Real Madrid defeated Juventus 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu to continue their perfect run to this season’s Champions League campaign. Two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, one from open-play and one from the penalty spot. Fernando Llorente had brought the away side back on level terms before Ronaldo’s decisive spot-kick.
The big news prior to the match was that Karim Benzema would return to the starting line up as striker, and the Gareth Bale made his place on the bench. It was to be a tale of former master against apprentice, as Carlo Ancelotti met Antonio Conte.
Juventus kicked off this monumental clash of two European heavyweights, and with only a couple of minutes played, Claudio Marchisio forced Iker Casillas into a full-stretch save to deny the Italian. Real settled after that early Juventus strike in vain, and on the fifth minute the home side put together a delightful move which resulted in the opening goal.
Sami Khedira and Angel Di Maria were the driving force behind the goal, both players linking up on the right-wing; Khedira to Di Maria, Di Maria with a reverse defence-splitting pass, for Ronaldo to go around Gianluigi Buffon and slot him the goal.
Real then allowed Juventus to come at them. By this point it was real end-to-end football, both sides creating chances. The first signs that Conte’s team were settling into their surroundings was when Paul Pogba’s cross in from the left side – destined for Llorente – was rather uncomfortably punched away by Casillas. As Juventus began spraying the ball about, Asier Illaramendi picked up a booking for a wreckless challenge.
Shots were coming in: Carlos Tevez shooting only from distance. But pressure eventually got too much for Los Blancos as Juventus clawed their way back into the tie. The beautiful move started with the maestro Andrea Pirlo who found Martin Caceres booming forward on the right, the former Barcelona defender crossed the ball finding Pogba at the far post who headed towards goal, his shot initially saved by Casillas but was pushed out to Llorente who slotted it home.
It didn’t take long for Real Madrid to get their noses back in front. From a free-kick Sergio Ramos was impeded by Giorgio Chiellini in the box, the result a penalty, which Ronaldo buried into the top-right corner of Buffon’s net.
Yet again Real sat back and invited Juventus on. After a fantastic piece of build-up play, Juventus were given a corner, and from the corner Pirlo found himself in the box with a half-chance, but could only blaze over from a tight angle.
But at half-time, Real Madrid had their noses in front. 2-1. Di Maria was without a doubt the best player of the half and Khedira close second. Both players were tirelessly moving, always closing down the Juventus players and generally made it difficult for the likes of Pirlo and Arturo Vidal to dictate play. Real Madrid were sitting back far too often during the half and they ride their luck in doing so, however a very complete half from the home side.
The second half began with a moment which would change the match completely. Ronaldo was sent through on goal with only Chiellini standing in his way. The Portuguese attempted to run around the Italian defender but was elbowed in the face. Chiellini who was before booked for fouling Ramos in the first half which led to the penalty, now saw red!
Things went from hard to very hard for Juventus. The goal-scorer Llorente was sacrificed for Leonardo Bonucci, and from that moment on, Real Madrid hardly put a foot wrong.
At this point and a man-down, Juventus were creating very little, however Ancelotti’s side had a chance to kill the game of in two separate moves. The first was after Di Maria brilliantly chipped the ball into the rushing Alvaro Arbeloa’s path, who then put the ball on a plate for Karim Benzema, but the Frenchmen missed the target from six-yards out.
A miss which brought the Bernabeu crowd to whistling and booing the striker.
Conte then made an attacking switch – taking Angelo Ogbonna off and replacing him with Sebastian Giovinco. And Gionvinco was the reason behind Juventus’ most bright second half opportunity. The small attacker picked the ball up in his own half and ran at the Real defence with great meaning, and then unleashed a shot which a diving Casillas pushed away.
Real Madrid now had Gareth Bale on the pitch replacing Benzema and Isco who came on for Illaramendi. Passing and keeping the ball was key, but chances were very few and far between. A frustrated looking figure of Ronaldo was walking about, on a hat-trick but wasn’t getting supply.
Khedira did get a chance a wrap up the match. The German was through on goal but chipped his shot tamely into the grateful grasp of Buffon. The earlier Benzema and Khedira missed opportunities may have been punished by Carlos Tevez late on; the Argentine picked the ball in the box but was dealt with heroically by Ramos and Arbeloa.
Full time reporting live from the Santiago Bernabeu – Real Madrid 2-1 Juventus.
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