Real Madrid lose 1 - 3 to Juventus (Ronaldo; Manduzkic x2, Matuidi), but advance to the Champions League semi-finals on aggregate. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.
It’s hard to know where to start. All Real Madrid had to do in this match was avoid losing by three goals. A lot had to go wrong for that to happen, and almost everything that could’ve, did. Juventus got their early goal, Real Madrid’s possession for large spells did little to unnerve Juventus’ confidence, Isco had a goal incorrectly disallowed for a phantom offisde call, Raphael Varane hit the cross bar on the stroke of half-time, and the Italians took their chances.
Allegri’s plan throughout this match was clear — get the ball out to the right flank where Marcelo was (or wasn’t, on many occassions), and cross it far-post to where Dani Carvajal was mismatched defending Mandzukic. On Juve’s first goal, Real Madrid were caught in transition, and Carvajal hedged inside needlessly, when Varane had already picked up the inside marker, leaving Mandzukic free. On Juve’s second goal, Carvajal was there, but just couldn’t out-leap the Croatian striker.
Juventus made life difficult for Real Madrid in their build-up. They pressed well in the first half, and cut off vertical channels for Varane and Vallejo. Still, Real Madrid did well to weather the storm, and when they were able to pass their way out of tight spaces to break the initial press, there was plenty of space to exploit behind the lines; where Isco was the main ball-carrier in transition.
Even still, Juve dodged everything. Buffon made a few point-blank saves on Isco, Bale, Ronaldo, and Lucas Vazquez, and got away with a lot. This is not a knock on them. They executed a perfect game plan and needed luck along the way.
Two issues for Zidane to deal with at half-time: 1) Casemiro struggling dealing with Juve’s press; and 2) the lack of coverage for Marcelo. Zidane rectified this by making a double substitution at half-time, bringing on Lucas Vazquez for Gareth Bale (who was isolated a bit, and didn’t have much of an influence on the match, though wasn’t bad either); and Asensio for Casemiro. Asensio’s presence stretched the field a bit, and the young Spanish winger also helped cover for Marcelo, while bringing a lot of offensive threat on the left flank.
And those subs rectified a lot of the issues. Real Madrid’s shape looked a lot better, and they were dominating possession, while patiently looking for openings — creating a lot of danger through Asensio’s flair and presence on the left wing. Yet, as the story went, Juventus dodged everything — not desperate or in any sense of rush to score their third goal, knowing they had time to do it. They counter-attacked pragmatically, and eventually got their goal through a Keylor Navas blunder.
That moment was, um, massive. Equalling the aggregate is one thing, but putting yourself into a position to score an extra away goal, meaning Real Madrid would need two, was a terrifying situation.
Juventus didn’t search for that fourth goal (or at least hedged back into a deeper block at that point), meaning Real Madrid started to grow into the match and dominated possession for the remainder of the match. Allegri’s men were pinned deep, and similarly to the Madrid derby last weekend, were able to fend off all of Real’s attacks.
And, in a very freakish turn of events, as I write this, Lucas Vazquez is fouled in the penalty box past the 90th minute, Buffon is sent off for dissent, and Cristiano Ronaldo sends Real Madrid into the semi-final of the Champions League. Unreal.