Advantage Juve in Champions League semi

Advantage Juve in Champions League semi
Advantage Juve in Champions League semi
Advantage Juve in Champions League semi

Goals in each half from Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez handed Juventus a 2-1 semi-final first leg advantage to take into next week’s return tie with Real Madrid on a magical night of Champions League football at Juventus Stadium.

It was a dream start for the hosts who snatched the lead with just eight minutes on the clock through Morata’s tap-in, only for Ronaldo to level matters with a close-range header just minutes past the midway point of the first half.

An equally combative opening to the second half swung in the Bianconeri’s favour when Tevez broke on the counter and attracted a foul in the box from Dani Carvajal on 56 minutes, leaving Martin Atkinson with no choice but to point to the penalty spot.

Up stepped the Argentine assassin to wrong-foot Iker Casillas and drive the ball straight down the middle of the target, a goal that proved the eventual decider of an epic tie between two of Europe’s most prestigious clubs.

In an electrifying start to the game, an energetic Juventus burst out of the blocks and took just eight minutes to cement their early supremacy, Morata sweeping home at the back post after Casillas had parried Tevez’s close-range strike directly into his path.

Stung by the opener, Real rallied and forced Gigi Buffon into a smart stop at his near post through Toni Kroos on 12 minutes, before the same fate befell Isco just three minutes later.

In spite of the Bianconeri’s unquestionable endeavour, typified by Arturo Vidal’s industry in the middle of the park, it was the visitors who produced the next flurry of opportunities, with a trio of chances paying off at the third time of asking when Ronaldo found himself perfectly positioned to convert James’ hooked cross into the penalty area on 27 minutes.

This provoked a spirited reaction from Juventus but the chances continued to flow for the visitors, who will consider themselves unlucky not to have been in front by the midway stage.

An inch-perfect Isco cross from inside the area provided the danger but a perfectly placed James Rodriguez somehow headed against the bar from point-blank range.

A large proportion of the intensity that characterised the first half remained for the start of the second and Juventus were in no mood to sit back and ease off the accelerator.

After a spell of Real pressure, a quick counter-attack provided Juventus with the chance to break on the counter, an opportunity snatched with both hands by an effervescent Tevez.

Edging himself into a one-on-one situation with Carvajal, the Argentine drew a clumsy foul from the defender before dusting himself off to smash an emphatic spot-kick straight down the middle of the goal on 57 minutes.

Anticipating a Real riposte, Massimiliano Allegri elected to shore up his defence by switching to a back three, with Andrea Barzagli coming on to replace the impressive Champions League debutant Stefano Sturaro.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men upped the pressure as the minutes ticked down towards the final whistle, but this tactic suited Juventus just fine, enabling them to exploit the increasing gaps left by the visitors and break at pace on the counter.

Substitute Fernando Llorente saw two chances come and go late on, but the Bianconeri were able to dig in and preserve a lead that takes their European dream one important step further.

Next week will see the eyes of the world switch their attentions to the Spanish capital, where Juventus will hope to fend off a Real Madrid fightback to book their tickets for June’s showpiece final in Berlin.

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