Cristiano Ronaldo once again stole the limelight with two brilliant goals, the second one being a contender for goal of the season, as Real Madrid trounced 10-man Juventus 3-0 in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Juventus Stadium in Turin on Tuesday night.
The scoreline suggests Real won it at a canter and while they do have one foot in the semis, it wasn’t an easy ride for the double defending champions, despite the fact that Ronaldo fired them into the lead with an exquisite finish early on.
Juve were stung into action but with Keylor Navas in inspired form between the sticks, could not breach the visitors’ goal and as the match dragged on, there was always going to be one man who would love his mark on the tie.
While his now-trademark leap was there for all to see, there was a twist to it this time as Ronaldo had his back to goal to score an outrageous bicycle volley, evoking awe from both sets of fans.
From then on it almost turned into a romp, with Real running rampant late in the tie and while Marcelo did complete the scoreline with a fine finish, the visitors could easily have doubled their tally on the night.
With one golazo, a sending-off in a high-profile game such as this, you can bet there were plenty of talking points and The Statesman has compiled the five major ones right here:
Massimiliano Allegri’s bold call backfires
The question on everyone’s lips was why wasn’t Mario Mandzukic included in the starting XI?
Allegri opted to utilise both full-backs Alex Sandro and Kwadwo Asamoah on the left wing and it wasn’t surprising to see Los Blancos hold their own on that flank without much fuss.
Yes, with hindsight everyone has 20/20 vision and Allegri remains an elite manager, but here the Italian got his team selection seriously wrong and who knows, perhaps Mandzukic could have been the differential?
A 3-0 scoreline doesn’t reflect the true story of the tie for after going down early, Juventus responded brilliantly and on another day, could have equalised before half-time itself.
For all of Juve’s domestic dominance, they are yet to win silverware in Europe and while Allegri has led them to two finals, this campaign (considering Real knock them out next week) will surely go down as a blot on his copybook.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Scourge of Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo may not be the dazzling winger he once was, but boy does he find ways stamp his authority on high-profile clashes such as these.
Till the 64th minute, with the score reading 1-0 to the visitors, to say that Real were under the cosh would be putting it mildly for Juve were threatening to equalise but Los Blancos’ talisman had other ideas.
After Giorgio Chiellini’s gaffe allowed Ronaldo in, the danger seemed to have passed as Gianluigi Buffon parried Lucaz Vazquez’ shot to safety but Dani Carvajal’s hopeful cross was converted in eye-catching fashion before the hosts knew what had hit them.
Due to the spectacular nature of his second, Ronaldo’s opener is now cosigned to be a mere footnote but make no mistake, the Portuguese’s first-time finish was pure class as well.
However, the second was pure genius for as the cross came behind him, the 33-year-old took to the air and executed a textbook bicycle volley to forever etch himself into the memory of all watching.
With nine goals in six games against the Old Lady, let’s just say that Ronaldo seems to have them all figured out and it would take a brave man to bet against the Iberian from extending his prodigious streak in the second leg.
Bianconeri faithful show their class and CR7 responds
It’s not often that fans give a rival player a ovation and perhaps even rarer that they stand in unison to salute a player who has, in all probability, just broken their hearts.
Yet, that’s exactly what took place at Juventus Stadium in Turin as the awestruck crowd saluted a man who had registered a real net-buster that will probably be contender for goal of the season.
And Ronaldo was showed he was humbled by their reaction and with a respectful bow, acknowledged the adulation that was coming his way from all quarters.
At 2-0, the even before Dybala’s dismissal, the tie was effectively over especially considering Zinedine Zidane’s men had two goals in the bag but in the today’s day and age, where opponents are often treated to vitriolic abuse from minute 1-90, this was a welcome change indeed.
Sergio Ramos’ loss may prove to be blessing in disguise
Real Madrid fans had their hearts in their mouth when their living-on-the-edge skipper got a yellow for hauling down Paulo Dybala in the second-half.
Not because they feared a sending-off was imminnet, a fair concern consiederg Ramos’ past though, but because he was now ruled out of next week’s second leg at the Santiago Bernabue.
For all his elbows and unsportsmanlike conducts from time to time, Ramos is a world-class defender and his loss was going to be a big one until it turned into the Cristiano Ronaldo show.
Real put one step into the semi-finals, courtesy of their iconic No.7 who seems to break some scoring record each time he steps onto the pitch.
With the aggregate score reading 3-0 in their favour, it’s nigh impossible for the Serie A outfit to mount a comeback and while the second leg is not a dead rubber by any means, Ramos can now come back with a clean slate, provided Real progress to the last-four.
Paulo Dybala’s ‘brain fade’ costs Old Lady dear
To borrow from a now-infamous cricketer, Paulo Dybala had a ‘brain fade’ when he dived towards the end of the first-half.
His second yellow card isn’t the concern here, it’s the first.
For Dybala is a ‘typical’ South Americna in that sense, ready to fight for every ball and while it was harsh, he only had himself to blame.
What was the need to throw yourself to the floor like that?
Match referee Cuneyt Cakir had an excellent view of the instance and correctly gave the talented Argentine a caution as the interval drew closer.
When a player goes into the book fairly early into the game, he’s got to play without the ‘edge’ for the remainder so as not to handicap his teammates.
And while Dybala probably didn’t deserve to get sent-off for that foul as he had eyes for the ball, he had already shot himself in the foot with his earlier discretion and he probably didn’t even realise it then.
An early shower in such a big game will serve as a lesson for the mercurial forward, whose brilliance had powered the Bianconeri into the last-eight but in football, it’s easy to from being the toast of town to a pariah in a manner of days, forget months or years.