Tevez Strikes to Reward Old Lady's Resilience

Carlos Tevez gave Juventus a slender and deserved edge to take to the Bernabeu next week.

Published: 06th May 2015 08:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th May 2015 10:26 AM   |  A+A-


Juventus 2  Real Madrid 1

Make that the Bold Lady. Juventus were marvellous against the champions of Europe, defending with Italian-trademarked resilience when required but also attacking again and again, playing with pace and panache. Alvaro Morata scored their first goal, and although Cristiano Ronaldo equalised, the outstanding Carlos Tevez gave Juventus a slender and deserved edge to take to the Bernabeu next week.

 Juventus supporters stood to salute their team at the end and no wonder. Tevez and Morata were exceptional, constantly unsettling Real's defence. Arturo Vidal was a non-stop dynamo. Andrea Pirlo was the calm amidst the swarm. Juventus looked a team, a contrast to Real's collection of individual talents. Gareth Bale was disappointing, looking far from fit.

Ronaldo scored but was far from his imperious best. They missed the focal point provided by Karim Benzema, currently injured. For all Real's below-par display, the real focus should be on Tevez.

For long period of this enthralling first leg, Juventus were utterly bewitching, especially when Tevez was involved. It was not simply his eye for goal in the second but his formidable work-rate, his acceleration and technique that so impressed against such venerable visitors.

For the first 25 minutes, the Old Lady had given the aristocrats of European football a real hand-bagging and could have led by more than Morata's close-range strike.

Their fans formed a pre-match mosaic reading "We Are Ready" and they certainly were. So were their players. With Paul Pogba still recovering from his hamstring problem, Stefano Sturaro made only his 11th appearance for Juventus, partnering Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo in midfield.

"Keep calm and pass it to Pirlo" was the message on the fans' T-shirts and was the mantra shaping many of his team-mates' thoughts. Yet Sturaro and Marchisio were influential in that ferocious 25-minute period of Juventus dominance.

All wearing black and white had immediately sensed the vulnerability in the Real defence, noted the nerves riddling Iker Casillas, appreciated the open space between the back-four and Toni Kroos and tore forward. Juventus had three attacking forces whose movement caused endless problems for the European champions.

Arturo Vidal was shuttling at speed between midfield and the front line, one moment breaking through, the next tracking back and hacking down Ronaldo.

Tevez was everywhere, dropping off and collecting the ball, and heading high up the pitch, raiding through. Morata was a one-man swarm, hounding Casillas and Real's defenders. Casillas was spooked by Morata after three minutes, hurrying his clearance, which fell kindly for Marchisio. He immediately swept the ball through for Vidal, who screamed for a penalty as he encountered Pepe but Martin Atkinson waved play on.

The Juventus fans howled their displeasure, but they were soon singing again, soon stoking up the atmosphere again. This magnificent arena was co-designed by a Juventus fan and it shows. It is a ground made for amplifying sound. The volume grew as Juventus took control for a while.

Pirlo threaded through one of his signature passes, Tevez skipped past Kroos before guiding the ball left to Sturaro, whose shot Casillas held.

Even under sustained pressure, Real still broke out on occasion. Bale went slaloming through the middle until Leonardo Bonucci had seen enough and brought him down, swapping a caution for stopping a growing threat. Ronaldo, inevitably, commanded the free-kick, which failed to clear Juventus' leaping wall. He stood there, staring in disbelief at the wall's temerity.

The force remained with Juventus for another 15 minutes during which they scored, exploiting Casillas' declining strengths. Marchisio slipped the ball in for Tevez to unleash a shot that Casillas failed to hold. The Spanish keeper, one of the greats down the years, pushed the ball to his right and there was Morata, formerly of Real, touching the ball home at the far post. Real appealed for offside but it was a good call from Atkinson, acting on advice from Mike Mullarkey, an assistant referee at the 2010 World Cup final.

Showing respect for his former colleagues, Morata kept his celebrations to a minimum. There was no restraint on the terraces. For the Juventus faithful, this was a longed-for sight of their team challenging for the Champions League again, troubling the most famous club in the world.

But Real have Ronaldo. They have pace and technique. Their threat was always there, just seen only intermittently early on, such as when Kroos' shot was saved by Gianluigi Buffon after 12 minutes. Midway through the half, Real began to play like champions. Carlo Ancelotti's side were missing the injured Benzema, meaning that Ronaldo and Bale were assuming the central duties, and Ronaldo's rapacious hunger for goal was seen after 27 minutes.

James Rodriguez played the creator, slipping between Juventus defenders, meeting the ball which he hooked across for Ronaldo to head in his 54th goal of the season. His 76th Champions League goal took him clear of Lionel Messi, who takes his turn against Bayern Munich at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Real should have added another before the interval following a magical passing move. The ball sped between James, Kroos, Marcelo before Isco crossed from the left and somehow James headed against the bar.

Juventus were out early for the second half, clearly determined to regain the lead. It came their way from a ferocious break by Tevez after 57 minutes. He tore upfield, arrowing into the Real box as options like Marcelo scythed down Morata. On Tevez raced until Dani Carvajal, the Real full-back, brought him down. Tevez placed the ball on the spot, took a long run-up, sprinted in and drove the ball past Casillas for his seventh goal in the Champions League this season. Not bad for a striker who went four years at Manchester City without scoring in the Champions League.

It was proving to be one of the European games of the season, a feast with frequent spice. Giorgio Chiellini accused Ronaldo of diving. Kroos shot over. Carvajal, who not booked for his foul on Tevez, was finally cautioned for a foul on Morata. Bale was doing little, drifting around the right, putting in the occasional cross but this was a listless display and there was little telepathy with Ronaldo. Javier Hernandez came on for Isco but over-elaborated at one point, much to Ronaldo's frustration.

Juventus could have extended their lead just before the end when the substitute, Fernando Llorente, met Pirlo's free-kick with a header that Casillas saved. There was still time for Chiellini to pick up a booking for taking out Ronaldo. Next week promises fireworks.

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