At the start of the second leg semifinal at Santiago Bernabeu, Italian champions Juventus merely needed a draw to seal their place in the final of the UEFA Champions League. On their part, a simple 1-0 win was enough for the hosts and defending champions Real Madrid because they held away-goal advantage to go to the finals. Real achieved that in the 22nd minute, when Cristiano Ronaldo converted the penalty that ensued after James Rodrigues was brought down in the box. With Ronaldo controlling the left flank and Gareth Bale holding the right, Real Madrid played inspired football until luck deserted them in the 57th minute. A section of Spanish media is unfairly singling out Sergio Ramos for giving away an easy free-kick. It is harsh on Ramos but the drama really began there. As Andrea Pirlo crossed the ball into the box, Iker Casillas punched it away. Casillas’ punch, however lacked the power as the ball flew over the head of Giorgio Chiellini, he avoided sending the header to goal because the distance was not right. Therefore Chiellini headed the ball to Paul Pogba. Even Pogba knew that his header would be wasted; therefore he headed into the center, where Ex-Real star Alvaro Morata took the ball on his chest before slamming a powerful left-footer that tipped the gloves of Casillas and nearly ripped the underside of the net. Alvaro Morata didn’t celebrate even as a deathly hush swept Santiago Bernabeu. There were attempts from both sides in the remaining time but the score-line didn’t change. Juventus went through on aggregates to play FC Barcelona and effectively killed all hopes of an El Clasico final at Berlin on June 6, 2015.
It looked like a great football festival as the entire Madrid city swarmed with football fans. Riot police was deployed around the stadium and streets were jammed. Everyone wanted a Real Madrid victory despite the 1-2 set-back at Turin last week. Inside the iconic Santiago Bernabeu, enthusiasm bubbled over. There was a huge roar, when players came out with little kids holding their hands. Even the soaring 350C temperature could do nothing to deter the fans and their unbound eagerness. Within a minute from the start, Marcelo clipped a cross to the far post, where Gareth Bale missed a gilded chance with his header going over the bar. Within the next two minutes, it was Juventus’ turn to mount an attack but that ended with earning a corner and wasting it. The two teams kept exchanging attacks for the first 20 minutes but the targets eluded them. Then Real mounted pressure for a couple of minutes. First it was Bale, whose swerving effort was tipped away by Buffon in conceding a corner. After James Rodrigues’ corner was blocked, the Colombian was brought down in the goal area by Giorgio Chiellini, Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Ronaldo assumed that Buffon would move sideways and therefore he struck in the middle and as the ball went through, Santiago Bernabeu came alive. They wanted the match to end at this point but such wishful thinking bordered on ridicule. Nothing much happened until halftime as Real held the 1-0 advantage.
When second half began, it was Juventus, who went into attack first and came close to scoring in the 51st minute, when Carlos Tevez sent a superb pass to Claudio Marchisio on the edge of the box but the midfielder’s stinging attempt on the goal went just wide. Two minutes later, Real missed a similar chance, when Marcelo’s shot missed the target. In the 57th minute, Sergio Ramos was penalized for a foul on Arturo Vidal and yielded a free-kick. The spot was perfect and as Pirlo sent a menacing cross, Casillas jumped and punched but the clearance reached Chiellini. The Italian found that he didn’t have the right distance for the header, therefore he headed it to Paul Pogba, who headed it, in turn, towards Alvaro Morata. The ex-Real Madrid star chested the ball down and fired a shot out of Casilla’s reach on the top underside of the net.
The dramatic equalizer sent every Juventus player into a frenzy but Morata kept aloof. The damage had been done and Real Madrid needed to do something in the 30-odd minutes that remained. They regrouped and the triangle of Isco, Ronaldo and Marcelo moved up from left. There was one attempt from Marcelo and another by Bale in close succession but Real were hampered by Juventus’ rock-like defense. In the 72nd minute, Real had three chances; a 20-yard shot from James; another from Bale and Bale’s header from 8 yards. The last one was the closest but Bale was unlucky. Then there was a huge shout for Penalty by Real as Patrice Evra slipped and collided with Chicharito but referee ignored. Despite industrious efforts from Real, they couldn’t produce another goal in the remaining time and with 3-2 aggregate victory, Juventus sailed into the UEFA Champions League final to play FC Barcelona in Berlin early next month.
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