Juventus continued the trend of sensational comebacks in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League as they walloped Atletico Madrid 3-0 in Turin to secure a 3-2 aggregate victory.
In a breathless first half, the hosts asked several questions of the visitors’ defence and were rewarded in the 27th minute when Cristiano Ronaldo powered a header past Jan Oblak.
The second period followed a theme similar to the first with the Old Lady pushing and probing constantly. The tie-levelling goal arrived four minutes after the restart as Ronaldo doubled his tally for the night courtesy another header.
However, the Portuguese wasn’t finished as his 86th minute penalty ensured the home side overturned a two-goal deficit for the first time in their European history.
Here is a look at the three reasons which helped Juventus brush aside Atletico:
#1 Cristiano Ronaldo
Nearly a year ago, Cristiano Ronaldo brought the Allianz Stadium to its feet with a virtuoso display against Juventus. And on Tuesday, he repeated the feat. Fortunately for the Old Lady, he was on their side this time around.
The Portuguese looked destined to make a decisive contribution from the off and looked fired up in the warm-up. He started the game brightly and opened the scoring with a trademark back-post header. However, that was only the initial spark of a fire that was to burn Atletico to smithereens.
In the second half, the forward ran rings around the visitors’ defence. The away side had no answer to his mazy dribbling and his movement. Inevitably, he found himself on the score-sheet again. To cap off his display, he dispatched a penalty to complete his hat-trick.
In the summer, Juventus spent an absolute fortune on Ronaldo to quench their thirst for European glory.
And if he can keep coming up with such goods in clutch situations, the money spent would be worth every penny. And that elusive Champions League crown might not be too distant a dream after all.
#2 Atletico Madrid shoot themselves in the foot
Atletico Madrid came into the game in Turin boasting of a healthy two-goal advantage. Thus, many earmarked them as the favourites to progress. However, the Spanish side spectacularly unravelled at the Allianz Stadium to hand Juventus a safe passage into the quarter-finals.
The visitors looked nervy from the outset and never got going. Diego Simeone’s men lacked imagination and their defensive tactics played into the hosts’ hands.
However, Atletico made things worse for themselves with some elementary errors.
For the first goal, Morata carelessly gave the ball away in midfield. The loose pass was latched upon by Bernardeschi who whipped in a perfect cross for Ronaldo. The second goal came about after the visitors invited another Juventus attack following an equally wretched giveaway by Thomas Lemar.
The tie-clinching goal was scored from the spot with Angel Correa guilty of some daft defending inside the box.
The final of the 2018-19 edition of the Champions League is scheduled to take place at the Wanda Metropolitano. Hence, many believed Atletico to pull out all the stops to make their ‘home’ final.
Yet, on Tuesday, the Spanish side dug its own grave to prolong its wait for a Champions League crown.
#3 Allegri’s tactical masterpiece
Atletico Madrid have earned a reputation of being one of the grittiest teams in all of Europe, sticking to their guns and maintaining their shape, while also being incredibly difficult to break down.
It is hard enough to play Atletico Madrid on any other day, much less one where they have a 2-0 lead to protect, hence getting them to give anything in this clash was always going to be a tall order.
However, Max Allegri deserves immense praise for drawing up a tactical plan to outwit Diego Simeone, while his players also deserve credit for sticking to it.
Despite Juve’s need for goals, Allegri controversially left Paulo Dybala on the bench, sacrificing the Argentine’s creativity for the industry of Emre Can, with his midfield trio of Pjanic, Matuidi and Can working tirelessly in the middle of the park to stifle the channel linking midfield with attack.
This meant that the Atleti forwards were largely deprived of services, thereby reducing them to speculative shots from distance (which Sczenzny had covered all through the night).
Upfront, the constant running of Mandzukic and Bernadeschi kept the Atletico Madrid defense on their toes all through, limiting their forays forward and giving Ronaldo the opportunity to put them to the sword.
The 51-year-old’s decision to also give youth a chance proved effective, as the debuting Spinnazola proved a constant thorn in Santiago Arias’s flesh, with his opposite partner Joao Cancelo doing the same; while marauding Federico Bernardeshi was full of running throughout and it was off him that the match winning penalty was won as well as creating the assist for the opening goal.
#4 Juventus completely dominate every area of the pitch
The first leg at the Wanda Metropolitano was a cagey affair with Atletico emerging triumphant. Juventus, meanwhile, were uncharacteristically poor in Madrid and many panned them for their insipid display.
However, come the second leg, they looked a team possessed and they completely outclassed their Spanish counterparts.
The likes of Miralem Pjanic and Emre Can didn’t allow Saul, Koke and Rodrigo a sniff of the ball in midfield. The hosts were also able to cut out the passes into the middle third. Advertisement
Thus, forcing the away side to resort to long balls with Alvaro Morata as the target man. Unfortunately, the Spaniard was marshalled superbly by the experienced pair of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
In Juventus’ attacking third, Atletico didn’t have an answer to Ronaldo’s direct running and Federico Bernardeschi’s trickery. While the former bagged his 8th Champions League hat-trick, the latter had a major role to play in the first and third goals.
On such days, there are hardly any teams across Europe who can rival Juventus’ tactical expertise and superb blend of pace and power. Though those qualities went missing in the first leg, they certainly came to the fore in Turin.
And if they keep conjuring such convincing displays, one would be very brave to bet against them going all the way.
#5 Atletico’s blunt attack
While Diego Simeone’s men might be more prominent for their resolute defending, they are no slouches either when it comes to attacking and in Antoine Griezmann, they have one of the deadliest forwards in all of Europe
The World Cup winner is ably supported by a reborn Alvaro Morata, while Saul Niguez and Nikolo Kalinic can also provide attacking ammunition.
Juventus’ lack of an away goal gave Atletico the advantage in that all they needed was just one goal in Turin to further swing the tie away from their hosts, as for every goal scored by the visitors, the Italian giants needed three extra, which is a tall order against a team like Atleti.
However, the LaLiga outfit got their scripts horribly wrong, as they failed to truly worry the Juve back line, rarely looking like they could get that all important away goal.
In total, the Rojiblancos had a total of four shots in the entirety of the match of which just one was on target, which is rather disappointing for a club boasting the star forwards at the club and considering how much was at stake.
#6 Incredible home support
It is often said that the fans are the ’12th man’ in a football match, offering the players on the field that extra lift needed to step up their game by a notch, and this held true during the clash between Juventus and Atletico Madrid.
Prior to the blast of the whistle, 40,000 fans had gathered at the Allianz stadium, giving it a rocking carnival feeling, and this is an atmosphere that was maintained from start to finish, as the fans roared their players on with every attack and cheered loudly for every goal scored.
It required a tremendous amount of faith to believe Juventus could qualify, but their fans showed that they were not lacking in belief, cheering their players at every opportunity and urging them on for victory.
The importance of a tremendous home atmosphere cannot be underestimated, as the physical boost giving to players by a roaring crowd has been confirmed to be a motivating factor and on the night, the full force of the Juventus fans could be heard and this helped push their team to an unlikely victory.