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Roma vs. Real Madrid: 2016 Champions League Round of 16, Leg 1 Score, Reaction

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2016

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (C) celebrates with Real Madrid's defender Sergio Ramos and Real Madrid's French coach Zinedine Zidane after scoring during the UEFA Champions League football match AS Roma vs Real Madrid on Frebruary 17, 2016 at the Olympic stadium in Rome.     AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP / ALBERTO PIZZOLI        (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/Getty Images

Real Madrid defeated Roma in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie on Wednesday, as Cristiano Ronaldo was once again the difference in a 2-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico.

The Portugal hitman struck in the second half to give Real a slim advantage, and substitute Jese Rodriguez sealed the win with only five minutes left on the clock.

Real have not beaten an Italian team over two legs in the Champions League since 1988, but their two-goal advantage gives them the perfect position for the second game.

Roma coach Luciano Spalletti made just one solitary change following his side's victory over Carpi, as striker Edin Dzeko was replaced by countryman Miralem Pjanic.

Real Madrid's team players (from top left) Real Madrid's goalkeeper Keylor Navas, Real Madrid's defender Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid's German midfielder Toni Kroos, Real Madrid's French defender Raphael Varane, Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema, Re
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/Getty Images

Los Blancos manager Zinedine Zidane had to make do without the injured duo of Pepe and Gareth Bale but welcomed Marcelo back in the squad following a shoulder issue.

Madrid made a positive start as they popped the ball around the Stadio Olimpico turf, winning a free-kick outside the penalty area that Ronaldo blasted wide of the target.

UEFA reporter Ben Gladwell highlighted the strike:

Benjamin Gladwell @UEFAcomBenG

He was over 35 yards out but @Cristiano lined up the shot. The boos indicate it went wide. #RomaReal. #UCL

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 17:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF reacts during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between AS Roma and Real Madrid CF at Stadio Olimpico on February 17, 2016 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Ima
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Roma appeared intent on stopping their opponents by brute force if needed, as the foul count shot up in the opening gambit of the contest. 

The Giallorossi finally began to make an impression after 15 minutes, as the hosts retained the ball with increased precision. Mohamed Salah looked dangerous on the break as Real backed off, allowing Roma to threaten their territory.

Roma analyst Wayne Girard shared the work rate of the hosts:

Wayne Girard 💜 @WayneinRome

#Roma working the whole field in the first 20' of #RomaReal https://t.co/BfqpMUl8xA

Real's defence was almost broken at the end of the first half as Stephan El Shaarawy burst through, only to be met by the pace of Raphael Varane, who made a last-second tackle.

Ronaldo cut a frustrated figure as the half petered out into a midfield war of attrition, with neither side able to create clear chances. 

Madrid were positive as the second half began, driving forward as Roma sat patiently. The hosts looked increasingly menacing as they quickly broke against Real, but it was the visitors who shattered the deadlock through a familiar outlet.

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo eyes the ball during the UEFA Champions League football match AS Roma vs Real Madrid on Frebruary 17, 2016 at the Olympic stadium in Rome.   AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP / ALBERTO PIZZOLI        (Pho
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/Getty Images

Ronaldo scored shortly before the hour mark with a powerful shot, hitting the top corner after a significant deflection. 

The Portuguese icon burst down the left and cut onto his right foot, unleashing a shot which cruelly flicked off Alessandro Florenzi's attempt to block.

Opta Joe highlighted the player's amazing record in the competition:

OptaJose @OptaJose

44 - @Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 44 away goals in #UCL, at least nine more than any other player (Lionel Messi 35). Conqueror.

Roma changed their game plan immediately and introduced Dzeko into the fray. The response was immediate from the home side, who increased their pace and verve in hope of finding an equaliser. 

Madrid appeared content with their one-goal lead as the game entered the final 20 minutes, but Roma pushed hard in the final third of the pitch.

Their best moment came from the right foot of William Vainqueur, who was only inches wide from scoring a stunning first-time strike. Dzeko also went close but fluffed his lines at the final moment. 

Real Madrid's defender Sergio Ramos (L) and Roma's forward from Bosnia-Herzegovina Edin Dzeko jump for the ball during the UEFA Champions League football match AS Roma vs Real Madrid on Frebruary 17, 2016 at the Olympic stadium in Rome.        AFP PHOTO /
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/Getty Images

Roma should have had a penalty in the 80th minute as Dani Carvajal recklessly challenged Florenzi, with TV replays confirming the foul. However, the official refused the appeal as Roma players protested. 

ESPN's Dermot Corrigan called the action:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Penalty shout for Roma! Dzeko tees up Florenzi for a shot, Carvajal dives in, but ref says no....

Real Madrid's forward Jese Rodriguez celebrates after scoring during the UEFA Champions League football match AS Roma vs Real Madrid on Frebruary 17, 2016 at the Olympic stadium in Rome.   AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP / ALBERTO PIZZOLI        (Photo
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/Getty Images

The game was ticking down to its conclusion as Roma left space in behind, and substitute Jese—who had been on the pitch just four minutes—settled the fixture with a solo effort.

The attacker carried the ball through the Roma half and finished with aplomb to grab a vital 2-0 lead.

Italian hearts were clearly broken by the strike, and it was a cruel blow when the hosts appeared to be in the ascendancy.

Roma had no response in the final seconds as their heads fell, leaving Zidane to celebrate at the final whistle.

Spalletti's men will feel they deserved a closer result after a strong showing, but they did not have the bite in attack to unduly worry Real. The Spaniards will now be overwhelming favourites to progress to the last-8.

Post-Match Reaction

Zidane tipped his hat towards Roma after a credible battle in the Italian capital, but congratulated his team for their fighting spirit, per the Champions League's official Twitter account.

UEFA Champions League @ChampionsLeague

Zidane, @realmadriden: "We’re happy with the game and the result. We knew it was going to be tough but we fought to the end." #UCL

The second leg takes place at the Bernabeu on Tuesday, March 8. 

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