Cristiano Ronaldo silences Turin to put Real on brink of last four
Jaw-dropping bicycle kick inspires Juventus demolition job
Cristiano Ronaldo scores Real Madrid’s second against Juventus. Photograph: Andrea Di Marco/EPA
For a brief moment, there was stunned silence. It felt as if nobody could comprehend what they had witnessed. Then the applause broke out. It came from all sides of this boisterous arena. In great blocks, the Juventus supporters rose to their feet. It was to recognise sporting genius and it did not matter to them that it had come from a rival.
Cristiano Ronaldo had put Real Madrid in control of this Champions League quarter-final with an early poacher’s finish. He now had them in sight of the next stage and, even by his exulted standards, it was a jaw-dropping intervention. When Dani Carvajal stood up a cross from the right, Ronaldo instinctively knew that the overhead kick was on. He leapt, hung and stretched before, with the ball at its highest point, he swivelled his hips and worked a right-footed masterpiece beyond Gianluigi Buffon.
Ronaldo has 25 goals in his last 14 games for club and country. He has scored in every Champions League tie this season to lead the field for the competition’s Golden Boot with 14. Something seems to stir inside of him when the aria plays. Juventus were broken.
Paulo Dybala, their great hope, was sent off for a high boot on Carvajal, having previously been booked for diving and, when Ronaldo ushered in Marcelo for Real’s third, it was all over. Juventus have won the previous four two-legged ties against Real, going back to 1996, but they need a miracle to progress. After the loss to Real in last season’s final in Cardiff, this was another bitter pill.
Massimiliano Allegri had likened grand Champions League occasions to an evening at La Scala. “We live for nights like this,” read the Juventus slogan on the big screen during the pre-match lights show. One of Europe’s classic matches pulsed with stardust and history, with the subplots rich and numerous.
Zinedine Zidane was once feted as a Juventus player. This was his first return to Turin as a coach. Cardiff had framed the occasion, with Zidane starting with the same Real lineup as he had in last season’s final. Allegri insisted that the tie was not about revenge. Nobody truly believed him.
Ronaldo’s numbers are freakish and needed to be updated – and further gawped at – after three minutes. Marcelo’s lovely switch of feet created the angle for the pass up the left to Isco but it was still shocking to see how much space the Real midfielder had to measure his cross. Ronaldo held his run. Then, he bolted for the near post. When Karim Benzema stood tall in the middle, he effectively set a screen for his team-mate. Andrea Barzagli was blocked off and, when Ronaldo converged, everybody knew what would happen next. It was Ronaldo’s sixth appearance in Real’s colours against Juventus. He has never failed to score against them.
The significance of the away goal was lost on nobody and the tie became shaped to Real’s liking. Juventus had to push; the visitors were more than happy to punch on the counter. With Luka Modric and Isco showcasing sumptuous touches, they threatened another before the interval. Raphaël Varane headed over from a corner when unmarked. Toni Kroos thumped a 25-yard drive against the crossbar.
Juventus looked a little frantic as they chased the equaliser but they had their moments – the biggest coming on 22 minutes. Gonzalo Higuaín volleyed a Dybala free-kick goalwards and it took a wonderful reflex save by Keylor Navas to deny him.
Real were indebted to Sergio Ramos and Varane for important interventions but it felt symptomatic of Juventus’s frustrations that Dybala attempted to win a penalty in the 45th minute with a blatant dive. He was booked. Moments earlier, the home crowd had howled for a penalty when the ball appeared to strike Varane’s arm at close quarters. An award would have been harsh.
The burden on Dybala to create was heavy. He drew a foul from Ramos on 54 minutes for which the defender was booked – the Real captain is suspended for the second leg – and Dybala watched his subsequent free-kick deflect wide. His night would end in ignominy.
Ronaldo had gone close at the start of the second half and he should have completed the hat-trick late on from point-blank range. The substitute Mateo Kovacic rattled the bar. The 12-time champions scent further glory.