Sunday 21 January 2018

Money can't buy goals as big guns draw blank in Paris

Paris Saint Germain 0 Real Madrid 0

Sergio Ramos reacts to referee Nicola Rizzoli after receiving a yellow card
Sergio Ramos reacts to referee Nicola Rizzoli after receiving a yellow card

Sam Wallace

Two of the most expensively assembled teams in history, and combined revenues in excess of a billion euros, but for all the petrodollars and old Spanish money poured into these clubs there was barely a sight of goal between them, last night.

There was always the possibility that Real Madrid or Paris Saint Germain would provide a moment of beauty, and there were a sprinkling of reminders as to why this was a box office Champions League group stage fixture made possible by UEFA's new seeding system.

But in the end both reverted to what they know best: a decent away point for Rafa Benitez, a draw for the arrivistes of PSG against Champions League royalty.

The few chances for Madrid mainly fell the way of Cristiano Ronaldo, whom PSG have ambitions to sign next summer as a replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.


As for the Swedish captain of the home side, he did not look on this occasion to be the man who will carry them forward into a new dawn of European success and there will be concerns that again they still look incapable of beating the best.

Both sides are top of their respective domestic leagues, PSG by five points after just ten games and still undefeated. Against Madrid, they always looked like the eager younger brother who was desperate to impress but held at arm's length by his older sibling.

Angel Di Maria did not get close to embarrassing his former club for moving him on to Manchester United in the summer before last and was substituted.

There should be no question that these two sides will qualify for the knockout phase of the competition but this result was PSG's chance to make a statement. They did so last season by eliminating Chelsea and yet already this expensive Qatari project looks like it will need at least another costly refit to make the next step forward.

There was no Gareth Bale in the Madrid side, more complications with his calf problem having ruled out the Welshman and also missing were James Rodriguez, Karim Benzema and Pepe.

Ronaldo started alongside the 22-year-old Jese Rodriguez in attack and with Lucas Vazquez also starting there was a more homemade feel about the world's most acquisitive club.

Madrid created the better chances in the first half and looked the better side. It was there in the details: Toni Kroos' composed mastery of the midfield and the occasional flash of brilliance from Isco.

Ronaldo went close to scoring with two good headers, one of which Kevin Trapp, PSG's German goalkeeper, did well to push over.

Ibrahimovic was only in the game in fleeting moments but he did at least make his presence felt. The first time by leaving his foot in long enough to jam it into Sergio Ramos' leg as the defender concentrated on clearing a ball.

It was as close to a yellow card as you might dare to go without giving the referee no option and Ramos must have spent the rest of the game wondering how he could reciprocate.

In the moments when Ibrahimovic springs into life, like when he used his great strength to bounce Kroos off the ball in a challenge in midfield, he looks like he belongs in any company.

For PSG, there was too little in the first half from Di Maria, who, one nutmeg on Kroos aside, drifted through the game.

Di Maria lasted until the 66th minute when Laurent Blanc alighted upon the winger as one of those he could afford to substitute, along with Edinson Cavani whose contribution had been forgettable.

Aside from getting a boot on a Thiago Motta cross early in the second half, the Uruguayan was peripheral.

There was a bit more snap about PSG in the second half and Marco Verratti's fine run drew a foul from Ramos that got the defender booked, but there was precious little goal threat. Yevhen Kaonoplyanka Javier Pastore and Lucas Moura were introduced to try to change the pace of the game and the Brazilian's header from Blaise Matuidi's cross was as close as they came.

Ronaldo shot wide on 77 minutes; he was not even close to his best. The home team rallied at the end of the game and put Madrid under some pressure but never really made the chances that might break the Spanish team who look like they have several more gears to work through. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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