Juventus snatch 2-1 semi-final first leg victory over Real
Real Madrid will head back to Spain disappointed after losing 2-1 in Turin to a feisty Juventus team but, having grabbed an away goal in this Champions League semi-final first leg, will be eagerly awaiting the return.
When selling Alvaro Morata to the Old Lady last summer, Los Blancos apparently tried to insert a clause which would have forbidden the Madrid academy graduate from playing against them in Europe. Oh how they must now be wishing Juventus had agreed to that.
It was not a happy return to Italy for coach Carlo Ancelotti, as the hosts set the tempo straight away with impressively incisive and precise passing which opened up the Spanish club’s two-man midfield with ease.
It took lively Morata just eight minutes to punish his boyhood club, as the Spanish starlet was gifted a tap-in from point-blank range after Iker Casillas spilled a Carlos Tevez shot into his path.
Massimiliano Allegri’s men continued to build from the back brilliantly, confidently piling the pressure on Madrid, with tenacious Arturo Vidal chasing down every half chance.
Rampant right back Stephan Lichtsteiner thrilled down the flank, as did left back incumbent Patrice Evra, but the Swiss international fluffed perhaps the most important chance of the game in the 24th minute, as he fired wide instead of looking for a cross.
Real Madrid usually make wasteful opponents pay and, despite Juve’s continued domination after Lichtsteiner’s gaff, managed to draw level following their first meaningful spell of possession on the 28th minute mark. It was, of course, superstar Cristiano Ronaldo who capitalised on James Rodriguez’s lovely lofted pass to head past Gianluigi Buffon.
Crafty Colombian Rodriguez then had the chance to put Los Blancos ahead himself shortly after, as ambitious Isco clipped in a cracking cross just before the break, but the Coffee Growers talisman’s diving header hit the bar to provide the Old Lady with a reprieve.
Real certainly grew into the game but were far from their best, as a midfield axis of centre back Sergio Ramos, who was sloppy throughout, and attack-minded Toni Kroos, looked lightweight, while Gareth Bale failed to provide Ronaldo with any support up top.
Tevez finally made his mark on the occasion, to turn the tide of Los Blancos pressure, in the 58th minute with a terrific run, alongside pass provider Morata, to throw Real’s reaguard into disarray. Dani Carvajal stayed with the electric Argentine but panicked and brought him down in the box to concede a penalty, which Tevez duly converted with power and precision.
Time was running out for Real, who continued to attack, but it was once again Juve who found the best openings. Both chances fell to Basque frontman Fernando Llorente, who was brought on to replace compatriot Morata as the Old Lady switched to their fallback 3-5-2 formation.
The Spanish sharpshooter rounded Casillas to find an open goal, but his pass failed to find fellow substitute Roberto Pereyra. Llorente later had the final chance to change the game in added time, but miscued a close-range header to let Los Blancos off the hook.
As Real return to the Bernabeu to reshuffle their pack having poached an important away goal, Juventus celebrated their first leg victory with fans perhaps a little prematurely, having failed to take advantage and deliver a knockout blow.
This semi-final is still finely balanced, and the Italian giants may well rue their glut of missed chances when they do battle with a revived Los Blancos next time out in Spain.