And all of 76 seconds in Wednesday night, Juventus had a goal.
Ten minutes before halftime, Juventus had another.
The result, as a result of what another Italian team did in the Champions League just one day earlier, was for everyone to think that history could very well be repeating itself. Was Juventus about to pull a Roma and send a Spanish giant packing despite trailing by three goals entering the second leg of the UCL quarterfinals?
The answer: No — and it’s because of one of the most controversial and ill-timed penalty calls we’ve ever seen.
Juventus and Real Madrid were 30 seconds away from extra time ... and then Michael Oliver, who had been either swallowing his whistle or handing out yellow cards to Juve players all game long decided to be the person who decided things. The call was a penalty even though it shouldn’t have been a penalty. (And if you want to say I’m a homer, I don’t care. It wasn’t a penalty.) The result was Gigi Buffon arguing a call in the kind of fashion we may have never seen him argue one before Wednesday night. In stepped Wojciech Szczesny and the hopes that the ball would not lie to us. Instead, Cristiano Ronaldo — of course! — went top-right corner, took his shirt off in celebration and that was that.
And, in Juve’s best performance of the season, they’re out of the Champions League.
It’s not right.
It’s not how Buffon should have gone out.
But, it’s the latest chapter in why the Champions League is so goddamn evil.
I legitimately had no hopes entering this game. Not because I thought Juve couldn’t play well against Real Madrid. They had just been the better team over the majority of the 90 minutes in the first leg and trailed 3-0 on aggregate more because their own doing rather than Real Madrid absolutely throttling them and being worlds ahead of them. So when Mario Mandzukic connected on a header in the second minute, a little belief came through. Then Mandzukic got another, Blaise Matuidi hopped on Keylor Navas’ howler and it was full-on belief just like that.
Then, got punch — about 10 times over. And over. And over. And over.
I don’t know what else to say other than this: Juventus deserved to go through with that performance. One-hundred percent.
Instead, they got killed by an English referee who probably just got the biggest call of his career completely wrong. Just when it looked like all the luck was on Juve’s side, we were forced to watch Ronaldo flex for all the cameras again. I hate this game. (Sorry, Patrice.)
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Juventus just did that and their most in-form player was back in Turin because he picked up a pair of yellow cards in the first leg.
- I want to hug Gigi Buffon, but he’s probably still fuming.
- Seriously, though, Buffon, at the age of 40, just played what was one of the best games of the season in the biggest game of the season. If you don’t think the guy’s still got it, well, the guy’s still got it.
- Lucas Vazquez wanted no piece of that cross. He was going for the foul and only the foul.
- Medhi Benatia got the ball. “PIcs or it didn’t happen!” you might say, okay then!
- Just like we’ve been saying for months now, it was easy to predict that Sami Khedira was going to be one of Juve’s best players over two legs against Real Madrid.
- Big Game Sami!
- Just like we’ve been saying for months now, Stephan Lichtsteiner was going to come on 17 minutes into the first half and then deliver a picture-perfect cross to his old buddy Mario to put Juve up 2-0. That, of course, is based on how incredibly effective Lichtsteiner’s crosses always are. (Because, of course, they are always accurate.)
- Telling you Douglas Costa is fast like is saying that one of Lichtsteiner’s favorite pastimes is yelling at referees. It’s obvious. But watching him on the ball with open space on Wednesday night he me perk up in my chair basically every single time. People can call him a Bayern Munich reject all they want, but he’s been great the second half of the season, and he’s making Juve exercising their clause to buy him this summer seem all but routine.
- So many of us were harsh on Max Allegri for what happened in the first leg, and rightfully so. But man, we wanted Juve to come out firing and that’s exactly what Allegri had his team do. The press was high, the press was effective and the press was causing all kinds of fits for a Real Madrid defense that was completely shook after Mandzukic’s first goal.
- There is so much more I want to say but I really am struggling to have coherent thoughts right now. So enjoy the previous 800 or so words.
- One more thing: I hate sports.
- And another thing: There’s no doubt in my mind that I won’t miss another Juve game this season.
- One final thing: See? I hate sports.