Atletico Madrid 2-2 Juventus: Five talking points from the thrilling draw
In what was a thrilling Champions League encounter, Atletico Madrid erased a two-goal deficit to play out a 2-2 draw with Juventus at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Diego Simeone’s men showed their characteristic grit and resolve in the comeback, preventing Maurizio Sarri from earning three points in his first Champions League game as the Bianconeri boss.
Both teams had limited attempts on goal in the first half with Joao Felix’s two attempts coming close to finding the net.
The second half, however, was a polar opposite.
Juan Cuadrado broke the deadlock right at the start of the second half. Gonzalo Higuain sent in a beautifully weighted ball and the Colombian produced a sumptuous finish to open the scoring.
Blaise Matuidi doubled Juventus’ advantage with a headed finish in the 65th minute. The Frenchman got on the end of Danilo’s terrific cross to put it past Jan Oblak’s goal.
Despite being down by two, Simeone’s cohorts did not wither and improved their offensive game. It paid dividends as Stefan Savic found the net in the 70th minute from a set piece.
Juventus repelled wave after wave of Atletico’s attempts in the last 20 minutes. Wojciech Szczęsny did well to push away Vitolo’s sensational effort on goal. The Bianconeri defense was breached again in the final minutes of the game as Hector Herrera headed in from a Kieran Trippier corner.
Simeone maximized his side’s physical advantage
Atletico Madrid scoring from a header is like death and taxes. Sooner or later, it is inevitable.
Simeone does not have the same quality of players under his command, when compared to Sarri. The Argentine, like Antonio Conte, is an expert at maximizing his squad’s strengths and this showed last night.
Both of Atletico’s goals came from a set piece. While Savic and Herrera were the goal-scorers, at the center of everything was Trippier.
The Englishman’s crossing troubled Juventus’ defense and it was his corner that was diverted in by Herrera for the equalizer.
For Atletico’s first goal, Jose Maria Gimenez rose up over Danilo to provide the assist for Savic. The Montenegrin himself was marked by Rodrigo Bentancur. Juventus definitely assigned the wrong markers but credit goes to Koke and the Atletico squad to capitalize on the mismatch.
Atletico’s center-back pairing was dominant on the defensive end as well. They combined for a total of 12 clearances and 10 aerials won. The Uruguayan and Montenegrin were instrumental in containing the ever-dangerous Cristiano Ronaldo.
Juventus’ forgotten men came to the fore
The Old Lady possesses a squad brimming with elite players and arguably have one of the strongest squads in Europe. The glitter of those stars does cast a shadow on some vital contributors who do not garner such attention.
Cuadrado and Matuidi fit that bill. Both are tireless runners who contribute on both ends of the field but do not receive the adulation that other big names in the squad do. The latter’s name also floated in the summer transfer window this year.
Their performance last night will go a long way in silencing the doubters. Cuadrado and Matuidi’s industry helped offset Juventus’ midfield’s underperformance.
The Colombian, in addition to his goal, also stacked up three tackles, two interceptions and two key passes. Matuidi had a superb pass completion rate of 92 percent (44 completed passes from 48 attempted passes).
Danny Makkelie’s officiating deserves praise
As long as a human is a referee, there will be errors. The football world is quick to jump on incorrect decisions from referees. When the “man in black” does a good job it’s rarely noticed.
Makkelie’s officiating last night was of the highest level. He controlled what turned out to be a fairly intense competition with authority. He did not unnecessarily stop play, nor did he give out cards needlessly.
His decision to not award a handball when the ball hit Leonardo Bonucci’s hand inside the box was spot on. The ball hit the Italian defender’s hand after ricocheting off Matthijs de Ligt, who was a hair’s breadth away from him.
Makkelie also did not give into Atletico players’ gestures when Cuadrado got into a tussle with Renan Lodi. The Colombian had pushed the Brazilian and Makkelie duly got a yellow card. The home side was calling for a red but Makkelie firmly pushed them aside.
Atletico Madrid vs Juventus is a rivalry to look out for
Both clubs featured in a brilliant Round of 16 clash in the 2018-19 Champions League. Los Rojiblancos posted a 2-0 win in the first leg but Ronaldo’s hat-trick (and Federico Bernardeschi’s impressive performance) helped Juve win 3-0 in Turin and qualify for the quarter-finals.
Last night’s game saw Simeone’s men script a phenomenal comeback against a side that is, arguably, the favorite for the Champions League title. The return leg in Turin is guaranteed to be an entertaining one.
Cover image credits: Washington Post