Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to make it maximum points from three games in Champions League Group B for Real Madrid and leave Juventus in real danger of not making it to the knockout phase.
Ronaldo put the home side in front inside just four minutes at the Bernabeu, but Fernando Llorente equalized on his return to Spain midway through the opening period. Parity would last just seven minutes, with Giorgio Chiellini beginning his night to forget by conceding a penalty, for a foul on Sergio Ramos, that Ronaldo had no trouble in converting. And the Italian defender made his side’s task of getting back into the match all the more difficult three minutes into the second half for a foul on Ronaldo.
After previous convincing wins over Galatasaray and Copenhagen, Madrid sit comfortably atop the group. Juventus, meanwhile, have just two points as their disappointing Champions League campaign continued. A comfortable win for Galatasaray against Copenhagen in the night’s other game means the Bianconeri trail the Turkish side by two points. A positive result when they meet Madrid in Turin in two weeks’ time is surely now a must.
Antonio Conte led his team into this encounter by switching from his trademark three at the back formation and instead going with a flat back four as Martin Caceres and Angelo Ogbonna came into the lineup as full backs.
Neither could do anything to prevent Madrid taking an early lead. Angel di Maria, who again started with Gareth Bale continuing his comeback from the bench, beat Andrea Pirlo cutting inside and threaded a delightful ball through for Ronaldo. With ease, the Portuguese forward took the ball past the advancing Gianluigi Buffon and shot into the empty net.
Juventus, though, were at least the match of their opponents in the opening half. And in the 22nd minute they were back on level terms. Caceres’s cross to the back post was met by the stretching Paul Pogba at the back post and, although he was able to pull off the initial save, Iker Casillas was powerless to stop Llorente firing in the rebound. It was the striker’s second goal since moving on a free transfer from Athletic Bilbao this summer.
The scores would not stay that way for long. From an in-swinging free-kick Chiellini clearly hauled down Sergio Ramos as he tried to get onto the ball and the referee ignored the visitors’ protests to award a spot kick. Ronaldo made no mistake with a clinical penalty that beat Buffon, despite him diving the right way.
And Chiellini compounded his earlier misdemeanor just after the break. As he tried to prevent Ronaldo getting onto a ball on the edge of the area, the center-back recklessly and deliberately pulled his elbow back into the face of Ronaldo. The contact may have been fairly minimal, but Chiellini clearly had to go.
To their credit, although Karim Benzema missed a fine chance, Juventus refused to go down lightly and came close to pulling level through substitute Sebastian Giovinco.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.