Arturo Vidal - The man who made Berlin a reality for Juventus
For the Bianconeri, the hopes of reaching their first Champions League final since the 2002-2003 season were diminishing as each minute passed by until former Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata crashed home a crucial equalizer out of nowhere to swing the tie back in the away side's favour. It was meant to be the deciding goal, as the game ended 1-1, and Juventus progressed with an aggregate scoreline of 3-2.
And although it is true to a certain extent that the Juventus centre forward proved to be the difference at the Santiago Bernabeu, I feel the need to differ. Morata will most likely end up on the front page of the newspapers but the man who by far played the most instrumental role according to me was Arturo Vidal.
When the line ups were announced and Madrid decided to go with just one recognised central midfield player in Toni Kroos, my first impression was that Juventus were likely to possess the upper hand in midfield. Well, it at least looked like that on paper as Madrid, who had Luka Modric injured, had lined up with five attacking players in Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco, James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Benzema, thereby comprising on midfield solidarity and going for sheer flair and pace upfront.
On the other hand, Juventus had sent in a balanced midfield four of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba.
How Vidal pegged back Real’s ascendancy
But once the game kick started, things panned out differently. Madrid’s pace and dynamism was starting to bother the Old Lady and Andrea Pirlo was getting closed down quickly, just like in the first leg. But before Madrid could use the Italian’s impotency to their advantage, Vidal stepped into the maestro's shoes and assumed the mantle of ball distributor using his strong and agile physique to full effect.
But Juventus's problems did not end there. In the first half, most of Real Madrid's attacks originated through Toni Kroos and Marcelo. The German's ball distribution was decisive and accurate whilst the Brazilian full back used his pace to cut inside from the wings and find space. And Madrid seemed to be in the ascendancy.
However, it all changed following the interval when Vidal decided to get tighter on both Kroos and Marcelo, giving them hardly any space to maneuver the ball. He got onto them in a flash, making them pass the ball sideways and backwards rather than penetrating through the centre.
When Marcelo found himself acres of room inside the box to pick a pass, Vidal was there with a last ditch challenge. When Kroos was lining up a shot towards the end of the game with his powerful right foot from just outside the box, it was again Vidal who made the challenge. The home side could no longer play their razzmatazz football and were forcefully limited to hopeful long distant shots and crosses into the box.
And not only did Vidal drain the pace and flair out of Madrid but he also made it a lot easier for the Juventus back four to do their job. Giorgio Chiellini in particular was not having his greatest of games on the night. The big tall Italian centre back had given away a cheap penalty in the first half and his centre back partner Leonardo Bonucci was no better as he was outplayed by Benzema a few times.
But now that the Los Blancos were forced to deal in crosses, Chiellini and Bonucci could be seen breathing a heavy sign of relief as all they no longer had to deal with awkward one-on-one situations and clever off the ball movements.
Vidal’s threat in attacking half
At the same time, the Chilean also went forward with the same intensity. He forced Iker Casillas into his first save of the game with a good left footed effort on goal in the first half. In fact, he won the free-kick ensuing which Juventus scored their equalizer.
With 20 minutes remaining, he played Marchisio through on goal, after cunningly faking a shot to leave the Madrid back four stoned. But unfortunately Marchisio's shot was blocked by Casillas.
The Chilean was a workhorse of the extreme order on the night, running back and forth from one end of the pitch to the other in a perpetual manner. He played the game with the utmost commitment and passion and more importantly without a moment's rest, making up for the short comings of his team mates and preventing his very own ship from drowning to the Spanish firepower.