Posted by News Express | 12 April 2018 | 1,863 times
Three thoughts from the Bernabeu as Real Madrid lose 3-1 to Juventus on the night but squeak through on aggregate (4-3) to the Champions League semifinals.
1. Ronaldo penalty hero as Madrid squeak through
Cristiano Ronaldo was the late hero and English referee Michael Oliver the villain (for some) as Real Madrid just about survived the scare of their lives in the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal.
Juventus came oh so close to pulling off the biggest shock in European football history -- it would have been even bigger than Roma's comeback against Barcelona last night -- and it all came down to a disputed penalty in the third of three minutes of added time.
Oliver saw a push by Medhi Benatia on Lucas Vazquez. Juve captain Gianluigi Buffon was shown a straight red card for demonstratively sharing his disagreement. It took an age for all the arguments to calm down, and substitute goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny put on his gloves.
But Ronaldo was the coolest man in a boiling Bernabeu, and he hammered the spot kick into the top corner – keeping his run of scoring in all 10 Champions League games this season going – and sending the holders through to the last four.
Madrid’s 3-0 advantage from last week’s first leg in Turin led to a relatively muted atmosphere pre-game, but Mario Mandzukic’s opening goal on 76 seconds changed that completely. The home defence was caught napping by Sami Khedira’s run and cross, and the Croatia international had a simple header at the back post. Juve kept coming – with Keylor Navas saving from Gonzalo Higuain as the Bernabeu gasped for breath.
Madrid then went on the attack themselves – with surprise starter Gareth Bale denied by Buffon, and Isco having a goal debatably ruled out for offside after the veteran goalkeeper saved from Ronaldo.
It was helter-skelter stuff, with both teams shaking at the back. And the home crowd were really worried when Mandzukic made it 2-0 eight minutes before half-time, with another back-post header, this time from a Stephan Lichtsteiner cross.
Zinedine Zidane made a double switch at the break, removing Bale and Casemiro for Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio, and changing to a 4-4-1-1 shape. Madrid had most of the ball, but were not making clear chances. Then on the hour mark, Keylor spilled a simple cross and Blaise Matuidi smuggled the loose ball over the line to level the tie 3-3.
The tension kept cranking higher and higher, as both teams knew one mistake could prove fatal. Buffon later saved Isco’s 20-yard skidder, and Ronaldo headed over from eight yards. The Portuguese’s moment seemed to have passed – but there was still time for one last twist in the tale.
In the other tie of the night, Bayern Munich ground out a 0-0 draw to see off Sevilla’s spirited challenge and reach the Champions League semi-finals with a 2-1 aggregate win.
The newly crowned German champions, who won their past two home games 6-0, needed defensive grit to match their usual attacking flair at a sold-out Allianz Arena.
Sevilla defender Joaquin Correa, who was sent off in stoppage time, hit the bar with a header and midfielder Pablo Sarabia, who scored in the first leg, wasted a glorious first-half chance.
But Bayern top-scorer Robert Lewandowski had a header pushed over the crossbar by goalkeeper David Soria and a brilliant block from Sevilla’s Jesus Navas denied Franck Ribery.
It was the first time in 22 home Champions League matches that Bayern had failed to score.
Sevilla defender Gabriel Mercado, replacing injured centre-back Simon Kjaer, was lucky to stay on the pitch after bringing down Lewandowski when he split the visiting defence in the second minute.
But Vincenzo Montella’s side recovered to control the first half, even if they were ultimately frustrated, none more so than Correa, who slid in wildly on Javi Martinez to earn a red card.
Bayern – into the semi-finals for the seventh time in nine years – join Liverpool, Roma and Real Madrid in the draw, which takes place in Nyon, Switzerland, on Friday.
Bayern winger Arjen Robben had warned his team-mates against complacency in this game after winning the first leg 2-1 in Spain.
But it was less a case of Bayern’s over-confidence and more Sevilla’s self-belief and command of the ball which kept this compelling encounter in the balance for so long.
Sevilla are seventh in La Liga but have been a surprise package in the Champions League, and they surprised everyone by having more possession than their illustrious hosts in the first half – 54% to 46%.
Sarabia, who missed a good chance before scoring in the first leg, wasted another opportunity and Bayern left-back Rafinha slid in to prevent the midfielder shooting again after a trademark quick break.
Bayern, who worked Soria sporadically in the first half, stepped it up after the break as Lewandowski headed into the side netting at the far post and Robben threatened.
But the hosts lacked their usual sparkle and Lewandowski – bloodied from a clash of heads – was substituted in the 77th minute after drawing a rare blank in front of goal.
Boss Jupp Heynckes had to settle for the consolation of Bayern’s 100th clean sheet at home in European competitions.
Montella’s side won many admirers, even if they came up short of delivering another quarter-final upset after Roma stunned Barcelona on Tuesday.
•Based on reports by ESPN and BBC.
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