Juventus crush Atletico's hopes, powered by a clutch hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo
Juventus overcame a two-goal deficit against Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo's dazzling three-goal display. CR7 made the breakthrough in the 27th minute, levelled the aggregate score three minutes after halftime with another towering header and blasted home the decisive goal from a penalty with four minutes left, to seal a 3-2 triumph on aggregate.
It was his eighth hat-trick in the Champions League, pulling him level with Barcelona's Lionel Messi. The former Real Madrid player also took his tally against Atletico to 25 goals in 33 matches in all competitions.Atletico needed one goal to force Juve to score four, but it never came as the home team's defense neutralized Atletico's attack all night long.
Atletico is normally so good defensively and entered this game with five straight clean sheets. That meant sitting back and going all out in defense could be enough while hoping to go on the counter. It backfired, as Atletico failed to register a single shot on goal. Antoine Griezmann seemed to spend more time in his own half, with Angel Correa having to track back to his own box to defend, and the moment got to Diego Simeone's team that usually does not falter on a stage like this. Atletico did blow their big chance.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg in Madrid, Juventus thought they had halved the deficit within four minutes when Giorgio Chiellini turned the ball in from a corner after Ronaldo challenged Jan Oblak, but after a VAR review the referee ruled the ball had been kicked out of the goalkeeper's hand and gave a free-kick. The hosts constantly got the ball wide and terrorised Atletico full-backs Santiago Arias and Juanfran, but it was Bernadeschi's untracked run into the middle which put them ahead on the night. He crossed from deep for Ronaldo at the far post, who beat Juanfran in the air and powered beyond Wojciech Szczesny.
Atletico's first real chance fell to on-loan striker Alvaro Morata who got between two defenders to meet Koke's cross from the right only to head over. Soon, the Portuguese superstar pulled the Old Lady level three minutes after the break from another wide delivery. Ronaldo met Joao Cancelo's cross with another powerful header and although Oblak clawed the ball away, goal line technology showed that it had crossed the line by centimetres and the referee signalled a goal.
Atletico brought on Vitolo and Angel Correa in an attempt to add more bite to their attack but to no avail.
With extra-time looming, Bernadeschi was nudged over by Angel Correa inside the Atletico box and referee Bjorn Kuipers pointed straight to the spot, from which Ronaldo showed nerves of steel to send Jan Oblak the wrong way and fire Juventus into the quarter-finals.
While Ronaldo will get nearly all of the credit, Federico Bernardeschi was out of this world. He started on the right when many thought it would be Paulo Dybala there, but it was a stroke of genius from Massimiliano Allegri. The Italian star looked fantastic all night long and was responsible for creating the first and final goal.
After the match Ronaldo said, "This was why Juventus brought me here, to help do things that they have never done before. This is the mentality you need to win in the Champions League."