make it tough for you in any moment," he said. "They did that today, but we got a good victory. We know the return will be very difficult, when you play away from home anything can happen.
"We know the Champions League is an important competition for the club, and we want to enjoy what we did tonight, and from tomorrow think of our next game [at Real Betis in La Liga on Sunday]."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan