Real Madrid cruised to a historic Champions League win last night as they beat Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff.
This game was billed in the media as Europe’s best attack vs Europe’s best defence. Some people said, “It won’t be like that”, “Juve are more than just their back four”, “They can score goals too”. And they were right, in part. It wasn’t like that. Madrid played their part, they attacked and scored the goals but Juve just didn’t show up.
The Italian side started well, limiting Madrid and causing a few problems of their own, after just six minutes Higuain had had two shots on target and Navas had pulled off a stunning save to deny Pjanic. They were in control, it was going to plan but then Ronaldo broke the deadlock.
The Portuguese striker played a neat one-two with Dani Carvajal at the edge of the box, working himself in to space to pick his spot. It took a nick off Leonardo Bonucci on the way but it was going in anyway and Ronaldo ran to the corner, telling his teammates to calm down as he ran. Did he mean that they shouldn’t get ahead of themselves or did he mean that they shouldn’t worry because he was there to win it for them?
By the end of the game either could have applied because in the immediate aftermath of the goal Juventus were back at it. So strong in the opening exchanges they seemed angry to have gone behind and five minutes later they had levelled through one of the all time great Champions League goals.
It was almost beyond description. Bonnuci fizzed a diagonal ball to Alex Sandro who was running to the byline at pace, his cross, again played at a furious pace found Higuain who controlled the ball on his chest before knocking it towards Mandjukic. Again he took it on his chest and as the ball popped up he leaned back, under pressure from two Madrid players, and unleashed an unstoppable shot over his shoulder that left Navas with no chance as it sailed in to the top corner.
The crowd went wild, the Juve players went nuts, Ronaldo walked away shaking his head and muttering to himself. In a PS Football twitter poll, followers voted that the goal was better than Zidane’s in 2002 and the Madrid man must have been wondering if his goal would now be forgotten. Keen not to be outdone he had a go at a bicycle a few minutes later but it came to nothing and the sides went in level at the break.
At this stage it seemed as though Juventus had the edge, they seemed more organised and they looked pumped in the wake of Mandjukic’s goal. But it wasn’t to be.
Who knows what was said in the dressing rooms at half time but the second half was a disaster for the Italians and a masterclass from Madrid. They started the half by (literally) stamping their authority on the game. A series of niggly fouls disrupted and unsettled Juventus and then they started to put some moves together. Marcelo began to find spaces, Ronaldo got in behind and just failed to find Benzema with his scooped pass and on the hour mark they had their reward.
Casemiro found himself in space about 30 yards from goal and decided to have a go. It was well struck but took a wicked defection off Sami Khedira before nestling in the corner. It was a heartbreaker for Buffon, who sat dejected on the turf as the Madridistas celebrated.
3 minutes later and things had gone from bad to worse. Modric stole in behind and made his way to the byline. His pull back found Ronaldo, who’s perfectly timed run allowed him a relatively easy finish to double his tally for the night, kill the game and bring up goal number 600 of his career.
If the game was beyond Juventus at that stage the result was confirmed when substitute Cuadrado was sent off courtesy of a second yellow and some top theatrics from Sergio Ramos and a fourth goal for Real, scored by Asensio.
A sad end to the Champions League for Buffon and Juventus who picked a terrible night to forget everything that got them to that stage of the competition but an incredible night for Madrid. Back to back Champions Leagues, their 12th overall, a double from their star man to make him the Champions League’s all time top scorer and the competition’s top scorer for the last five years in a row and there was even enough breathing room for a cameo from Gareth Bale at his home stadium.
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