Real 2-1 Juventus: Ronaldo Down Juventus with Skills

Two more goals for Cristiano Ronaldo, three more points for Real Madrid. This was not always easy, and in the first half there were chances for the visitors, but Real Madrid’s qualification for the knockout round is virtually secure already. Two early strikes from Ronaldo took him to seven goals and Madrid to nine points. For Juventus, who played almost the entire second half a man down after Giorgio Chiellini was sent off, there may be trouble ahead: they had their moments but they took nothing. They have just two points.

Madrid had the lead before the clock showed four minutes. Sami Khedira progressed on the right and found Angel di María a couple of yards outside the penalty area. He stepped away from Andrea Pirlo and cut a clever angled pass into Ronaldo. Two touches took him past Gianluigi Buffon and with his third he put the ball in the net. It was Ronaldo’s sixth goal in the competition – already half of the 12 that made him top scorer last season in just the third game.

The seventh soon followed when, just before the half-hour, a free-kick was swung in from the left and Sergio Ramos and Chiellini tangled. Replays showed the Italian had an arm over Ramos’s shoulder but neither the linesman nor the referee saw it; the man who did was the fifth official, four or five metres away. What exactly do they do?, the question runs. Here, the answer was simple: give penalties.

Ronaldo thumped the spot-kick into the corner away from Buffon’s right hand. Another goal, another milestone. It was his 57th Champions League goal, taking him beyond Ruud van Nistelrooy. Only Raúl and Lionel Messi have scored more in this competition, even if a bigger roar actually greeted the Portuguese when he raced back to win the ball near his own goalline, bringing it safely out from the back.

Juventus felt a little hard done to. Not so much because of the decision, although they protested that, as what had gone before. Fernando Llorente had already scored an equaliser seven minutes earlier and Juventus, who had first seen Claudio Marchisio’s 20-yard shot turned over by Iker Casillas in the opening minute, had their chances to have been leading. Carlos Tevez hit one shot wide and then, cutting in, curled another fractionally over. In the 21st minute, Pirlo spread the ball wide to Martín Cáceres, whose deep cross into a huge space just beyond the far post was headed back by Paul Pogba, leaping almost on the byline. Casillas, falling back, pushed it out from the line only for Llorente to finish.

Madrid, though, had the lead back quicker than they had lost it and when Tevez rattled off two shots in a minute, only one troubled Casillas. The rebound fell to Pirlo who put the ball over from close range.

By half-time Juventus had taken 10 shots to Madrid’s four. Gareth Bale had been watching an entertaining game unfold from the touchline. The intensity of his warm-up suggested an imminent introduction, but he was still there as the second half progressed. Unlike Chiellini, sent off in the 49th minute for blocking Ronaldo’s run with his arm.

Llorente was withdrawn and so was the sting from Juventus; Leonardo Bonucci replaced the Spaniard, leaving them with two lines of four and Tevez up front alone. Soon Pirlo was substituted too, applauded from the field by the Bernabéu.

It was time for the ridiculous, a touch of comedy. At one end, Karim Benzema, a player Madrid’s fans need little excuse to whistle, somehow put the ball over the bar from two yards with an open goal inviting him to score. And at the other end, Arturo Vidal went to strike the ball and flew up in the air, crashing to the ground and appealing for a penalty. No one had been anywhere near him: he had in fact been “tackled” by a particularly tough looking divot. This time Madrid’s supporters were less charitable. “Stupid! Stupid!” they chanted. Benzema departed soon after, greeted with applause by some, whistles by others.

Bale took his place, with Carlo Ancelotti later stating that the Welshman is ready to start a game, although it remains to be seen whether that game will be Saturday’s clásico at Camp Nou. Khedira clipped into Buffon’s hands, Marcelo shot over and Alvaro Morata, on as a sub, chased a long ball and drew a simple save from Buffon. It still was not done for Madrid. Nor is qualification. Not yet.

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