After 12 years without making it to the semi finals of the Champions League a classic power of the European game, Juventus, has returned to the worlds elite club competition. Unluckily for them, they hosted the reigning champions Real Madrid in their first semi final tie since losing in the final in 2003 to AC Milan and current Real Madrid Manager Carlo Ancelotti. The home side got the better of Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid, winning 2-1 with a return leg in Madrid only a week later.
An injury to Paul Pogba kept the young star out of this first leg, and without their metronome in the midfield Juventus went with a back four on defense to deal with the attacking threats of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. A move of normal central defender Sergio Ramos into the midfield in a holding role, and not starting a traditional striker like Javier Hernandez were the main changes to Madrid’s lineup.
Juventus clearly wanted to start the match with a sense of urgency in attack, and came out dominant in possession within the first 10 minutes. The home side’s dominance in possession was not to say that Real did not look dangerous in their early counter attacks, with which they are so lethal. Former Madrid man Alvaro Morata looked lively in attack right from the start, and eventually broke through for the first goal of the match, putting Juventus up on the champions. Carlos Tevez was able to find a great deal of space to get a shot off on the right side of the box and got away a nice shot that was barely saved by Casillas, only to find the feet of Morata who calmly put away the goal.
Almost immediately after going down 1-0, Real Madrid turned up the intensity in attack and started to dominate the match. Ronaldo started to see more of the ball and for Juventus it was only a matter of time before this became a major problem. On one long through ball Ronaldo was not able to find the net with his left foot, even though he found himself in a great shooting position. That missed chance was only moments before the Portuguese star found the net to tie it up at 1-1. Daniel Carvajal found James Rodriguez in the box, who lobbed a beautiful cross to find the head of Ronaldo, who was almost in the net when he finished the equalizing goal.
After the tying goal, Madrid did not let up their attacking pressure and continued to push forward. The away side almost grabbed a second when Isco laid on a great cross that found the head of James, who hit the crossbar from an extremely close angle. Going into the half with the score tied at 1-1, Real Madrid look to be in control with Juventus needing to find a way to get the win at home before they have to travel to the Santiago Bernabeu next week.
Juventus really calmed down, and adjusted well at the half to take the match to Real in the second half. After looking really good going forward near the end of the first half, Madrid were barely able to create any chances for themselves in the second half. With their moves going forward-looking, much more threatening Juventus were able to break the tie in the 58th minute. Carlos Tevez got on the end of a long through ball and found himself in the box with only Carvajal to beat, but the Spaniard took down the Argentinian in the box and the referee rewarded the deserved penalty. The man who was taken down off the play (Tevez) had Casillas guessing when he put a powerful penalty shot right down the middle to give his team the lead for the second time in the match.
An away goal was seemingly enough for Madrid on the night, because even with over a half and hour left in the game they really did not look convincing going forward, while Juventus continued to go forward. Substitute Fernando Llorente had two great chances late on to give his side another goal, but they will head to Madrid with a 2-1 aggregate lead.
Some big players for both sides will be hoping to return from injury for the second leg in Madrid, in Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba. With or without said stars, Real will have to score in the second leg to go through to the final and Juventus will be looking for an away goal to sway the tie their direction.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia – Creativecommons License