Ronaldo inspires Juventus turnaround and breaks Atletico hearts once more


Cristiano Ronaldo proved once more to be Atletico Madrid’s tormenter as his eighth Champions League hat-trick spurred Juventus to recover from a 2-0 first leg deficit to defeat the La Liga heavyweights and book their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a 3-0 victory at the Allianz Stadium, sending them through 3-2 on aggregate.

Atletico held a comfortable advantage over Juventus after a rampant second half against the Italian side at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium which put them in a commanding position. Teamed with their recent defensive record of five clean sheets in their last five games, Massimiliano Allegri’s men had a considerable mountain to climb.

Diego Simeone was missing several key components from that night with Diego Costa and Thomas Partey missing out through suspension. The former’s absence meant that Alvaro Morata returned to lead the line against his former club.

Early confusion in the Atletico ranks gave Juventus an early glimmer of hope in getting back into the tie. Leonardo Spinazzola drove from his left-back spot and earned a corner from shaky defending. The resulting corner turned into pinball in the visitor’s penalty area before Giorgio Chiellini bundled the ball home.

The joy was short lived, however. Cristiano Ronaldo was judged to have fouled Jan Oblak moment before and, after a VAR check, the goal was chalked off to the fury of those draped in black and white.

Juventus had been sent packing from Europe’s top competition each of the last five times when they trailed by two goals from the first leg. Their early flurries forward suggested they could rectify that.

Antoine Griezmann offered the first strike on goal for Atleti when he stung the palms of Wojciech Szczesny with a curling effort from 25 yards.

The home side continued to raid forward and on 26 minutes they got their reward. Morata failed to control a long pass up to him and headed the ball into the path of a Juventus shirt inside his own half. Federico Bernarderschi sent in a fine, whipped cross from the left and Ronaldo beat Diego Godin at the far post to nod the Serie A leaders ahead with his 122nd Champions League goal and breath new life back into their quest to end a 23-year wait to lift the big-eared trophy. He would add more to that tally before the night was over.

The goal brought with it another level of intensity as the hosts peppered Oblak’s goal.

Bernarderschi curled a free-kick just over the crossbar as the visitors looked rattled following the goal and the barrage of chances they’d absorbed.

Ronaldo came close to restoring parity in the tie when he rose highest at the back post once more. This time he could only divert Spinazzola’s ball wide. Godin was once again beaten in the air by the powerful Portuguese forward.

Chiellini was the next to provide a scare when he threw himself at a Bernarderschi corner and forced Oblak into a reaction save.

Morata provided a reminder as to what Atletico offered as an attacking force right on the stroke of half time. Koke provided a sumptuous cross for the on-loan striker to attack and Szczesney was relieved to see the ball fly over the crossbar from the header.

The half time interval was welcome for Simeone’s side, but the pressure continued from the moment the second half started and shortly after the restart the tie was level and Ronaldo was once again at the heart of Atletico misery as he added his 17th goal in his 33rd appearance against Los Rojiblancos. His 18th was not far away.

The Portuguese forward sent a trademark towering header goalward and Oblak looked  to have thwarted the former Real Madrid man with a remarkable outstretched save and touch the ball onto the post. Referee Bjorn Kuipers pointed to his wrist, however, to signal that ball had crossed the line and goal line technology provided the confirmation.

A failure to shut down crosses from the flanks proved an issues for the away side all evening with both Joao Cancelo and Spinazzola continuously providing quality ammunition for the Juventus attackers swarming the Atletico Madrid penalty area with every foray forward. The latter was enjoying a particularly impressive Champions League debut, filling in at left-back for the absent Alex Sandro.

With ten minutes to play substitute Moise Kean latched onto a raking Chiellini pass and raced away from Godin to come face to face with a backpedalling Oblak. The 19-year-old could only skew his shot wide, however and failed to test the Slovak shot-stopper.

It was then left to Ronaldo to have the final say on proceedings.

Bernarderschi twisted and turned his way into the penalty area before Correa got desperate and shoved the Italian attacker to the deck. Dutch referee Kuipers pointed to the spot and set the stage for Ronaldo. The 34-year-old lashed home his and Juventus’ third to complete the remarkable turnaround.


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