Ronaldo’s Last-gasp Penalty Sends Los Blancos To Semi Finals

Alast-gasp penalty converted by Cristiano Ronaldo earned Real Madrid passage to the Champions League semi-finals despite a 3-1 defeat to Juventus on Wednesday night at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.

Never before has a loss tasted so sweet for Los Blancos. For 92-and-a-half minutes, Juventus played the perfect game, and two first-half goals from Mario Mandzukic and a second-half Blaise Matuidi brought Juventus back from a 3-0 first leg deficit to 3-3, sending shockwaves throughout the Spanish capital.

But Real never gave up in hopes of finding a goal, and with just seconds remaining a critical knockdown header from Ronaldo fell to Lucas Vazquez, who was pushed from behind to earn the series-deciding penalty, which the unflappable Ronaldo scored.

With the luxury of a tree-away goal advantage, manager Zinedine Zidane made a few changes, with Jesus Vallejo and Gareth Bale the notable inclusions in the starting XI, while Karim Benzema was relegated to the bench.

If Real thought it would be easy, they were grossly mistaken. Juventus came flying out of the gates and had a goal on the scoreboard not 90 seconds in. Casemiro turned it over, Douglas Costa fed Sami Khedira on the right, and the German lofted a beautiful chip across for Mandzukic to head in for a 1-0 lead.

Real would not stay quiet for long though, and some good work from Luka Modric set up Bale with a chance, but he was denied by veteran Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and then missed the back-heeled follow-up wide. It was then Juve’s turn to suffer and Buffon was called into action again to block a stinging Ronaldo shot.

Juventus had to weather a bit of a storm, which included a golden chance for Isco, but soon enough the Italians carved out another goal that once again came off the head of Mandzukic. Lichtsteiner was afforded enough space by Marcelo on the right, so the Switzerland international curled in a cross that the towering Croatian met right above Dani Carvajal and headed in to make it 2-0 to Juve.

The Bernabeu was a bundle of nerves, but there was still plenty of attack coming from Real, and Raphael Varane was unlucky to see his header hit the crossbar on the brink of half-time after a free-kick played in by Toni Kroos.

Zidane did not hesitate to make changes during the break, hauling off Bale and Casemiro for Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez in hopes of having more of the ball and finding a goal. Real were better in possession but Juventus remained a threat, as evidenced by a quick Higuain strike that Navas had to dive to save.

But the Costa Rican would be left red-faced a minute later, as he spilled a harmless ball that had been lofted in and Blaise Matuidi was there to poke the ball over the line to incredibly make it a 3-0 to Juve and 3-3 in the tie.

With each Juventus advancement upfield, the angst of the Bernabeu grew, while at the other end every chance spoiled by the men in white was greeted with frustration. Juventus were resolute in their defending, making good, hard clearances, while mixing in a tactical foul. Then there was Buffon, who was at his very best, especially on a deflected Isco chance that required a diving stop.

Yet just when it looked like Buffon and Juventus would extend things to extra time, Real, on their last chance with just 30 seconds left, drew the penalty. Mayhem ensued, with the Juventus players surrounding referee Michael Oliver, who brandished a red card at Buffon.

After all the pushing and shoving subsided and back-up goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was summoned, Ronaldo stepped up and fired in the spot kick to give Real the last-gasp 4-3 aggregate victory in a match that will be talked about for a long time.

Match Sheet:

1.- Real Madrid: Keylor; Carvajal, Varane, Vallejo, Marcelo; Casemiro (Lucas Vazquez, min. 46), Modric (Kovacic, min. 75), Kroos; Isco; Bale (Asensio, min. 46), Cristiano.

3.- Juventus: Buffon; De Sciglio (Lichtsteiner, min. 17), Benatia, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Pjanic, Khedira, Matuidi; Douglas Costa, Mandzukic, Higuaín (Szczesny, min. 96)

Goals: 0-1, min. 2: Mandzukic; 0-2, min. 37: Mandzukic; 0-3, min. 60: Matuidi; 1-3, min. 98: Ronaldo (p)

Referee: Michael Oliver (England).

Yellow Cards: Pjanic (Min. 17) for Juventus, Carvajal (Min. 22) for Real Madrid, Mandzukic (Min. 29) for Juventus, Lichtsteiner (Min. 36) for Juventus, Alex Sandro (Min. 67) for Juventus, Douglas Costa (Min. 73) for Juventus, Marcelo (Min. 81) for Real Madrid, Benatia (Min. 90) for Juventus, Ronaldo (Min. 97) for Real Madrid

Red Cards: Buffon (Min. 94)

Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu

Attendance: 80.000

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