The 2015-16 UEFA Champions League season is now down to round-of-16 and first-leg matches were played on February 16 & 17. Led by a wonder goal from superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, 10-time champion Real Madrid notched up a 2-0 away victory against AS Roma on February 17. On the same day in another away victory, Wolfsburg defeated Champions League newcomer Gent 3-2 with Julian Draxler scoring two goals in classical style. On Tuesday February 16, Paris Saint-Germain edged out Chelsea 2-1 at home while in another home victory, Benifica managed a 90th minute goal to edge out Zenit. The rest of the first-leg matches will be played on February 23 & 24 while second-leg matches have been scheduled during March 8-16, 2016.
In Rome on Wednesday, AS Roma couldn’t prevent Cristiano Ronaldo and team-mates from scoring an impressive 2-0 victory. Nothing happened until the halftime, although Marcelo missed out big chance, when he shot wide after Ronaldo flicked a cross to him. Marcelo played a pivotal role throughout the match and he was the one, who set up Ronaldo in 57th minute through a perfect pass. Ronaldo cleared the off-side trap as the ball got deflected from Roma’s Alessandro Florenzi. Then Ronaldo went as close to the goal as possible before shooting on top of the net. In 73rd minute, Ronaldo missed a straightforward chance but substitute Jese, who came in for James Rodrigues in 82nd minute, justified Zidane’s choice. In 86th minute, Jese took the ball away from Roma’s Lucas Digne in midfield on the right and after covering a lot of ground, shot low across the goal leaving no chance for the Roma goalkeeper. With a 2-0 first-leg advantage, the home side will surely have an upper hand in the second-leg game against Roma on March 8 at Santiago Bernabeu.
In the other game on Wednesday, Wolfsburg defeated home side Gent 3-2. The visitors led 3-0 until the last 10 minutes, when Gent came up with two goals to indicate that it might not be easy for the Germans in the return leg at Wolfsburg on March 8. Wolfsburg mostly controlled the match, though the first goal came only in 44th minute, when Draxler spun away to play a clean 1-2 between himself and Vieirinha, before sending a side-footed flick into the bottom corner. After the break, Draxler scored again in 54th minute. It was all class as the 22-year old grabbed a loose ball and went past Stefan Mitrovic before lobbing it over the onrushing goalkeeper. 6 minutes later, Wolfsburg made it 3-0, when Max Kruse received a perfect pass from Christian Trasch and sent the net shaking. Until the 80th minute Gent looked completely outplayed but precisely at that moment, they pulled one back. Kums forced his way from left and after beating two defenders sent the ball into the goal. The deficit got further reduced to 3-2 in 89th minute, when Kalifa Coulibaly produced a perfect header to meet Kenneth Saief’s high ball.
In Tuesday’s two home victories, Paris Saint Germain beat Chelsea 2-1 and Benifica defeated Zenit 1-0. In the first game at Paris, the home side looked better in first half but Chelsea nearly went ahead in 23rd minute, when Abdul Baba Rahman’s cross from left found Diego Costa perfectly positioned. But Trapp made an out-of-the-world save to foil Chelsea’s chances. PSG shot into the lead in 39th minute from Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s direct free-kick. Ibra had earlier shot into goal but a foul by John Obi Mikel resulted in a close-range free-kick. However, Mikel got his revenge when he scored from a corner kick diverted to him by Diego Costa. After the teams came out for second half, it was still 1-1 until the next 30 minutes. Then PSG brought in Edinson Cavani in 74th minute and he got into the act 4 minutes later. Cavani joined PSG as the most expensive player in French football history at £55million. In the 78th minute, Angel Di Maria sent a pass to Cavani in the box and the Uruguayan fired a low shot that beat the charging up Chelsea goalkeeper. The two teams played out the remaining time but no goals could be scored and PSG won 2-1.
In Tuesday’s other game between Benifica and Zenit at Lisbon, the tussle remained tense throughout. Zenith looked a better team but the game nearly ended in a goalless draw and everyone thought that the two teams would go to the second leg for the decisive finish at St Petersburg on March 9. But Zenit brought it upon themselves after 90-minutes, when Domenico Criscito conceded a foul in injury time. The second yellow card resulted in Criscito’s ouster and Zenit played with 10 men for a while. The consequential free-kick brought the only goal of the match in Benifica’s favor as Jonas rose his full height for the header that sailed into the goal.
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