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UCL Quarterfinals – Real Madrid’s road to Kiev – Pt 3
- Updated: May 15, 2018
The quarter finals of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League came soon as the Los Blancos were drawn to face Juventus at the stage, in a tie where they would be the visitors in the first leg. Zinedine Zidane’s men’s meeting with Max Allegri’s Old Ladies was set and Real Madrid travelled to Turin on April 3rd with hope that fortune would favor them in this first leg fixture.
The Los Blancos attack was coming up against a well marshalled defence being led by Giorgio Chiellini. A defence which had been very hard to breach in preceding ties. Well, Real Madrid had the lethal Ronaldo and the Old Ladies defence would have to shut him out to ensure that Zidane’s men didn’t have a sniff of Buffon’s goal, talk more of getting an away goal cushion.
Well, after 90 minutes, the reverse was the case as Zidane’s men came with the intent to rout Max Allegri’s side in front of their home fans, and so it unexpectedly began. Both sides had rarely settled in the game before no one but Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the 3rd minute to destabilize whatever plan Allegri and his men had cooking on the night, and send chills down the spine of the Juve faithful in a jampacked Turin stadium.
Every one would have expected Juventus to respond in style, but the early goal was a shocker. And if any stunner was expected in the game, it sure was coming, but would be in favor of Real Madrid. The stunner came in the 64th minute when Ronaldo channelled his inner Kung Fu and smashed the ball into the net for the second off a cross from Carvajal that sent the all fans in the stadium, including Juve fans on their feet applauding the brilliance of the goal. Gianluigi Buffon had no chance. If there was a game where anyone would see a frustrated Buffon, it was surely in this tie, as the time bomb had been set and would explode soon.
Marcelo added the third in the 72nd minute as Madrid rounded up a comprehensive victory over Juventus in Turin, with expectedly no chance of a comeback, However, Max Allegri and his men would arrive at the Bernabeu intent on spoiling the party for the Los Blancos who everyone thought already had a foot in the semis, writing off the Italian giants in the process.
Then came the second being hosted by Madrid at the Bernabeu in a game the majority had written off as a formality. Well, it was same of the same, but this time in the reverse as Mario Mandzukic opened the scoring in the 2nd minute of the game. This was no challenge, as the road to Kiev was very well in view for Zidane’s men with Juventus needing two more goals and none by Madrid to equal the tie on aggregate. However, there was worry in the Bernabeu in the 37th minute when Mandzukic completed his brace.
Zidane’s men were now on the back foot. What a game this was turning out to be. The favorites to qualify were gradually easing their grip on a place in the semis of the Champions League as another goal from Max Allegri’s men meant the tie had been equalized. The ref blew for half time and Zidane had some talking to do to buzz his players back to the reality of what was at stake in the game.
However, his half time talk did little good as the Los Blancos continued with the lethargy in the second half as Juventus smelled blood and piled on the pressure. They were on course to regain control of the tie that would eventually see them seal a place in the semifinals of the 2017/18 Champions League if Real Madrid continued in the same vein. France international, Blaise Matuidi was on hand in the 61st minute to score the third and compound Madrid woes, this time sending shivers down the spines of the Bernabeu faithful. Another goal from the Old Ladies would be disastrous as Real would have to score 2 to stand a chance. Juve were now favorites to progress but Madrid held on and appeared to have woken up from the slumber that had caught them since the first minute of the game. The reality of elimination after relinquishing a 3 goal lead at home dawned on them, and so they held on till the final minutes of the game.
Well, fortune was on hand yet again to work to Real Madrid’s advantage this time. Mehdi Benatia seemed to suffer a profuse rush of blood to the head as he carelessly tackled and bundled Lucas Vazquez over after the ball was launched into the box. The referee, Michael Oliver pointed to the spot, and Buffon’s time bomb exploded. The veteran Italian goalkeeper couldn’t keep his cool as he laid his hands on the referee in the protest that ensued after the whistle based on claims that it was no foul by Benatia. Buffon received his marching orders and a replacement was needed to inbetween the sticks for the Madrid penalty.
Ronaldo stepped up! The king of the Santiago Bernabeu was on hand to take the penalty against Wojciech Szczesny who was brought on. Imagine the scenes, if the Pole had made the save? Well, not in this case as Ronaldo coolly slotted past the goalie in added time and sent Madrid to the semifinals of the Champions League where they would come up against another favorite for the UCL title.