Juventus talking points as Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick inspires memorable comeback against Atletico Madrid

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Juventus needed something special to overturn a 2-0 result in the first leg at Atletico Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t disappoint.

The Portuguese scored a hat-trick against his old foes to fire his the Bianconeri into the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a 3-0 victory in Turin, ensuring a 3-2 result on aggregate.

Even though Juventus were controversially denied a goal in the opening five minutes, Ronaldo’s exceptional header in the 27th minute saw them draw first blood. The 34-year-old was at it again four minutes into the second half, again nodding home at the back post.

After Federico Bernadeschi was felled inside the area five minutes from time, Ronaldo converted from the spot to complete a memorable hat-trick.

RONALDO HEADLINES JUVE FIGHTBACK

The Champions League offers the best players in the world a platform to shine and Ronaldo rarely passes up an opportunity to take centre stage. The odds were stacked against Juve ahead of this round of 16 second leg, yet there were suspicions that the first half of the script had only served to set up a dramatic climax.

Having signed Ronaldo in the summer primarily in an effort to finally attain an elusive third top-flight European title, the Portuguese had thus far disappointed in the competition that has historically brought the best out of him, scoring just once in six appearances during its latest edition.

But with the stage set and Juventus in desperate need of a European special from their main man, Ronaldo couldn’t help but oblige. He was fired up from the start, embodying his side’s urgency, rallying the home support at every opportunity and it was only fitting that he made the breakthrough.

The manner of his first goal was a spectacle in itself. There appeared to be no danger as Juanfran had Ronaldo covered at the far post as Federico Bernadeschi wound up for a cross but, as the delivery came in, the forward showed immense strength, determination and athleticism to dominate his man in the air and bury an emphatic header past Jan Oblak.

He continued to threaten throughout the encounter and his second came from another superb aerial effort, using his phenomenal leap to tower over defenders and nod the ball over the line – just.

Bernadeschi had a tremendous game, only outshone by Ronaldo’s heroics, and his mazy run late on earned a penalty and with it the opportunity for a Ronaldo hat-trick. No-one was surprised when he dispatched it with aplomb, firing it into the bottom corner and Juventus into the quarter-finals – thus fulfilling the prophecy.

Cristiano Ronaldo header

VAR CONTROVERSY

An intense start to proceedings from Juventus made for a pulsating opening few minutes and even with the encounter in its infancy, a goal for the hosts seemed inevitable. Low and behold, the ball was in Atletico’s net in the fifth minute but referee Bjorn Kuipers immediately blew for a foul on the goalkeeper.

Ronaldo and Oblak pounced for a loose ball inside the six-yard box and both seemed to get a bit of it. The Portuguese’s challenge kept the goalkeeper from scooping up the ball and it fell to Giorgio Chielini who slotted home. Wild celebrations from the Juve players were quickly cut short by the official in the middle who adjudged Ronaldo to have fouled the visiting custodian.

Even though replays suggested that Oblak wasn’t in control of the ball, VAR sided with the on-field decision, even opting against having the referee review the incident on the touchline screen.

While the technology or system are certainly not to blame in these scenarios, it has brought to light the discrepancies in how the rules are interpreted by various officials.That’s something UEFA must address to ensure consistency across the competition.

Chiellini's goal was ruled out

ATLETI HAVE THEMSELVES TO BLAME

Diego Simeone is a vastly experienced manager and Atletico as a whole should’ve known exactly what to expect when they made the trip to Turin. Whether they were overwhelmed by the electric atmosphere inside the Allianz Stadium or the occasion was simply too big for them, they never looked like they believed they would progress.

The Spanish outfit started slowly and sat far too deep without really posing a threat on the counter-attack. Their game-plan was evident – grind out a result at all costs. However, it only served to invite Juventus onto them and if you get the ball to Ronaldo enough times in and around the box, he’s sure to do some damage.

The tactics were disappointing from Simeone, it has to be said, but the lack of grit in defence and teeth in attack were startlingly uncharacteristic. Alvaro Morata’s header over the bar in the first half when he was unmarked from eight yards out meant the visitors didn’t register a single shot on target all night.

Following a passionate display at the Wanda Metropolitano it’s a shame that their European journey has ended with a whimper.

Diego Simeone

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