Juventus ran out 2-1 winners against Real Madrid in Turin, putting on a complete performance and giving themselves the platform to progress to the Champions League final.
For a brief period in the game the away side looked bright, grabbing a girl through Cristiano Ronaldo and spurning a golden opportunity to go in front just moments later.
Ronaldo grabbed his 9th goal in the competition after heading home a slick Madrid move. James Rodriquez provided the assist for the all time leading goalscorer in the competition but could not replicate the feat when the ball found him free in the box, only for his diving effort to rattle of the crossbar.
Juventus started the game brightly and grabbed a deserved lead after ex Madrid youngster Morata, very impressive on the night, pounced on a loose ball after Casillias had denied Tevez, poking the ball home from just a yard out.
The second half was greeted by a late tackle by Tevez on Ramos, for which he duly received a booking. It looked as if Juventus were rattled by Real Madrid’s rally at the end of the first but it turned out to be quite the opposite.
Ramos, the victim of Tevez’s challenge, was the worst player on the pitch. Consistently giving away the ball and looking completely lost in his new midfield role. Rather than the combative, tenacious style of play we are used to seeing, Ramos attempted too many cross field balls and looked surprisingly frail in the tackle.
The likes of Modric we e sorely missed. Ramos’ performance too was representative of the whole Real Madrid midfield with Marchisio, Vidal and young Sturaro harrying and hustling them throughout, forcing these mistakes to be made.
Pirlo, at the base of it all, was quiet and equally disappointing in the first half. Even with Juventus on top he misplaced a few passes leading to ominous Madrid counter attacks. In the second half however his composure returned, casting the conductor-like figure he is internationally known for.
With the Italian maestro controlling the game, the pack of wolves in front of him were let loose, continuing their savage attack on the deeper lying Madrid players. Ultimately this is where the game was won.
Real Madrid, when they could get the ball to the likes of Isco, James, Ronaldo and Bale, looked dangerous. However the fact that both Ramos and Kroos went completely missing, whilst Tevez alone was enough of a problem for the entire Madrid backline meant that the attacking talent of Madrid rarely had the ball, and on the few occasions they did, the dogged Juventus midfield were there to stifle them.
STRENGTH IN DEPTH
Juventus are dark horses in the competition. People often forget the depth of their squad, and more importantly the quality of it.
Paul Pogba was missing this evening and the Old Lady’s ability to dominate the midfield without him is testament to their capabilities. Each and everyone of them, bar Pirlo, is a dynamo. A bundle of relentless energy as capable with the ball at their feet as they are tenacious in defence. Something Madrid, Kroos and Ramos in particular, were no where near to matching.
Their defence too is solid and abundant. Despite the aged lineup they often field, players like Buffon, Chiellini and Evra are undoubtedly talented. Both full backs too provide all the width in the team whilst staying true to their defensive duties. With Barzagli coming off the bench to make a back five in the second half, their ability as a unit to adapt mid game and comfort in different systems should not be taken lightly.
Finally, in attack they are just as feisty and equally as talented. Tevez and Morata who started the game were flawless.
Morata showed why Juventus paid so much for such a young man, and also why Real Madrid included a buy back clause. His hold up play and focus he gave the Juventus side was vital, something Bale at the other end could not provide.
The bullish Argentine stole the show however, reminding us once again why he is regarded as one of the deadliest strikers in European football. His running was a threat throughout and his persistence was rewarded with a penalty after a rash challenge by Carvajal gave him the opportunity to win the first leg for the Italian side, slotting it home with composure so ice cold, even Jean Claude Van Damme would’ve been happy.
Llorente too came on and should’ve put the tie to bed after fluffing his lines with a close range header that looked harder to miss. Nevertheless, he still posed a threat while Madrid looked relatively toothless.
LAST CHANCE SALOON
Despite this poor performance, Real Madrid will perhaps be favourites going into the second leg. The Bernabeu will be a tough arena to go to for the Old Lady and if Benzema can get fit in time, Juventus will need all their gladiators on show this evening to repeat the feat, the Frenchman’s inclusion will make Madrid a different prospect all together.
But, should they carry on in the same vein, with Ramos and Kroos being dominated by the Juventus midfield and their attacking talent shackled by the experienced defence, Juventus will have no problem advancing through to the next round.
The final is a very real possibility for them, and for the many players entering the twilight of their career, it may well be their last chance to do so. And after tonight’s performance, they don’t seem to be letting anyone get in their way.