“It’s fast, it’s competitive, but it’s fair,” described the commentator when Antoine Griezmann crashed into Cristiano Ronaldo’s right foot in the first half. As the referee waved play on, Ronaldo did not cry foul.
Juventus, playing at home rampaged through Atletico’s first leg lead to reach the final eight of the UEFA Champions League 2019. A match that embodied Juve’s strong character, will surely go down as one of the best comebacks in the League’s history.
Starting valiantly in Atleticos home; Juve’s first goal that came within the fifth minute (tap in from Chiellini) got disallowed, courtesy Ronaldo’s lunge into the right hand of Jan Oblak a touch before.
Oblak clutched his hand in pain, a scene reminiscent to the last Champions League final when Karius got elbowed by Ramos in the early minutes of the game. Juventus smelled blood.
Inspired, emotional and clinical, Ronaldo’s performance defied his age.
Far from the form of his life in the Serie A and Champions League, Ronaldo on Tuesday night, played for the stage. Despite functioning as the target man for the hosts, Ronaldo worked around the pitch running, dribbling and retrieving the ball.
Twice he rose high inside the box, and twice he converted. The first one, a diving header on the far post by outjumping Juanfran and then the second, rising high between the defenders to put the ball past across Oblak, Ronaldo gave it all.
To complete his hattrick, he drilled the penalty low to the right of the goalkeeper in the 87th minute against one of his favourite oppositions in the world, against whom he holds an astonishing record of scoring 25 goals in 33 appearances.
Ronaldo despite scoring the hattrick was not a one-man show tonight.
Two goals down humiliated at home, Juventus hunted in a pack. Pjanic controlled the tempo of the game and boy, did he do a good job at that. Continuously distributing the ball to all sides of the pitch, asking questions from beginning to the end Pjanic did not give the home team much of a chance to put the wrong foot in.
Starting on the right wing ahead of Paulo Dybala, Federico Bernardeschi needed to justify his selection. Turning, twisting and finding space, Bernardeschi and his left foot did everything right in the first half.
Case in point, after setting up Ronaldo in the 27th minute with an exquisite cross from the left, Bernardeschi missed the bar by inches from his first half freekick. He further had attempted an outrageous bicycle kick inside the box from a ball that seemed to be going way beyond his reach.
Bernardeschi’s constant running freed both the flanks that Juve kept on exploiting throughout the game. His run into the box in the dying minutes of the game resulted in a cheeky penalty for the hosts from which Ronaldo converted and sealed the game.
Atletico Madrid, leading by two goals to nil in the home leg, sat deep and defended. Despite being the master of the art, Simeone’s men found it difficult to manage the pace in the flanks and the retrieval of the ball by Juve’s midfield.
Despite, getting a bit more of the possession in the second half, Atletico did not get one shot on target. When Correa broke in the second half, nobody tracked his run. When Morata lost the crucial ball in the centre of the pitch, nobody closed the opponent down.
Simeone’s seemingly impregnable fortress was torn apart.