Real Madrid took a huge step to securing their eight consecutive Champions League semi-final spot on Tuesday evening, as they overpowered and overcame Juventus 0-3 in Turin.
Cristiano Ronaldo set Los Blancos on their way early on as he tucked away Isco’s cross from close range. And despite the Old Lady controlling much of the tempo up until the Portugal international’s second, the 33-year-old’s almost indescribable volleyed bicycle kick, which preluded Paulo Dybala’s early exclusion, and Marcelo’s close-range finish killed off any Juve fightback and rounded off a memorable night for the Spanish capital side.
The Santiago Bernabeu Stadium will play host to the, what seems now, the formality of the second leg next week, where Zinedine Zidane’s side will surely take one step closer to becoming the first club in history to secure three consecutive European Cup titles.
A deafening and anticipative Allianz Stadium greeted the giants of Italy and Spain as the Champions League anthem boomed around the Turin amphitheatre, with 180 minutes of season, career and potentially history-defining football lying ahead.
However, the man for the biggest of stages; Ronaldo, took all but three minutes to silence the tumultuous atmosphere by poking home Isco’s low cross from the left-hand side to give Los Blancos the perfect start and maintain his record of scoring in every round of the competition this season.
After falling behind early, Juventus found the ball retention and link-up play that was absent in the opening moments, and after 20 minutes of containment and methodical build-up, the hosts finally tested Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas; who, unfortunately for the Italians, pulled off a superb stop.
Gonzalo Higuain, who spent six years in the Spanish capital; netting over 100 goals for Los Blancos during his spell, got the better of his marker before directing his header goalbound after latching onto Paulo Dybala’s delicious free-kick; only for the Costa Rica international to meet the attempt with a strong right hand and somehow deny the 30-year-old from close range.
And the Frenchman’s missed opportunity almost proved even more significant shortly after the half-hour mark as Toni Kroos rattled the crossbar with a long-range thunderbolt; reminding Juve that despite their possessional control of the contest, Zinedine Zidane’s side still possessed the ability to punish the Serie A champions at will.
But as the break encroached, it was the home side who looked the most threatening. However, despite the Allianz Stadium erupting in plea as Dybala fell to the turf inside the area after claiming to be impeded by a dangling boot from Casemiro, the half-time whistle came and the Argentine entered experienced Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir’s notebook for simulation.
#JuveRealMadrid 0-1 HT: Potentially the most important 45 minutes ahead for Juve in their Champions League campaign. They already face travelling to the Bernabeu needing two; only something Dortmund have done in the #UCL this season, and if Real score again, that could be it.
Following the interval, the flow of the game continued very much in the same vein as to the first half, with the Old Lady seeing the majority of the ball, yet continuing to struggle to trouble the partnership of Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos – who will miss the second leg through suspension after picking up a yellow card.
And the hosts’ lack of attacking prowess was almost punished by Ronaldo for the second time of the evening less than five minutes into the second half, as the Portugal international lashed inches wide of Gianluigi Buffon’s right-hand upright from a tight angle.
But the five-time Ballon d’Or-winner did not give Juventus a second let off, as on the stroke of the hour-mark the 33-year-old netted his 649th career goal with a simply sensational volleyed bicycle kick.
A defensive mix up allowed Ronaldo in behind Massimiliano Allegri’s outfit’s defence, from which he teed up substitute Lucas Vasquez; whose shot was brilliantly saved by Buffon.
But the Italian’s stop afforded Dani Carvajal the opportunity to clip the ball back into the box which eventually led to Los Blancos doubling their advantage via a stupendously audacious overhead finish – a goal which was met with applause from every corner of the stadium.
However, Juve’s heartbreak was far from over, as two minutes later, Dybala; who was booked for simulation just before the break, received his marching orders from referee Cakir after catching the Spanish right back with a high boot; a prelude to the potentially tie-ending moments that followed.
After commanding a two-goal advantage and finding themselves with an extra man, Real Madrid saw the opportunity to finish the two-legged contest in Turin, and as Marcelo rounded off a superb team move by finding the net with 18 minutes remaining, one of the semi-final contests look destined to include the defending champions for the second season running.