By Michael Harrold
Two second-half goals from Luís Figo made sure of Real Madrid CF's place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League as they beat AS Roma 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico.
Victory would have assured Madrid's progress as runners-up regardless of the score in the night's other Group B match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Dynamo Kyiv and Ronaldo put Madrid on the right path with the opening goal in the ninth minute. A Figo penalty on 60 minutes made the game safe before he added the third late on.
Roma coach Luigi Del Neri's hands were tied by a lengthy injury list, and with his side's European campaign sure to end after the match, Francesco Totti, Christian Panucci, Antonio Cassano and Vincenzo Montella were given the night off. Philippe Mexes returned in defence, with Vincent Candela patrolling the left side of midfield and Marco Delvecchio in the centre of a three-man attack.
Roberto Carlos and Raúl González were rested for Sunday's draw with Villarreal CF, but both returned as Madrid coach Mariano García Remón fielded his full firmament of stars. Zinedine Zidane was included for the first time since suffering a back injury in the draw with Leverkusen two weeks ago, and Figo, also missing against Villarreal, shook off an ankle problem to start.
The game was played in an empty Olimpico, part of Roma's punishment for crowd disturbances on Matchday 1. The eerie silence belied the fixture's importance, but did not disturb Madrid's concentration. In only the second minute Figo crossed for Ronaldo, but, unmarked, the Brazilian powered his header wide.
Ronaldo made the most of his second opportunity seven minutes later, exchanging passes with Zidane before scything through the Roma defence and chipping over the advancing Ivan Pelizzoli. Madrid were in control and both Raúl and Ronaldo came close in quick succession, the latter after collecting a superb 40-metre pass beyond the Roma defence from David Beckham.
Roma began to see more of the ball as the half progressed and on 31 minutes Candela struck the top of the crossbar with a free-kick, before Daniele Corvia, enjoying his first Champions League start, shot over from a tight angle. But Pelizzoli could not afford to relax and on 37 minutes he did well to hold Roberto Carlos's characteristic low, swerving drive.
Iker Casillas punched away Leandro Cufré's shot shortly before the break, a reminder that Madrid's progress in the competition was by no means assured, and the Spanish side looked to up the tempo at the start of the second half. Four minutes after the restart, Ronaldo's low shot from the edge of the area was saved by Pelizzoli as Madrid passed and probed, the tap-tap of their short passes echoing round the cavernous stadium.
The reward for Madrid's patience came on the hour when Ronaldo was impeded by Traianos Dellas after a surging run into the penalty area. Figo took responsibility for the spot-kick and he put it high to the left of Pelizzoli to seemingly seal his side's place in the last 16.
Roma tried to force their way back into the match and Casillas had to be alert to fist away Candela's deflected shot on 78 minutes. A minute later Roma did get the ball in the net when Corvia turned in Matteo Ferrari's header but that effort was disallowed for offside. That was as close as Roma would come, and on 82 minutes Figo completed an excellent night for Madrid when he volleyed in from just inside the area.