Cristiano Ronaldo’s 33rd goal of the season helped Real Madrid take a big step towards the Champions League quarter-finals with victory at Roma in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
The Portugal forward struck in the second half with a deflected finish.
Roma had their chances, particularly on the counter, with Edin Dzeko hitting the side-netting.
However, Jese’s low drive late on leaves Roma with it all to do in the second leg.
Relive Real Madrid’s win at Roma
Ronaldo’s perfect response
A goal will perhaps have been especially sweet for Ronaldo, who had walked out of a news conference on Tuesday after being questioned about his record in away matches this season.
He had not netted away from the Bernabeu since 29 November and, although he was quiet for large periods of Wednesday’s game, a clever bit of skill produced the breakthrough.
Chasing on to a long pass, Ronaldo took one touch to bring the ball under control and gave himself a sight of goal before firing into the top corner, with his effort taking a nick off Roma skipper Alessandro Florenzi.
The 31-year-old could have had more after that, notably heading just wide of the far post, but the strike means he now has five away goals in the Champions League this season; more than any other player.
Zizou’s second European debut
The appointment of Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid head coach may have been a bit of a surprise but the Frenchman has made a good start, winning five and drawing one of his six league games so far.
Zidane had plenty of experience of the Champions League as a player, famously scoring a stunning winner for Real against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 final, but this match represented his first experience of the competition as a manager.
With leaders Barcelona seven points ahead of Real in La Liga, coupled with their expulsion from the Copa del Rey, the Champions League is increasingly becoming the only competition Real have a chance of winning.
Real have historically struggled against Italian sides, having not knocked one out of a European competition in 29 years, but Zidane outlined his desire to secure an away goal by naming an attacking side that included Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez, with the injured Gareth Bale remaining in Madrid.
In the first half, the Spanish side’s play was industrious rather than fluid, but Ronaldo’s goal caused the game to open up and Real had further chances to add to their lead with the Portuguese and Benzema going close.
As Roma pushed forward and chased an equaliser, Jese charged at a tiring defence to grab a second that should be enough to see Real through.
Champions League mismatch?
Roma scraped into the last 16 after winning just one of their group stage matches and were beaten 6-1 by Barcelona in the process.
Real Madrid, in contrast, won five of their six group games, scoring 19 goals.
However, the Italians had a good game plan against Real – soaking up the pressure and hitting them on the counter – and until Ronaldo scored it was an effective tactic, with the pace of former Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah causing Real plenty of problems.
They also had a strong claim for a penalty when Dani Carvajal went in strongly on Florenzi inside the area, but nothing was given. With a little more luck, the result could have been different.
Man of the match – Cristiano Ronaldo
What the managers said
Roma manager Luciano Spalletti: “The Roma fans are used to seeing big games and know when to clap or not. The fans know the lads played well and that we didn’t get the rub of the green.
“I must tell the players that they played well and were a touch unlucky. We have to work but we’re on the right track.”
Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane: “We’re happy with the game and the result. We knew it was going to be a tough game but we fought to the end. In the first half they pressured us and that’s normal in a difficult Champions League tie.
“Cristiano was great but then again so was everyone. Even those who did not play were important for team morale. I’m happy with Jese’s goal – he deserved it for his efforts. “
The stats you need to know
- Real Madrid failed to attempt a shot on target in the first half of a CL match for the first time since May 2011
- Real Madrid are still yet to concede a first-half goal in the CL this season – the only the other team yet to do so are Bayern Munich.
- Jese is the 68th different player to score in the Champions League for Real Madrid (excl. OGs) – only Barcelona (72) have had more.
The second leg at the Bernabeu is on 8 March.