Juventus loss leaves Ronaldo on brink of Champions League exit
Cristiano Ronaldo was supposed to be the final piece in the Juventus Champions League winning jigsaw.
For so long, Juventus has dominated in Italy, winning seven successive league titles with an eighth almost inevitable.
But it is the Champions League crown that it craves. Ronaldo was supposed to be the man to deliver for a club that has lost out twice in the final in the past four years.
When Juventus turned to Ronaldo, a five-time winner, chasing a record-equaling sixth Champions League title, it was to inspire the team on nights like Wednesday.
Only Sevilla (27) and Getafe (23) have conceded more goals to Ronaldo than Atletico Madrid.
Yet, on a Wednesday night in Madrid, the city where he enjoyed such success with Real, he was unable to add to his career tally of 22 against the former neighbor.
For Atletico Madrid, a team that has felt the full force of Ronaldo’s irrepressible scoring record during his time at Real, this 2-0 victory in the first leg of the last 16 tie was particularly sweet.
Two second-half goals from Uruguayan defensive duo Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin secured the advantage for Diego Simeone’s side.
Ahead of the game, much had been made of Ronaldo’s return to Madrid, the city where he spent nine years with Real, winning the Champions League on four occasions.
His reported $117million move to Juventus last July brought an end to his glorious time in Spain and opened an exciting new chapter with a club desperate to win Europe’s top prize.
But that chapter may have to wait for a happy ending if this result is anything to go by.
Atletico, which was deprived of the lead by a contentious refereeing decision following a review by the Video Assistant Referee, will surely be favorite to progress to the quarterfinal.
Alvaro Morata’s thumping header appeared to have given the home side the lead only for the referee to rule out the effort for a foul after watching a replay on the pitchside screen.
The decision riled Atletico, though it need not have worried as Gimenez fired home from close range with 12 minutes remaining.
Godin added a second five minutes later, his shot taking a slight deflection off Ronaldo on its way into the net.
“We must have faith,” Juventus coach Max Allegri told BT Sport.
“We’ll have some players back and there’s no point crying over spilled milk. We knew it was going to be tough, that Atletico Madrid force you to play badly, with a slow tempo. We moved the ball quicker in the first half, but not in the second.
“We got the approach wrong in the second half. It’s that simple. These things can happen, there will be great disappointment after this 2-0, but we can turn it around. It won’t be easy, we need a great second leg, but it can be done and we must have faith.”
In the night’s other game, 10-man Manchester City came from behind to win 3-2 at German side Schalke.
Nabil Bentaleb scored two first-half penalties to cancel out Sergio Aguero’s opener and ensure Schalke led 2-1 at the interval.
City hit back in the second half, recovering from losing Nicolas Otamendi to a red card before goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling secured victory.
Pep Guardiola’s team had looked in control before the game was turned on its head by VAR.
The first led to Schalke being awarded a penalty after Otamendi was adjudged to have handled the ball, reversing the referee’s initial decision.
The near three minute wait for a verdict from VAR caused frustration not only for the players but also supporters inside the stadium.
A second penalty was then awarded when VAR confirmed the referee’s call to award another penalty, this time for a foul on Salif Sane by Fernandinho.
“It’s a penalty. The second one is a penalty too,” Guardiola told BT Sport. “…And the red card can be a red card.
“I trust VAR. I have arguments sometimes but not this time. They are both penalties.”