It was an interesting, but heart-aching night for football lovers as the big heads lock horns in the first leg of the Uefa Champions League quarter finals.
For a brief moment, there was stunned silence. It felt as if nobody could comprehend what they had witnessed. Then the applause broke out. It came from all sides of this boisterous arena. In great blocks, the Juventus supporters rose to their feet. It was to recognise sporting genius and it did not matter to them that it had come from a rival.
Cristiano Ronaldo had put Real Madrid in control of this Champions Leaguequarter-final with an early poacher’s finish. He now had them in sight of the next stage and, even by his exulted standards, it was a jaw-dropping intervention. When Dani Carvajal stood up a cross from the right, Ronaldo instinctively knew that the overhead kick was on. He leapt, hung and stretched before, with the ball at its highest point, he swivelled his hips and worked a right-footed masterpiece beyond Gianluigi Buffon.
Ronaldo has 25 goals in his last 14 games for club and country. He has scored in every Champions League tie this season to lead the field for the competition’s Golden Boot with 14. Something seems to stir inside of him when the aria plays. Juventus were broken.
Paulo Dybala, their great hope, was sent off for a high boot on Carvajal, having previously been booked for diving and, when Ronaldo ushered in Marcelo for Real’s third, it was all over. Juventus have won the previous four two-legged ties against Real, going back to 1996, but they need a miracle to progress. After the loss to Real in last season’s final in Cardiff, this was another bitter pill.
Massimiliano Allegri had likened grand Champions League occasions to an evening at La Scala. “We live for nights like this,” read the Juventus slogan on the big screen during the pre-match lights show. One of Europe’s classic matches pulsed with stardust and history, with the subplots rich and numerous.
Zinedine Zidane was once feted as a Juventus player. This was his first return to Turin as a coach. Cardiff had framed the occasion, with Zidane starting with the same Real lineup as he had in last season’s final. Allegri insisted that the tie was not about revenge. Nobody truly believed him.
Ronaldo’s numbers are freakish and needed to be updated – and further gawped at – after three minutes. Marcelo’s lovely switch of feet created the angle for the pass up the left to Isco but it was still shocking to see how much space the Real midfielder had to measure his cross. Ronaldo held his run. Then, he bolted for the near post. When Karim Benzema stood tall in the middle, he effectively set a screen for his team-mate. Andrea Barzagli was blocked off and, when Ronaldo converged, everybody knew what would happen next. It was Ronaldo’s sixth appearance in Real’s colours against Juventus. He has never failed to score against them.
The significance of the away goal was lost on nobody and the tie became shaped to Real’s liking. Juventus had to push; the visitors were more than happy to punch on the counter. With Luka Modric and Isco showcasing sumptuous touches, they threatened another before the interval. Raphaël Varane headed over from a corner when unmarked. Toni Kroos thumped a 25-yard drive against the crossbar.
Juventus looked a little frantic as they chased the equaliser but they had their moments – the biggest coming on 22 minutes. Gonzalo Higuaín volleyed a Dybala free-kick goalwards and it took a wonderful reflex save by Keylor Navas to deny him.
Real were indebted to Sergio Ramos and Varane for important interventions but it felt symptomatic of Juventus’s frustrations that Dybala attempted to win a penalty in the 45th minute with a blatant dive. He was booked. Moments earlier, the home crowd had howled for a penalty when the ball appeared to strike Varane’s arm at close quarters. An award would have been harsh.
The burden on Dybala to create was heavy. He drew a foul from Ramos on 54 minutes for which the defender was booked – the Real captain is suspended for the second leg – and Dybala watched his subsequent free-kick deflect wide. His night would end in ignominy.
Ronaldo had gone close at the start of the second half and he should have completed the hat-trick late on from point-blank range. The substitute Mateo Kovacic rattled the bar. The 12-time champions scent further glory.
Thiago Alcântara’s header gives Bayern Munich upper hand against Sevilla
At the final whistle there was applause and then at one end of this stadium they began to bounce about, chanting about how proud they were of the team that soon came over to clap them back. At the same time, Bayern Munich’s players, headed to the other end. It had not been easy but they had won 2-1, taking an important lead into the second leg. There is still the Allianz Arena to come, but the reaction from the Sánchez Pizjuán felt final, like the fans here knew they had probably reached the end of the road. It is 60 years since Sevilla have come so far and there was reason to be satisfied even if there was reason to be a little sad too. For Bayern, this is familiar territory, but the next step will be harder.
Sevilla always knew this would be difficult, the banner depicting them as Asterix and Obelix spread across one end expressing the enormity of what they had before them, but they had come to believe. “Sevilla score a goal,” the fans sang as the clock ran down. They had scored one in the first half, through Pablo Sarabia, but an own goal from Jesús Navas and a header from Thiago Alcântara had seen Bayern recover to take a 2-1 lead. Now Sevilla tried to find the equaliser, but it was not to be. If Manchester was historic, they will have to do something even more extraordinary in Munich.
For much of the first half, it felt perfectly possible. Carlos Joaquín Correa and Sergio Escudero had first combined as early as the second minute and it was from their left wing that the first chance came. Escudero’s wonderful ball sought out Wissam Ben Yedder and, as Matts Hummels tried to intercept, the ball fell at the feet of Sarabia nine yards out. Sarabia, though, curled it wide. The lament did not last. Just after the half-hour Escudero delivered again, this time long towards the far post. Juan Bernat was slow to the bounce, seemingly unaware of the threat behind him, and Sarabia jumped in front, controlling on the chest and finishing, running to the corner redeemed.
The noise, already deafening, found a way of increasing somehow, the roar rolling round, but Bayern took just six minutes to draw level, fortune favouring the Bavarians. James Rodríguez received from Thomas Müller and, amid the din, spread the play to the left where Franck Ribéry ran at the Sevilla defence. Opening out his body to bend the ball in right-footed, Ribéry instead hit Navas; the ball changed direction and squeezed past David Soria at the near post. Until then a simple catch from Thiago’s long shot was as difficult as it got for a goalkeeper surprisingly included ahead of Sergio Rico.