MADRID: Alvaro Morata added his name to the list of discarded centre-forwards who have come home to embarrass Real Madrid when he shot them out of the Champions League in tonight’s semi-final second leg.
Morata, despatched on loan to Juventus last summer after failing to impress Carlo Ancelotti, brushed off a half-hearted challenge from Toni Kroos to shoot the 57th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw in the Estadio Bernabeu.
His strike wiped out the advantage Madrid had gained with a 22nd-minute penalty converted by Cristiano Ronaldo. Juventus, perfectly organised and discipline in the Italian tradition, then held out without too much difficulty.
The record Italian champions thus progressed to a match-up with Barcelona in the final in Berlin’s Olympic stadium on June 6. Both clubs will be chasing a fifth European champions’ crown with Juventus the underdogs.
But Barcelona will approach the final in a spirit of complacency at their peril. Juventus demonstrated in Madrid that they have all the weapons to neutralise star talents: Ronaldo became increasingly isolated, Gareth Bale missed the creative support of Luka Modric, Karim Benzema was fit enough only to last an hour and Kroos has a nightmare in the heart of midfield.
Defeat meant the world club champions were unable to break the jinx of the Champions League holders never managing to defend the title.
Madrid, despite having largely lost hope last weekend of regaining the Spanish league title, will be back in the Champions League next season but almost certainly with a new coach. Carlo Ancelotti’s failure to win a trophy this term will cost him his job.
Ancelotti said: “It’s hard to say what has happened. The team had the spirit and did everything they could. We attacked a lot and with quality. We had many chances to score a second goal.
“Football is about small details. Last year we won the Champions League in the last minute and everyone said there was a little luck. If there is luck, there is also bad luck. This time we had no luck.
“To talk about the future now does not make much sense. We have two league games and we must try to close the season the best way we can by winning them. Then we will meet and discuss the future.”
Later he expanded, saying: “If the club is happy with the work I have done in two years, I can continue. If they are not happy, they have to make a decision. I want to stay here, but I know how it works in football.”
Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri described his side’s aggregate victory as “incredible but true.”
He said: “I have to congratulate the boys, it is a big night for them and for all Italian football. We know we have quality, but these two legs of the semi-final were really special. We had chances and it was a great match between two teams with good technique.”
The tone was set for a night of Madrid attacks just 35 seconds in when Marcelo’s deep cross picked out Bale, who headed over. Benzema used brilliant skill to turn away from Leonardo Bonucci, only to blaze over, before Ronaldo’s free-kick was deflected on to the roof of the net.
Madrid were eventually rewarded in the 22nd minute when Giorgio Chiellini’s clumsy challenge on James Rodriguez gave them a penalty Ronaldo converted with ease, and there was no let up as they pushed forward again.
Ronaldo cut back in the area and appeared to give himself an easy shot to score, but chose to cross for Benzema and saw the ball cleared.
When Bale launched a swift counter-attack Ronaldo fired a powerful shot into the side-netting, and Benzema then brought a fine save out of Gianluigi Buffon with a close-range effort before the first half ended with a booking for Rodriguez as he took an exaggerated tumble in the area.
Little appeared to have changed after the break as Marcelo sent a bobbling shot wide, but Juve gradually began to build a head of steam.
At first there appeared little genuine threat as an offside flag frustrated Morata but they were edging forward, and the complexion of the night changed dramatically after Sergio Ramos fouled Arturo Vidal on the wing.
Iker Casillas punched the free-kick clear but it was pumped straight back in and Paul Pogba headed it down for Morata to control and fire home.
The former Madrid man again did not celebrate but his team-mates certainly did with the odds back in their favour.
Bale was inches away from the perfect response as he did his best to hook in Marcelo’s cross after a neat move but Juve had their tales up now and came forward again.
Claudio Marchisio’s cross was just beyond Morata’s reach, but they had the perfect chance to kill off Madrid in the 69th minute when Vidal slipped the ball through to Marchisio.
He had the whole goal to shoot at but failed to disguise his intentions and Casillas made a huge save.
Madrid took heart, but Bale’s powerful shot from the edge of the area flashed wide, and he then headed Marcelo’s cross over from point-blank range. The Welshman also thrashed a long-range shot narrowly wide in the 84th minute.
Pogba missed a chance to end the contest in the 88th minute when the ball came back to him on the penalty spot only for Casillas to palm it clear but Juve were able to see out four minutes of stoppage time and book their ticket to Berlin.
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