Paris (AFP) – Champions League holders Real Madrid all but wrapped up a spot in this year’s semi-finals as Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stunning double in a 3-0 win at Juventus, while Bayern Munich took control of their tie with Sevilla.
Here are five things we learned from Tuesday’s quarter-final, first legs:
Zidane can rely on familiar faces
Despite the excellent individual performances of Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez in Real’s last-16, second-leg win at Paris Saint-Germain, Zinedine Zidane welcomed back Luka Modric and Toni Kroos as he named the same starting XI that beat Juventus in last season’s final. His experienced side showed plenty of nous in soaking up a prolonged period of Juve pressure after Ronaldo’s early goal, before ruthlessly going for the kill after Paulo Dybala’s red card. Modric and Kroos dominated midfield, but it was Ronaldo who proved he is still the main man for Real as he bids for a fifth Champions League winner’s medal. The 33-year-old has now scored in a record 10 conseuctive Champions League matches.
Buffon sick of facing Ronaldo
Gianluigi Buffon must be sick of the sight of Ronaldo, after the veteran Juventus goalkeeper saw his dreams of a first Champions League crown ended yet again by the five-time Ballon d’Or winner. The Portuguese star has now scored in his last six matches against Buffon’s Juve, netting nine goals in total, including two in last year’s final in Cardiff. The 40-year-old Buffon looks destined never to win the European Cup.
Bale slipping down Real pecking order
Gareth Bale had to sit and watch his team-mates cruise towards the semi-finals from the bench after again being left out by Zidane. The Welshman has dropped a long way down the pecking order at the Santiago Bernabeu after struggling with injuries over the last two years, a fact shown by the fact he was not even called into action with the team 3-0 up against 10 men. Zidane instead preferred to send on Asensio, Vazquez and Mateo Kovacic in the second half, despite Bale having scored twice against Las Palmas at the weekend.
Bayern end Spanish curse
Bayern Munich ended a run of five straight Champions League defeats in Spain as they look to shake off recent exits to Real, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. History appeared to be repeating itself as Sevilla took a deserved first-half lead, but Bayern fought back with the aid of two lucky deflections. Sevilla are not at the same level as Bayern’s recent conquerors though, and Jupp Heynckes — who was in charge when the Bavarians last lifted the trophy in 2013 — will know his team still have to do more later in the competition.
Sevilla wasteful in front of goal
Sevilla’s struggles for much of the season have come in the attacking third of the pitch, and their forwards again had to shoulder plenty of the blame for the eventual loss on Tuesday. Pablo Sarabia took the opener well, but had already earlier squandered a gilt-edged chance when he fired wide with the goal gaping. Wissam Ben Yedder started after his match-winning brace against Manchester United in the last 16, but he had a quiet game and was replaced by Luis Muriel. Substitute Sandro Ramirez had a late chance to equalise, but the Everton loanee has still only scored once in 23 outings this season.