Real Madrid's Marcelo was grateful to the "fantastic" Cristiano Ronaldo for breaking down an intransigent Roma defence, paving the way for a "massive result" in the round of 16 first leg.
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For almost an hour at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday, Real Madrid were wondering how they were going to find a way through a disciplined Roma defence in this round of 16 first leg.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and James Rodríguez tried all they could to stretch holes in the Roma rearguard, but for 57 minutes they found nothing malleable about Kostas Manolas and Antonio Rüdiger. That duo were bossing the back for the hosts in such a way it could so easily have become frustrating. Not so for Madrid, though.
The Merengues' patience was rewarded when Marcelo, who had been enjoying plenty of freedom on the left as Roma inevitably sharpened their focus on Ronaldo, dinked the ball through to the Portuguese, who duly supplied his 89th goal in the UEFA Champions League. All he needed was that extra centimetre of room to cut inside onto his right foot and aim for the far corner, finding it with the aid of a deflection off Alessandro Florenzi.
Marcelo already sensed what was coming when he found Ronaldo in space. "Cristiano is a fantastic player, maybe the best," the full-back told UEFA.com. "For me it is a great honour to play with him. You just have to pass him the ball and he does the rest. The whole team are very happy with him. It's not only his goals, he also works very hard for the team."
It was a goal that unlocked the contest for the Spaniards, forcing the Giallorossi to take more risks and ultimately opening them up enough for substitute Jesé to add an 86th-minute second. That goal put the 2014 UEFA Champions League winners in the driving seat of a tie which, Marcelo warned, is only at its halfway stage. "It's a massive result for us but of course nothing is decided yet," he said. "There's still a second leg to come."
Madrid will nevertheless approach the return fixture on 8 March in confident mood, with Marcelo commending their current form and crediting coach Zinédine Zidane with giving them the freedom to deliver their best football. "It was a great performance from us and the whole team are in good shape and we're very happy," the 27-year-old Brazilian international said.
"Every game is different and of course it is a characteristic of ours to attack as much as we can, if the space is there. The coach gives us the liberty to play as we like and this is very important. Yes, I think we will [attack them again in the second leg]."