Following the Champions League semifinal draw, I was perfectly okay with Juventus being the underdog against Real Madrid. It's not like Juventus narrowly beating Monaco in the quarterfinals was suddenly going to flip a lot of opinions about the team that is about to play the defending European champions. And it's a role that Juve is perfectly okay with being in no matter what the situation is.
Well, the underdogs just beat the favorites and did so in a pretty impressive fashion.
Juventus will head to the Santiago Bernabéu in the exact same situation they were in going to Germany against Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16. The same two players that scored in the first leg against Dortmund found the back of the net against Real Madrid, with Álvaro Morata haunting his former team and then Carlos Tévez putting Juventus up 2-1 from the penalty spot early in the second half.
It was, as we've seen a lot in this run toward the finish line in the second half of season, Juventus rising to the occasion on the big stage when the game has cried out for it once again. Juventus looked great early on, putting Madrid under massive pressure that quickly lead to an early lead. It tapered off when Cristiano Ronaldo tied it at 1-1. But the pressure returned in the second half, and Juve clearly got the aggregate scoreline they deserve going into the second leg in Spain.
Think about it: This is a Juventus team that could have had its foundation completely shook back in July when everything happened with who was managing the team. But it didn't even close to doing so because of who's around these days. A lot of it has to do with Max Allegri, but a lot of it also has to do with the players that are there themselves. This is a Juventus group that has been through it, has leaders like few teams do, and can overcome a lot of things thrown their way because of the past.
Those same players put in one hell of a performance against the defending and 10-time European champions. It was the kind of game Juventus needed to get the job done at home. And, because of it, the Champions League final is within sight. Like, legitimately in sight. My goodness.
Message sent. These underdogs are here to play — and play pretty darn well while they're at it.
Random thoughts and observations
- There's just something about Juventus playing well on the fifth day of May, isn't there? That's the kind of performance from the Juve I know and love.
- With the injuries Real Madrid had in the midfield, there was the chance for Juve to truly dominate in the middle of the park. The way Arturo Vidal played, I think we can say they came close to doing that.
Arturo Vidal led Juventus with 82 touches vs Real Madrid. He was everywhere. pic.twitter.com/NsJdQFryb2— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) May 5, 2015
- Dani Carvajal could have been shown three or four yellow cards tonight. Funny how he doesn't get a card on the most obvious one of them all Tuesday night.
- The tactical flexibility Allegri has at his disposal was once again put to good use once Juve went up 2-1. Out went Stefano Sturaro, in came Andrea Barzagli and the shift to the 3-5-2 formation. It worked out just as well as Allegri could have drawn it up — Juve locked things down defensively and Madrid didn't have many legitimate scoring chances in the final half-hour or so.
- Speaking of Sturaro, how about that ballsy choice from Allegri to go with the 22-year-old midfielder instead of Roberto Pereryra? Sturaro was really good in his first ever Champions League start. And what a stage to have it come on, too. The youngster answered the call, and Allegri looked pretty smart once again. Good on him for having a gut feeling about who to play and going against what everybody else's logic said by playing Sturaro.
- Forget the foul that allowed Juventus to get the penalty kick because that's one of the easiest calls of the night. How about that run from Tévez to even get to that point? There wasn't as much weaving in between defenders like his memorable goal against Parma earlier this season, but the ground covered ... oh man.
Once again, thank you very much, Manchester City, for one of the best buys Juventus has ever made.
- This is how Morata's goal looked with all that passing in the build-up. What a beautiful thing.
- It's not a big game until Giorgio Chiellini is bleeding like crazy and wrapped up like a mummy.
- If Fernando Llorente scored that header at the back post late in the second half, though...
- Ninety minutes away from the Champions League final. Just like we thought would happen on the day Max Allegri was hired to replace Antonio Conte. My goodness.