Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus stage incredible comeback to knock Atletico out of the UEFA Champions League 2018/19
“It’s fast, it’s competitive, but it’s fair,” described the commentator when Antoine Griezmann crashed into Cristiano Ronaldo’s right foot in the first half. As the referee waved play on, Ronaldo did not cry foul.
Juventus, playing at home rampaged through Atletico’s first leg lead to reach the final eight of the UEFA Champions League 2019. A match that embodied Juve’s strong character, will surely go down as one of the best comebacks in the League’s history.
Starting valiantly at home; Juve's first goal, that came within the fifth minute (tap in from Chiellini) got disallowed, courtesy Ronaldo’s lunge into the right hand of Jan Oblak a touch before.
The Ronaldo show
Inspired, emotional and clinical, Ronaldo’s performance defied his age.
Far from the form of his life in the Serie A and Champions League, Ronaldo on Tuesday night, played for the stage. Despite functioning as the target man for the hosts, Ronaldo worked around the pitch running, dribbling and retrieving the ball.
Twice he rose high inside the box, and twice he converted. The first one, a diving header on the far post by outjumping Juanfran and then the second, rising high between the defenders to put the ball past across Oblak, Ronaldo gave it all.
To complete his hattrick, he drilled the penalty low to the right of the goalkeeper in the 87th minute against one of his favourite oppositions in the world, against whom he holds an astonishing record of scoring 25 goals in 33 appearances.
Juve oomph up the tempo
Ronaldo despite scoring the hattrick was not a one-man show tonight.
Two goals down, humiliated at home, Juventus hunted in a pack. Pjanic controlled the tempo of the game and boy, did he do a good job at that. Continuously distributing the ball to all sides of the pitch, asking questions from beginning to the end Pjanic did not give the home team much of a chance to put the wrong foot in.
Starting on the right wing ahead of Paulo Dybala, Federico Bernardeschi needed to justify his selection. Turning, twisting and finding space, Bernardeschi and his left foot did everything right in the first half.
Case in point, after setting up Ronaldo in the 27th minute with an exquisite cross from the left, Bernardeschi missed the bar by inches from his first half freekick. He further had attempted an outrageous bicycle kick inside the box from a ball that seemed to be going way beyond his reach.
Bernardeschi's constant running freed both the flanks that Juve kept on exploiting throughout the game. His run into the box in the dying minutes of the game resulted in a cheeky penalty for the hosts from which Ronaldo converted and sealed the game.
Simeone's philosophy crashes like a pack of cards
Atletico Madrid, leading by two goals to nil in the home leg, sat deep and defended. Despite being the master of the art, Simeone's men found it difficult to manage the pace in the flanks and the retrieval of the ball by Juve’s midfield.
Despite, getting a bit more of the possession in the second half, Atletico did not get one shot on target. When Correa broke in the second half, nobody tracked his run. When Morata lost the crucial ball in the centre of the pitch, nobody closed the opponent down.
Simeone’s seemingly impregnable fortress was torn apart.
The glorious tale of comebacks continue
Champions League comebacks are special, they have to be. Roma coming back against Barcelona (2018), Barcelona scripting the unthinkable against PSG (2017).
Even from the current season, a transitional Manchester United knocking out tournament contenders PSG, or a young Ajax wrecking the defending champions, comebacks are intensely contested and gain the highest of respect in the footballing world.
Tuesday’s match against Atletico will be etched in the memory for the Juve fans, for the theatrics in the first leg, and the sheer intensity in the second from Juventus who have never been known for their pace, pressing and attack mindedness in the recent times.
This comeback was special because Simeone had never lost a 2-0 lead in the Champions League before, they were expected to sit back and see the pressure out. On the other hand, Juve were probably expected to adjudge the pace of the game and grow into it as the minutes passed.
But, Juve ran around the pitch for all of the 90 minutes, attacked, attacked and attacked some more to make one of the best defences in the world look so jittery that they were forced to give away a penalty, which concluded the Champions League journey for Atletico for the season 2018-19.
With this win, Juventus proceeded to become one the first teams to qualify for the quarter-final stage of the championship, while Ronaldo equalled Lionel Messi's record eight hat-tricks in the Champions League.