Through the opening 45 minutes of Juventus’ first-ever visit to the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, I think you could safely say that it was a mixed bag of sorts. Juve weren’t exactly creating a whole lot going forward, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s free kick — no, seriously, just go with me here — being their best chance. Despite that, Juve were defensively sound, so it’s not like they were walking the fine line between a scoreless first half and getting run completely out of the stadium.
The second half, though ... it was much, much different.
The Juventus that was right in the game at halftime didn’t show itself in the second half. Atlético Madrid not just took it to Juventus after the break, but the home side absolutely dominated the second half. The 2-0 final scoreline in favor of Atléti was a pretty good representation of how the second half went on Wednesday night — and that’s even with a questionable VAR review that took away an Alvaro Morata goal against his former club. (Gee, it’s almost like he knows what to do in the Champions League, doesn’t he?)
But, not even arguably Wojciech Szczesny’s best save of the season could prevent Juventus from keeping things close.
In the end, it wasn’t all that close because of how ineffective Juve proved to be on both ends of the field following a first half that was surprisingly open and had both teams creating chances despite there being a clear physical tone to the proceedings.
But, because of what happened in the second half, Juventus’ 2018-19 season now comes down to 90 minutes. Yes, the season. Why? Because this season was about the Champions League. Juve was all in on the Champions League. That’s why they went out and signed the best player to ever play in the Champions League in Ronaldo.
Even Ronaldo’s superhuman-like Champions League past couldn’t save Juventus on Wednesday night.
It’s going to be a long way back to score two (three) goals against that defence.— Luca Cetta (@l_cetta) February 20, 2019
And Atlético Madrid know that there’s only one thing and one thing only it will have to do when it faces Juventus in Turin — defend.
That defense, one that was leaking goals just a few weeks back, is healthy again. That defense looked about as good as its been looking all season long against a Juve side that was looking like it might just be getting its mojo back the last couple of weeks after a rough December and January.
I’m a relatively optimistic person. That’s probably no secret around here at this point. But Atlético Madrid just made Juventus look extremely ordinary and no kind of threat despite having one of the two best players in the game. It was such a Diego Simeone kind of win — shutout and defenders scoring both of his team’s goals. Pretty ballsy, if you ask me.
Max Allegri knew coming in that Juventus would need to get a goal away from home to have a chance in the second leg a couple of weeks from now.
Juve never got that goal. And now a season with so much emphasis on the Champions League is on the brink of ending well before anybody associated with the club aimed for it to come to a close.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Antoine Griezmann. Diego Costa. Alvaro Morata. Atlético Madrid has a pretty damn good group of strikers to turn to, right? So of course both of Atléti’s starting central defenders score the goals that give their team the win. Of course.
- RONALDO PUT A FREE KICK ON FRAME — AND IT WAS A GOOD ONE, TOO!
- Federico Bernardeschi shoulda started. That’s a little bit of hindsight, but it also became fairly obviously fairly quickly that it’s the direction Allegri should’ve gone.
- Simeone used all of his subs before Allegri made one change. It’s pretty easy to figure out who showed more initiative ... and who it paid off for.
- Giorgio Chiellini casually playing a 50-yard pass to Ronaldo on the left wing while arms and limbs go in 20 different directions is one of the most Chiellini things we will ever see.
- Paulo Dybala was hounded by at least two Atléti players virtually every time he touched the ball. It was simply fantastic team defending to shut down Juve’s most creative threat.
- It’s hard for Mario Mandzukic to be Mario Mandzukic when he’s barely able to see the ball over the course of 90 minutes. Again, fantastic team defending that prevented Juventus from doing a lot of what Allegri wanted his team to do.
- Imagine what this would have been like if it ended as a scoreless draw and the two biggest calls of the night via VAR went in Juventus’ favor.
- Imagine what this would have been like if Morata’s goal counted, Costa got a penalty instead of a free kick just outside the box and Atlético Madrid was up more than just 2-0 heading to Turin.
- It’s just amazing no matter what Juve tried to do that this turned into the ultimate kind of Atlético Madrid game. I can’t help but be so damn impressed with how Juve’s opposition played in this game.
- We entered the night hoping that this was going to be the first of two trips to the Wanda Metropolitano this season. Now, as Juve head home, we’re left hoping that they can, somehow, just make it to the Champions League quarterfinals. This freakin’ game, man.