05.11.2013 22:59 - in: UCL S

      Honours even in pulsating affair with Real

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      Juve take the lead and then battle back from behind in tonight’s end-to-end 2-2 draw with Los Blancos. Arturo Vidal and Fernando Llorente on the scoresheet in front of a magnificent home support at Juventus Stadium

      A valiant Bianconeri performance was not enough to overcome Real Madrid as both sides claimed a point apiece from this evening’s pulsating 2-2 draw at Juventus Stadium.

      Arturo Vidal’s penalty five minutes ahead of the interval handed the hosts a deserved lead after a first-half spent predominantly on the front foot. But a quick-fire response from Real, produced through goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in the space of eight second-half minutes, left Antonio Conte’s men staring Champions League elimination in the face.

      However, Fernando Llorente’s headed equaliser, coupled with FC Copenhagen’s win over Galatasaray, means Group B remains wide open ahead of the Bianconeri’s final two games against the Danes and Turks.  

      For the return match-up in Turin, Conte opted to revert back to the same system which pushed Los Blancos all the way during last month’s narrow 2-1 defeat at the Bernabeu. Martin Caceres and Kwadwo Asamoah operated either side of central defensive duo Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci, while Claudio Marchisio and Carlos Tevez supported focal point Llorente in attack.

      Backed by an incredible support right from Howard Webb’s first whistle, Juventus made a purposeful start to their fourth Champions League encounter, seeking to isolate the threats of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale while denying the visitors space through determined pressing in every area of the field.

      In an end-to-end introduction, Paul Pogba was first to threaten Real’s goal on five minutes, driving forward from the heart of midfield before unleashing a shot which fell wide of the target without calling Iker Casillas into action.

      Yet telling signs of Los Blancos’ potency on the counter were evident with two warning shots fired in the space of four minutes. Ronaldo drove forward and drilled a strike fractionally past Gigi Buffon’s far post with the goalkeeper at full stretch, while moments later Gareth Bale tried his luck after dispossessing Caceres in the penalty area, only to see his shot foiled by the Bianconeri shotstopper.

      But Juventus maintained their poise and could have seen their positivity in the final third rewarded when Pogba threaded a testing cross in the box which Pepe almost turned past his own goalkeeper.

      With Real looking increasingly on edge at the back as the hosts cranked up the pressure, a flowing move from right to left saw the ball worked out to Tevez, who spotted Marchisio ghosting in unmarked at the back post. The midfielder stooped to divert a header on goal, but was denied by Casillas’ miraculous reflex shop.

      Conte’s men, however, did not have to wait too much longer to fashion themselves a golden opportunity to open the scoring. With 41 minutes on the clock, Pogba crumpled under the clumsy challenge of Raphael Varane and Vidal made no mistake from the ensuing penalty, finding the top corner with a precise strike that sent the capacity crowd into delirium.

      For all the Bianconeri’s valiant attempts to force a second inside the opening exchanges of the restart, it was in fact Real who restored parity seven minutes after the break, Ronaldo gathering Benzema’s threaded pass before chipping over Buffon for his eighth Champions League goal of the current campaign.

      After surviving a scare when Xabi Alonso’s long-range effort cannoned off the crossbar, an immediate Bianconeri reply almost came in the form of Marchisio, who, after seeing an initial effort from Pogba’s centre blocked by Casillas, was again left to rue his luck following Pepe’s last-ditch goal-line clearance.

      But the hosts were caught cold soon afterwards as a rapid Real break saw the ball played to an unmarked Bale lurking outside the box, with the Welsh winger jinking just inside the area before lashing an unstoppable shot past Buffon on 65 minutes.

      Hope still remained, though, and the Bianconeri’s reward for maintaining their composure arrived just five minutes later, Llorente peeling off Varane to meet Caceres’ inch-perfect cross at the back post and angling a header beyond Casillas to preserve his fine goalscoring run against Los Blancos.

      With time ebbing away, a Tevez effort on 78 minutes, beaten away by Casillas, proved to be the Argentine’s final contribution of the night, with the Bianconeri’s European talisman, Fabio Quagliarella, taking to the field in his place.

      The Campania-born striker instantly found himself in the thick of the action, drilling a low left-footed shot goalwards which was gathered by Casillas.

      This formed the last of the hosts’ attempts as Webb’s final whistle brought down the curtains on a breathtaking evening of football at Juventus Stadium. Next up, Napoli.  

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