Messi MagicIn the first semifinal on May 5, 2015 at Turin, the 58th minute penalty from Carlos Tevez sealed the fate of Real Madrid as Juventus gained the edge in the first leg of UEFA Champions League semi-final. Except their victory in the final of 1998 UEFA Champions League over the Italian Club, Real Madrid have always failed to get over Juventus. The lone victory in the last 17 years came in a Group Stage game in October 2013 at Madrid. More than the team capability, the psychological handicap has weighed on the minds of players and coaches all these years. This will make the second-leg game at Santiago Bernabeu on May 13 an extremely intriguing affair. The second first-leg semifinal between FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich at Camp Nou looked like heading goalless for 77 minutes but in the fateful 17 minutes before the while hooter, Lionel Messi struck twice to snatch the advantage from Bayern. Later, Neymar made it 3-0 as injury time ended. To their credit, Barcelona held an upper hand for most of the first half and Bayern had better be grateful to their custodian Manuel Neuer as he denied both Luis Suarez and Dani Alves to keep the score-sheet blank at halftime. But with Messi coming up with a brilliant performance in the last phase of the game, Barcelona surged ahead. FCB stand on the verge of their 8th Champions League final. They have won the coveted tournament only 4 times to Bayern’s 5 and Real Madrid’s 10 victories.

Egged on by home fans at Turin, Juventus had a rollicking start to the first-leg semifinal against Real Madrid on Tuesday and took an early 8th minute lead. Ironically for Real, that goal came from Alvaro Morata, who played for them until last summer. After another Juventus newcomer Stefano Sturaro had tried to score past Iker Casillas, Claudio Marchisio sent a pass to Carlos Tevez on the right but the low shot from Tevez was pushed out Casillas but the weak clearance fell in front of Morata, who scored an easy goal and Juventus went ahead 1-0. Down by a goal, the defending champions went into an overdrive and Ronaldo once came close to scoring. Real got the equalizer in the 27th minute, when James Rodriguez sent a floating cross and Cristiano Ronaldo was on the perfect spot to head the ball in past the Juventus goalkeeper from close range. With scores level at 1-1, the momentum shifted in favor of Real Madrid. They almost went into the lead with a delicate work in the field. Beginning with slick right to left passing Isco broke clear and found James in front of the goal. But Isco’s perfect center was missed as the Colombian’s header only struck the woodwork and Marcelo couldn’t capitalize on the rebound.

In the second half, the pace continued and it was Juventus, who brought life in the field when Morata sent a clever pass to Tevez in the 56th minute but just as Tevez barged into the goal area, he was brought down by Dani Carvajal. In the ensuing penalty, Tevez slotted the ball past Casillas to take Juventus to 2-1. In the remaining period, Real Madrid did their best to find the second equalizer but Juventus’ massively fortified defense helped them preserve their one-goal cushion.

On Wednesday at Camp Nou, the other first-leg semifinal between FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich remained goalless for too long. Barca, however, kept the pressure in the first half and a seventh minute effort by Suarez was thwarted by Neuer. It was Josep Guardiola’s first match as Bayern’s coach at Camp Nou but his option of playing three men at the back for covering Messi, Neymar and Suarez backfired. The Uruguayan was particularly dangerous as he made several forays on Bayern Goal. Neuer was alert as he saved two one-to-one attempts from Suarez and Daniel Alves. With Suarez, Alves and Neymar wriggling in the goal area, the Bayern coach reverted to four men on the back. Bayern also made scoring attempts and their best chance came in the 18th minute, when Thomas Muller’s cross found an unmarked Robert Lewandowski but the striker failed to find the finishing touch. In the second half, Bayern began dominantly but soon lost the steam as Messi and Neymar were able to create opportunities. In the 77th minute, Dani Alves snatched the ball from Juan Bernat and found Messi in a great position. The Barca maestro unleashed a lovely drive from just outside the box that beat Neuer at his near post. Three minutes later, before celebrations could die off at Camp Nou, Messi scored again. The incredible Argentine picked up a pass from Ivan Rakitic and moved so quickly that Jerome Boateng was left behind. Then in a flash, Messi lifted a brilliant right-footer that sailed over Manuel Neuer’s head and found the net. In the injury time, Bayern’s hopes disappeared, when Messi sent a ball to Neymar, who foxed Neuer completely and slotted into the goal.