Juventus earn first-leg win against Real Madrid in Champions League
Juventus downed Real Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal 2-1 on Tuesday night, thanks to goals from Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez in a thriller that also saw Cristiano Ronaldo set a new European goal-scoring record.
Billed as a war of attrition — if not an outright mismatch — this was instead an engaging and furious display of attacking football that showed Italian football still has a lot to offer on the European stage.
Tuesday’s loss will sting the reigning champions, but they carry a valuable away goal back to Madrid with them — and there are surely no guarantees that a one-goal lead will be enough for Juventus at the Santiago Bernabeu next week (live, Wednesday, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports Go, 2 p.m. ET). That said, Juventus boast an impressive record in European away legs when they hold a lead, and given both their discipline and the ease with which they throttled Real’s furious attack, they can no longer be considered the odd man out.
”We played well at times, we had good opportunities, we have to do the same in the return leg,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, who had a two-year spell in charge of Juventus from 1999-2001. ”We made more mistakes than normal, that was because of Juve’s pressing. Their line was higher in the second half.
Looking nothing like the underdogs they supposedly are, Juventus came out snapping at Real, bypassing their midfield entirely and forcing Iker Casillas to make three quick saves inside the opening six minutes before finally snatching an entirely deserved lead. Madrid had been very solid this season on the road, not conceding an away goal since Matchday 2, but their former starlet Morata pegged them back after only eight minutes on a glorious play.
With Toni Kroos pulled way out of position, Tevez was afforded acres of space to receive a pass atop the area from Claudio Marchisio, and his snap-shot through Raphael Varane, poor on the night, was only parried by Casillas. Morata, lurking at the back post, was held onside and had an easy tap-in. Madrid’s players were furious with the English officiating crew, but the linesman had got the call right and Madrid had coughed up their first goal in 453 minutes on the road.
Madrid began to ask some questions of their own, with Kroos trying to make amends five minutes later with a bouncing shot that was difficult for Gianluigi Buffon to smother. Isco would then craft a fine chance, feeding a wide-open Ronaldo, who in turn blew his shot right through Buffon but could not catch the inside of the far post.
Stephan Lichtsteiner had a chance to put the Old Lady up 2-0 in the 25th minute when he and Marchisio combined to round Marcelo and set up a shot at the near post. But the defender’s take was poor, and Juventus would pay for the miss. On the ensuing play, Dani Carvajal found space wide right, and popped a ball into James Rodrigues, who had slid between Arturo Vidal and Leonardo Bonucci. With a superb flick that owed more to jai alai than football, Rodriguez managed to take Buffon completely out of the play, and afford Ronaldo a simple header. The goal was Ronaldo’s 54th of the year and 76th all-time in the Champions League, a new record.
Real might have gone in up at the break had Rodriguez not found the crossbar in the 4th minute. Diving on to a fine cross from Isco, he somehow managed to put the ball onto the woodwork at a distance you’d expect him to score from. The rebound fell to Marcelo, and with Buffon helpless, he soared his shot into the crowd.
Tevez would restore the lead after the break with a clinical penalty kick in the 57th minute after a scorching counter-attack. With Marcelo seeing his shot blocked, the Argentine raced down the field, but Carvajal on the wrong side, drew the foul on the ex-United and City striker. Showing no nerves at all, Tevez ran up and blew his strike right down the middle. Oddly, Carvajal was not carded for the incident, with referee Martin Atkinson instead showing yellows to Vidal (dissent) and Marcelo, for a foul off the ball. That decision would prove to be decisive as he would remain on the field of play when he could have quite easily have been dismissed.
Juventus immediately went into a shell after their goal, shielding their lead and daring Real to come at them. With Los Blancos missing both Karim Benzema and Luka Modric, they looked seriously devoid of ideas in the final third against that black and white striped wall. In fact, Fernando Llorente nearly killed the game off late when Varane made another bad gaffe in the 87th minute and rounded Casillas, but Carvajal read the play well and swept the shot away. Casillas also had to save well on Llorente in stoppage time, when he was fortunate to be in the right place to deny a point-blank header.
Backed by a passionate home crowd, the newly-crowned Italian champions now carry the edge to the Santiage Bernabeu next week.
”I am very happy with the lads’ performance,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. ”They proved how strong they were, even though I think we can still do better. We’ll have to put on a master show at Madrid. We’ll now start preparing for Wednesday, knowing that we have to play even better than tonight.”
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.