Juventus dispatch Real Madrid to book place in final

Old Lady’s rise from the ashes continues as Italian side gather momentum

 Alvaro Morata equalises for Juventus in the Champions League semi-final second leg at  Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Photo:  Paul Hanna/Reuters

Alvaro Morata equalises for Juventus in the Champions League semi-final second leg at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Photo: Paul Hanna/Reuters

 

Massimo Allegri had warned his team would face “95 long and interminable minutes” at the Santiago Bernabéu, and so it proved. But the reward at the end of it was huge. Italy’s Old Lady is heading to Berlin to face Barcelona, the first time they have reached the Champions League final since 2003. Much had been made in Spain of the fact Real Madrid needed only one goal to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg and progress but that was founded upon the premise that Juventus would not score and score they did.

Álvaro Morata, who joined Madrid as a 16-year-old got it, midway through the second half. He did not celebrate it then, out of respect for the club that saw him grow into a player who will now play in his second consecutive European Cup final. It was not supposed to be this way and when Ronaldo opened the scoring nobody thought it would be.

Madrid got the goal after 21 minutes when Ronaldo nudged the ball into the area for James Rodríguez and the Colombian tumbled to the ground. The referee, Jonas Eriksson, pointed to the spot. If at first it was not clear and Juventus’ players were furious, while over on the touchline Allegri was hopping mad, replays suggested Rodríguez had been pushed in the back by Claudio Marchisio and that, as he stumbled forward, Giorgio Chiellini had kicked the back of his calf.

Patrice Evra came to have a word with Cristiano Ronaldo as he waited on the edge of the area to take the penalty, but it made no difference. The Portuguese struck the ball hard down the middle, in front of the south end of this stadium where before the game a gigantic tarpaulin had depicted Alfredo Di Stéfano, the man who changed this club forever when he arrived in 1953. It was Ronaldo’s 307th goal for Madrid, equalling Di Stéfano’s record. Only Raúl lies before him now and he will be caught in due course.

The slogan that had accompanied Di Stéfano ran: “My Real attack” and attack they did. Before the goal Ronaldo had speared a free-kick just over, Karim Benzema’s pull-back had run across the edge of the six-yard box and Gareth Bale had belted in a long shot that Gianluigi Buffon pushed away. His had been the first chance too, a header that drifted over after only 35 seconds.

Despite Rodríguez’s insistence that the Italians would play five at the back and wait, there was an attacking look to the Juventus line-up. A back four, Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal in the middle, and Morata up front with Carlos Tevez, scorer of 29 goals this season. That suited Madrid, often confronted by space not opponents. Juventus were unable to stop Madrid heading forward and when they did get the ball, their passing was hurried and inaccurate.

One break had Isco hitting the side netting to the right and another ended with Ronaldo smashing a shot into the side netting to the left. Between them, Buffon dived to catch a Benzema header. The Frenchman did not score there, or in the final minute of the half when the Juventus goalkeeper made an even sharper save, this time low at his near post, but his role was as fundamental as it is so often in Europe; there is no better facilitator for Ronaldo and Bale, particularly in adding incision to counter-attacks.

That late flurry left Juventus grateful for the half-time whistle; this was in danger of slipping away from them. Instead, they were still in it. A goal would put them in Berlin, even if the likelihood of one appeared remote: only an Vidal shot in the opening quarter of an hour had drawn any save from Iker Casillas, whistled of late but supported here.

And yet the goal did come. Juventus’s passing was still poor but there was a nervousness about Madrid now, as if suddenly aware that, despite everything, they remained on the edge. A mistake from Marcelo almost allowed Vidal to give Morata the ball inside the Madrid area and then Sergio Ramos bundled the Chilean over. The free-kick was punched away by Casillas but when the ball came back in Pogba outjumped Ramos whose position allowed the players exiting the area to enter it again onside. It dropped to Morata near the penalty spot who controlled and hit a bouncing ball up and through Casillas’s hands into the net.

Juventus tried to keep the ball and although they were not always convincing in possession, they could have ended it a few minutes later. Marchisio was played in one-on-one with Casillas, opening out his body to sidefoot into the bottom corner, only for Casillas to dive low to his left to push the ball away. At the other end, Rodríguez put a shot over and Bale put one wide before Ronaldo set up a cross from the left which the Welshman leapt to reach at the far post, just a couple of yards out. His header, though, ran across the top of the net.

Next Evra appeared to bundle over Hernández, but there was not to be a second penalty. The noise rose and the clock ran, not quick enough for the Italians. Forward Madrid came. Pirlo was withdrawn for Andrea Barzagli, Juventus shifting to three central defenders and five at the back with 12 minutes remaining minutes.

Madrid continued to push, with Bale hitting one shot wide but real chances were few. The best of them, in fact, came at the other end when, with two minutes of normal time left, Pogba was alone near the penalty area but his shot was pushed away by Casillas. The board went up moments later; it would not be 95, but 94. It was long but it was not interminable. At 38 minutes past 10, the referee blew his whistle and Juventus’ players leapt into the sky and sprinted onto the pitch, heading to Berlin.

(Guardian service)

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