Juventus have gotten pretty good at this whole celebrating advancement in the Champions League at the opponent's home stadium over the last couple of months. They did so in Germany, they did so in France, and after Wednesday night's 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabéu, they've done so in Spain as well.
And it was so fitting that the goal that got them there was off the foot of a player Real Madrid cast aside last summer.
Álvaro Morata came back to haunt the club he grew up at just as was the case in the first leg. Morata scored Juventus' first goal in Turin, and he did the same in Madrid. This time, though, Morata's goal leveled the score at 1-1 on the night, but put Juve up 3-2 on aggregate and forced Real Madrid to try and get even once more.
That never happened.
Max Allegri might have waited a little too long to bring on the anticipated entrance of Andrea Barzagli once Juventus got the goal to put them up 3-2 on aggregate, but once they did, it was lockdown time. That's exactly what they did. Real Madrid pushed everybody forward and Juventus didn't break once. Not one time. Allegri turned to the Great Wall of Barza and Juventus' defense turned in one hell of a second-half performance.
Juventus' defensive display by numbers: 34 clearances 15 blocks 10 tackles won 10 interceptions Great effort. pic.twitter.com/TKMR3GZ58U— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 13, 2015
No, Allegri didn't just have Juventus sit back and park the bus from the opening kickoff. In fact, before Juve fell behind on that oh-so-interesting first-half penalty, Juve were playing relatively okay. They were attacking with numbers, driving the ball forward, but not taking advantage of the chances they did have. (And there were chances.)
They were rattled after falling behind 1-0. But they rebounded. Oh did they rebound. Morata's goal gave them the lead, and the defense gave them the win on aggregate. It was as complete of a two legs as Juventus could have even imagined playing when they saw they were drawn up against the defending European champions a few weeks ago.
And it just showed how far this team has come since the beginning of the season.
Some of us thought Juventus might be taking a step back with the departure of Antonio Conte. Instead, this team has gotten to the pinnacle in Europe, the top of the mountain for the fourth straight year in Serie A and into the Coppa Italia final for the first time in a couple of years.
Now we can take this treble talk seriously. No more walking cautiously around the subject. This is legit now, folks.
Random thoughts and observations
- After everything he and the club has been through since the last time they were in the Champions League final, how good do you think this celebration felt for Gianluigi Buffon?
- Let's not forget that Juve's defense was deluged with shots in the first half. Buffon made a couple of huge saves — one on Gareth Bale's long-range hammer of a shot, the other to deny Karim Benzema at the near post. Buffon was as vocal as anybody out on the field as the minutes ticked away. It was Buffon in a nutshell. A great captain leading his team to a Champions League final.
- Max Allegri said there would be goals. And, what do you know, there were a couple of goals. He seems to be getting a lot of things right these days, folks.
- Morata has four goals in his last six Champions League games. That's pretty good, if you ask me. He's been so damn good this season, and now he's finding the scoring touch that eluded him for about a month after the two Borussia Dortmund games. The best part? Like Carlos Tévez, he's so much more than just the goals. He was GREAT in both legs against his former club. G-R-E-A-T.
- For as solid as Paul Pogba looked against Cagliari over the weekend, he definitely showed the rust from nearly two months on the sideline for most of the game against Real Madrid. Maybe it was the short rest, or just not having many minutes under his legs after his return from injury.
But let's not forget, if it wasn't for Pogba's header back to Morata, Juve might not be celebrating their spot in the Champions League final right now. Just one moment where Pogba's big-play ability came through.
- Remember when we thought Patrice Evra being a regular start might be a big liability? Well, he continued to show what kind of silent yet important contributor he has been. Dude is listed at 5-foot-8, but he is just a complete monster when it comes to winning balls in the air. Considering how many cross Real Madrid sent in as they looked for a second goal, that proved to be just that much more important.
- This wasn't written down in my notebook for this game, but it can be applied to a lot of games lately: STOP DOING STUPID THINGS, GIORGIO CHIELLINI.
- Saw this on the Twitter machine earlier: Juventus' midfield cost less than 1/3 of what it took for Real Madrid to sign James Rodriguez. Not bad, huh?
- Anybody know what happened to the Golden Ball winner in the second half? Maybe he just tired himself out while celebrating that first-half goal of his. He certainly wasn't even close to being a major factor in the second half.
- I'm just going to sit back and watch the fallout in Madrid from this loss. Who knows who will be around in the aftermath of Real Madrid not getting to the final and having the chance to not only repeat as European champions, but beat their arch-rivals in the process. Juve crashed the Clásico party. (I'm okay with that.)
- I think they're gonna need to reschedule the Coppa Italia final, guys. (I'm okay with that.)
- Just in case you forgot about the last time Buffon and Pirlo were in Berlin...
- We back, baby. Just like in 2003, it took beating Real Madrid in the semifinals to get there.