The ball brushed off of Cristiano Ronaldo and hit the back of the net… the Juventus net. His return to Madrid ended in a 2-0 defeat that goes a long way to end his dream of winning a sixth Champions League back in the Spanish capital next May.
Twice Atletico Madrid believed they had possibly edged ahead of Juventus but twice their supporters were silenced by VAR. They kept going and when Jose Gimenez scuffed the loose ball over the line on 78 minutes there were flailing arms and falling bodies everywhere but no one had broken any rules and for all Juventus’ complaints the goal stood.
Anything one Uruguayan centre-back could do, the other one – Diego Godin – could do just as well and his Ronaldo assisted second leaves Juventus with a mountain to climb in next month’s second leg. Jan Oblak saved brilliantly at the end from Federico Bernardeschi and Ronaldo headed agonisingly wide but it finished 2-0.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Atletico Madrid: Oblak, Juanfran, Gimenez, Godin, Filipe Luis, Koke (Correa 67), Thomas (Lemar 61), Rodri, Saul, Griezmann, Costa (Morata 58).
Subs not used: Adan, Arias, Kalinic, Savic.
Booked: Costa, Thomas
Goals: Gimenez 78, Godin 83
Juventus: Szczesny, De Sciglio, Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro, Bentancur, Pjanic (Can 73), Matuidi (Cancelo 84), Dybala (Bernardeschi 80), Mandzukic, Ronaldo.
Subs not used: Perin, Caceres, Rugani, Spinazzola.
Booked: Alex Sandro
The night had started so promisingly for Ronaldo who almost scored after just eight minutes. He was fouled by Gimenez 30 metres out. As referee Felix Zwayer ordered, and re-ordered, the wall back Diego Costa appeared to creep forward and then jump back.
The referee booked him ruling him out of next month’s return leg. It was like Al Capone being done for tax evasion – of all the skulduggery he might have had planned for the evening and he was in the book and suspended for not being 10-yards back from a free-kick.
Ronaldo’s subsequent thunderous free-kick was creeping under Oblak’s bar but the Atletico keeper pushed it over. Not for nothing did Diego Simeone make keeping Oblak one of the conditions of his contract renewal last week.
Ronaldo – greeted by a an inflatable doll with one of his old No 7 Real Madrid shirts on it behind the goal – was in the mood to remind the Spanish capital what it was missing.
Thomas Partey’s shot then tested Wojciech Szczesny. Thomas was everywhere and he combined with Koke to sweep Atletico forward from midfield. When the ball reached Mattia De Sciglio he placed a hand on the shoulder of Costa and there was a tangle of ankles with Costa going to ground and making sure he was in the area when he hit the deck.
Costa reemerged for the second half. How long would he last in his first full game back for three months? He almost scored five minutes in running on to Griezmann’s superb pass and giving the chasing Giorgio Chiellini a push out of the way. He then pulled his shot wide and was still ruing the miss when Simone took him off and threw on Alvaro Morata.
Before that Griezmann was at the heart of the next near-thing. His lob under pressure from Chiellini was pushed on to his bar by Szczesny. Atletico seemed closer than ever to taking the lead. When it looked as if they had VAR ruined the moment for the home support again.
Filipe Luis crossed from the left and Morata’s bullet header left Szczesny with no chance.
The on loan Chelsea’s striker’s celebration seemed oddly subdued. He did run to the Atletico supporters behind the goal but before he was back on the pitch referee Zwayer had put his finger to his ear and was being told to review the goal. When he did he spotted Morata’s hand into the back of Chiellini and ruled out the goal.
That’s the trouble with VAR, it sees almost everything and it isn’t swayed by the wall of noise from a passionate home support. But when there is nothing to see it has nothing to say. Gimenez’ goal stood and when Godin’s shot from another ball launched into the area hit Ronaldo and continued into the net Atletico could this time celebrate without waiting for a VAR decision – they are 90 minutes from the quarter-finals.