Wednesday April 11, 2018
It took until almost the last kick of the game, but Real Madrid are through to the Champions League semi-finals after converting a stoppage time penalty over Juventus, scoring the aggregate tiebreaking goal to send them through 4-3 despite losing the match 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Juventus got off to a roaring start, with a top-class run and pass from ex-Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira setting up a shockingly easy finish for Mario Mandzukic less than 90 seconds into the match. With that much-needed early first goal in hand, that gave Juve the confidence they needed to go striding forward time and again to go looking for the three additional goals they needed.
Of course, that also meant that Madrid went searching for a goal of their own, desperate to restore their three-goal aggregate lead, meaning that the game went wide open in a hurry, with a flurry of scoring chances at both ends of the pitch. Madrid had some quality scoring chances, but a series of top-notch saves from Gianluigi Buffon and one brave block by Miralem Pjanic that may have rearranged his face a tad bit meant that Juventus hung on long enough for Mandzukic to score a second time in the 37th minute, this one a header off a perfectly weighted cross from Stephan Lichtsteiner.
That goal narrowed Madrid’s aggregate lead to just one goal, and with Juventus looking like the stronger side in the run of play that meant that the hour was truly growing desperate for the defending Champions League winners. Coming out of half time, they made a double-switch that highlighted that desperation, bringing on Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez for Gareth Bale and Casemiro. Dropping a key midfielder and an athletic attacker capable of stretching Juventus’ defense was an incredible gamble, and one Zinedine Zidane very much needed to pan out.
The early stretch of the second half were very physical, with both teams buckling down knowing there was a huge fight to be had in the final 45 minutes. So between that and the sheer technical quality of the first two goals, it somehow made perfect sense that Madrid would concede on a couple of major mistakes, with a ball pinging loose in the box before Blaise Matuidi hammered it at goal. Keylor Navas appeared to have it covered, but inexplicably bobbled the ball, and its momentum took it into the back of the net for a shocking 61st minute equalizer.