Another day of Champions League football and another game that seemed to be over before it even started! After having outclassed Juventus 3-0 away from home in the first leg, Real Madrid was already standing firmly with one foot in the semifinals.
Perhaps it was this line of thought that got the Spaniards in to some serious trouble in the end. Just over 1 minute had past when Juventus broke through Real Madrid’s left flank and a swinging cross reached the head of Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic who made it 1-0. This proved to be just enough for the Italians to find that essential belief in their chances to turn this double meeting around.
The reigning champions fought back, in what was a very even first half in terms of chances, but in the 37th minute it happened again – Juventus managed to break through Real’s left flank and again it was Mandzukic who put the ball in the back of the net. Seemingly startled by the result, Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane made two changes in halftime and brought on Asensio instead of Bale and Casemiro was replaced by Lucas Vasquez.
The second half started very much in the same way as the first, with high pace and chances flurrying at both ends. At this point, Juventus was just 1 goal away from making it all even and take the game in to extra time. With Juventus being so close to success and Madrid being just a goal away from a massive failure in front of their home fans, it was typical when Matuidi made yet another sacrificing round across the pitch, to pick up a lose ball after goalkeeper Keylor Navas had dropped it in front of his own goal. Matuidi who was missing in the first leg in Turin, put in an excellent display and made a crucial difference both in attack and defense. It was somewhat symbolic then, that it was he who completed this sensational comeback.
With just 30 minutes left and the score all even, both teams were forced to consider the possibility of the game going in to extra time. After the 3-0 goal, Juventus slowed things down just a bit, while Real stepped up to take charge of the game. Zidane took a chance and used his last substitution when he brought on Kovacic in the 75th minute, while Allegri decided to save some fresh legs ahead of a possible extra time.
As they kept pushing, Real seemed to be edging closer to a deciding goal, but in the end, it looked like Juventus would be able to hold them back. Then in the 3rd minute of injury time, we witnessed something that would have been hard to match even our wildest football dreams.
Marcelo’s cross reached Ronaldo, who headed the ball back across the penalty box to an un-marked Lucas Vazquez. In a desperate attempt to prevent a goal, defender Benatia jumped in from behind to clear the ball. Referee Michael Oliver deemed it a foul and Real was awarded a penalty. Legendary goalkeeper Buffon, who’s usually a gentleman second to none, lost his cool completely and got himself sent off after saying some well-chosen words to the referee. The decision to award a penalty has divided the football world and both fans and experts alike.
The red card forced Juventus to make their second substitution when they brought on reserve keeper Szczesny, to face Ronaldo at the penalty spot.
Despite high tension and a painfully long wait until the penalty was taken, Ronaldo made no mistake as he hit the ball hard and high in to the goalkeeper’s left corner. Just seconds later, the stadium erupted in relief as the final whistle was blown and Real had made it in to yet another semifinal.
In what looked to be an easy ride before the game, the night ended with a nail-biting drama that we won’t soon forget.
As we’re still digesting this spectacular game, we’re already looking forward to the semifinal draw taking place tomorrow, Friday. We’re sure that you’re as excited as we are!