Monday 14 October 2019

Atletico find late groove to give Ronaldo a miserable Madrid return

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Juventus

Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo looks dejected after the match. Photo: REUTERS/Sergio Perez
Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo looks dejected after the match. Photo: REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Miguel Delaney

A game where the best defenders in Europe reigned, but not in the manner anyone expected.

Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin forced the goals for a 2-0 win, but they were only the consequence of a complete and convincing win over Juventus, where Atletico Madrid frankly looked on another level.

Atletico Madrid's Jose Gimenez scores their first goal. Photo: REUTERS/Juan Medina
Atletico Madrid's Jose Gimenez scores their first goal. Photo: REUTERS/Juan Medina

That they had the setback of an Alvaro Morata goal being dubiously ruled out by VAR only added to the performance, because it brought out better in them, as well as those two goals.

A bad-luck story of the type they've suffered too often in Europe instead became a brilliant win, and a tough lesson for Juventus.

It was only Atletico that looked like potential champions here. Juventus actually looked like they'd badly regressed, even with Cristiano Ronaldo.

He ended up doing very little, other than goading the fans, who in turn got even more worked up and energised their own players.

Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata and Juventus' Giorgio Chiellini react after Morata's goal is disallowed after a VAR review. Photo: REUTERS/Juan Medina
Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata and Juventus' Giorgio Chiellini react after Morata's goal is disallowed after a VAR review. Photo: REUTERS/Juan Medina

The Metropolitano - the site of the 2019 final - did resemble the old Vicente Calderon in that regard.

Juve's own famous defence also looked so much more suspect, and the nature of the goals felt all the more symbolic: two set-pieces involving two central defenders.

Ronaldo had in the course of the game offered a sign of his own, raising five fingers to the crowd to indicate how many Champions Leagues he has won, against none from Atletico.

If Ronaldo was predictably the centre of attention - with Atletico fans booing his every involvement - it was another player at the centre of everything else.

This was close to a vintage Diego Costa display. It set the tone for the entire Atletico victory, even if he did not last it all. He'd done his job.

With the score still at 0-0, Wojciech Szczesny looked completely exposed early in the second half, but was saved because this was only close to a vintage Costa display.

It didn't involve his old level of finishing, something that has been a problem since returning to Atletico.

Put through on goal by a Koke through ball, Costa somehow skewed it well wide.

That finish was one reason he was eventually brought off for Morata, although he isn't exactly a striker getting the breaks either right now, as the game's other key moment made clear.

There was so much space around the Juventus area and Atletico had seemed to exploit that when Filipe Luis crossed for Morata to score, only for the goal to be ruled for a foul. It looked very soft, and the kind of thing that can cause teams to finally buckle.

That happened… but with Juve.

That moment was when the levee broke. The soft decision brought out a harder edge in Atletico, who just outfought the Italian champions - and out-jumped them.

For the first, Morata headed down for Gimenez. For the second, Godin diverted the ball in off Ronaldo.

There's a lot of pressure on the Portuguese now to rescue this in three weeks' time.

Juventus will have to show so much more fight. Here, however, it was ominous that Atletico just had far too much for them. In so many ways.

Independent News Service

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