Bale capitalised on a defensive error from home defender Federico Fazio to put the holders in front against the run of play after the break. Gareth Bale’s goal set Real Madrid on their way to victory over Roma in the Champions League as they cemented their position at the top of Group G.
Spain winger Lucas Vazquez ensured the La Liga side claimed all three points, tapping in from close range after Karim Benzema’s cushioned pass from a Luka Modric cross. Earlier Viktoria Plzen’s 2-1 victory at CSKA Moscow had confirmed both clubs would progress to the knockout stage with a game to spare.
For Madrid that represented a 15th consecutive season in which they had reached the last 16 of the competition since the current format was introduced in 2003-04. There was though a question mark over who would qualify as group winners – with Real and Roma both starting the game on nine points.
Real, holding the upper-hand on head-to-head criteria after their 3-0 win in the reverse fixture survived an attacking barrage from the hosts before securing top spot. Prior to kick-off, the packed Stadio Olimpico rose as one to acclaim club legend Francesco Totti, with the 42-year-old inducted in the club’s Hall of Fame.
Totti spent his entire 24-year playing career with the Italian club before retiring in May 2017 after scoring 307 goals in 786 appearances.
Clinical Madrid have too much
Roma coach Eusebio di Francesco had questioned his team’s determination after a 1-0 defeat at Udinese on Saturday. However, there was no lack of effort against last season’s Champions League winners – just a lack of end product, which was exacerbated by the absence of Edin Dzeko, who was injured in Udine.
At 32, the Bosnian forward has shown that he is not in the twilight of his career just yet, scoring five times in this year’s competition. But his replacement, 22-year-old Czech Republic forward Patrik Schick is yet to open his account in Europe, after nine games across the Champions League and Europa League.
While Schick linked play and had three shots on target, two of those were miscued efforts from close range that could have put the Italians ahead. Fazio, Aleksandar Kolarov and Cengiz Under also went close to scoring for the hosts, with the unmarked Turkey winger blazing over from six yards out on the stroke of halftime.
That proved a key turning point, with Bale scoring from his first shot of the night within two minutes of the restart, and Vazquez repeating that feat later. While Roma found the target with just five of their 17 shots, seven of Real’s 12 efforts forced home goalkeeper Robin Olsen into saves.
Madrid march on again – the stats
- Real Madrid are the only team to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League in every season in the current format (since 2003-04).
- Madrid have won five of their six away games against Roma (all Champions League), with the exception being a 1-2 loss in February 2008.
- Roma have lost each of their last four meetings with Real Madrid, failing to score in each match.
- Gareth Bale has had a hand in seven goals in his last five Champions League games (5 goals, 2 assists).
- Lucas Vazquez scored his first goal in 10 Champions League appearances, since netting versus Borussia Dortmund in December 2017.
Source: BBC News