A few weeks ago, I volunteered to write the match recap for the return leg of the Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid. So I knew I was going to be ecstatic or devastated while writing the game review.
What I didn't know is that it will take about two hours to be calm enough to sit down and type. And now that I can write, there is so little to say. Juventus are going to Berlin, ladies and gents. Juve are playing in a final by playing the tournament to our strengths — a rock-solid defense, a tireless midfield, and a clinical attack.
Juventus were not going to score three goals in Madrid, but trusted their strengths and made it through.
What a good day to be a Juventino.
Juventus started the game strong. Sure, there was that Karim Benzema chance, but the defense did well to close him down and leave him with an impossible shot. After the first five minutes Juventus appeared to be the home side. They were attacking, passing the ball around and looking to beat a disorganized and tired Madrid side.
Obviously, things did not turn out as easy. By the 10th minute, Cristiano Ronaldo took a chance from a free-kick that Gianluigi Buffon did well to push over the bar. This was just a preamble of things to come.
Real Madrid continued to attack and Juventus looked to be confused and startled in defense. Then, 22 minutes into the match, Giorgio Chiellini unnecessarily fouled James in the 18-yard box. The ref pointed to the spot and, a minute later, Ronaldo was making it 1-0.
Juventus seemed genuinely shocked, but Madrid didn't seem too interested in scoring a second one. For the remainder of the first half, Juventus managed to hold off Los Merengues with more heart than skill and organization. It also looked like Madrid were starting to get tired from their intense thirty minutes. The halftime whistle was welcomed by both teams, and provided the perfect opportunity for Max Allegri to reorganize the troops. Everyone expected Madrid to score one goal, so at least the team had to have a plan in mind to try to score that precious away goal.
The second half appeared to start with much of the same, with Juventus sitting back and Madrid dominating possession, but this time Juventus seemed more organized. And slowly they started to make their presence felt. Until, in the 57th minute, Andrea Pirlo took a free-kick from the flank that Iker Casillas manages to parry away. The ball is sent back into the area towards Paul Pogba who was played onside by Sergio Ramos. Pogba is able to head the ball towards Álvaro Morata, who after controlling with his chest,puts it in the back of the net. The game was now in favor of the Bianconeri, but with 30 minutes to play, anything could happen.
In the 67th minute, a tired Benzema was replaced by Javier Hernandez to the relief of most Juventini. Benzema had been problematic all match (less so towards the end) and his understanding with Ronaldo certainly deflated Madrid's attack. Madrid continued to attack with a shot from James Rodriguez that left Buffon standing, a header for Bale, and a supposed foul on Hernandez. On the other side, Claudio Marchisio missed a golden chance to make it 1-2 and kill all hopes of Madrid qualifying but it wasn't to be. For the last 10 minutes, Juventus moved to a 3-5-2 with Andrea Barzagli at the back and stopped everything that came their way.
Buffon 7.5 He had a couple good saves, but his leadership at the back was truly needed. A rock at the back.
Lichtsteiner 6.5 Covered Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo well enough. I am sure he was told not to venture too far forward.
Bonucci 7.0 Did well to cover Benzema, Bale, and Ronaldo throughout the match. He has very good at closing the angle in one of Madrid's counterattacks. His positioning was very good throughout.
Chiellini 5.0 He made a stupid and unnecessary mistake that could have cost us the match. His aggressiveness is welcome, but there is a time and a place, and this wasn't it. He needs to learn from this experience for the final.
Evra 7.5 Another one of Juve's experienced players. He covered for Pogba's lack of defensive commitment. He won headers against players that were taller than him and moved the ball confidently from the back. I don't know when he became such a central piece of our back four, but there it is.
Marchisio 7.0 Good all-around game. Had the chance to make it 2-1 and kill the match. I am guessing he is saving it for the final against Barcelona, right?
Pirlo 6.0 Insufficient. He lost too many balls and his passing was not that dangerous. Probably because the team was playing so far back that there was no one to really pass to. Morata's goal started from Pirlo's free kick so he gets 0.5 points for that. Moving forward the team must decide if Pirlo being a central piece of the team is the best way forward.
Pogba 5.5 Seemed more focused on scoring a goal or making a fancy move than on helping out the team. He missed some easy passes, and his defending was lackluster. Overall, he appeared to be shaken by playing such a big match. With that being said, he gets the assist for Morata's goal.
Vidal 6.5 He had some good times, but also faded during others. His game was not as good as last week but enough to stop Madrid from playing comfortably at the back and in the middle of the field.
Tevez 5.5 When Tevez doesn't show up this team suffers, and today he was nowhere to be found for the first 60 minutes of the match.
Morata 8.5 To score the goal that qualifies your team to the final is an immense task. To score it at the Bernabeu against the team that formed you is an even bigger deal. To do all of this at 22 years old is a sign of big things to come. His composure up front is second to none. And every dangerous play that Juventus had came from him. He gets and extra 0.5 for being a classy guy and not celebrating the biggest goal of his career. I truly hope he makes Turin his home.
Allegri 8.0 Allegri setup a team to play to its strengths (defense and midfield). It was nerve-racking for any black and white fans but it worked.
How did Juventus go from not being able to dine in a $100 restaurant with $10 to eating at the fanciest restaurant in town?
The short answer to that is that Juventus is not a $10 team and that Allegri pitched in the rest of the cash. The team played with self-belief, conviction, and a never give-up attitude. Now we have a final to play. Juventus are by far the underdogs, but that is a tag a like. We also have a coach that has played against Barca in the past. More importantly, no matter what happens, we now know what we can do. We may not make the finals every year, we may no even make the semis every year. But if we can consistently make it to the top 8, that would be a huge step in the right direction.