Injury-hit Real Madrid holds PSG 0-0 in Champions League
PARIS (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo could not find the target for Real Madrid and Zlatan Ibrahimovic put in an even less impressive performance for Paris Saint-Germain as the Group A leaders drew 0-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Perfect in their two previous group games, PSG and Real produced a largely sterile match at the Parc des Princes.
The three-time defending French champions lacked imagination and pace to break through the 10-time European champions’ defense, with Madrid happy to sit back and play on the counterattack.
In the absence of the injured Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez, Madrid coach Rafa Benitez had to field a largely reshuffled team that still created the best chances.
Both PSG and Real have seven points halfway through the group stage, four more than third-place Malmo. Last-place Shakhtar Donetsk remains pointless.
”I think we created more chances than PSG, we controlled the match against a difficult team,” said Benitez. ”Despite all the players we missed, we saw a great Real Madrid.”
The most entertaining moment came in the dying moments of the match when a supporter evaded security and ran onto the pitch to give Ronaldo a quick hug. The fan was apprehended by stewards and left quietly.
Before that, PSG had the ball possession but just nine attempts at goal compared to Madrid’s 16.
”I’m not really interested in possession,” Benitez said. ”What interests me is the image my team reflects. And tonight my players did a sensational job.”
Starting with Ronaldo and Jese Rodriguez up front in a 4-4-2 formation, Madrid defended well but remained dangerous throughout on the break.
”We leave here happy because we knew how to compete,” said Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. ”Perhaps we lacked a bit of sharpness up front but we leave here happy to have picked up a point from a difficult ground.”
Ramos was given a starting role in the heart of the defense despite a shoulder injury.
Only Brazil defender David Luiz was missing in the PSG ranks, with Ibrahimovic headlining the attack surrounded by Angel Di Maria and Edinson Cavani.
As expected, PSG started at a high pace, pressing high in Madrid’s half with Thiago Motta marshalling the midfield during a tight first half. The strategy worked well and PSG enjoyed a spell of dominance but Serge Aurier’s restless runs down the right flank and a good shot from Blaise Matuidi remained fruitless.
Madrid took a grip on the match near the half hour and camped in the hosts’ last third. PSG goalkeeper Kevin Trapp made a brilliant save with his feet to deny Jese’s effort from Toni Kroos’ precise pass in the area in the 26th minute and the German goalkeeper parried away two consecutive headers from Ronaldo 10 minutes later to keep PSG in the match.
Much of the pre-game talk had focused on the match within the match between Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, but both of them struggled to make an impact as PSG fans made their frustration heard before the interval with whistles and boos that echoed around the ground.
Cavani wasted a good chance early in the second half when he missed the target from Thiago Motta’s fine cross from the left, but Ronaldo’s profligacy was also on display a couple of minutes later as the Portugal star fired a free kick wide from the edge of the box.
Under a slight drizzle, Marco Verratti showed his skills with a nutmeg on Ramos, who tripped the Italian midfielder in reward and received a yellow card at the hour mark.
Di Maria then forced Real `keeper Keylor Navas to a save with a shot from the edge of the box before PSG coach Laurent Blanc replaced the Argentine winger with Lucas, also bringing in Javier Pastore in place of Cavani.
Substitute Lukas Modric had an immediate impact for Madrid, launching a swift counter-attack from the halfway line in the 72nd minute, but once again Ronaldo could not find the target with an angled shot and buried his face in his hands in frustration.
”We knew it would be a tough match against the best team in Europe,” said PSG midfielder Matuidi. ”We’ll go there to take first place (on Nov. 3). But we know it won’t be easy as they will have players back.”