UEFA Champions League: Juventus 2 Real Madrid 2
By Football News
Real Madrid put one foot in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 as a 2-2 draw at Juventus dented the Turin club’s qualification hopes.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side were on the back foot for the majority of the first half with Iker Casillas making a string of fine saves in the Group B encounter at Juventus Stadium.
Despite the efforts of Casillas, Real did fall behind shortly before half-time thanks to Arturo Vidal’s penalty.
However, the Spanish side responded well after the break and grabbed a deserved equaliser through Cristiano Ronaldo’s calm finish before stealing ahead when Gareth Bale slotted home.
Juventus refused to lie down and earned a share of the spoils thanks to Fernando Llorente’s low header.
The result means Real will qualify for the knockout stages barring a freak set of results, as third-placed Copenhagen are six points behind with a vastly inferior goal difference. Juventus are now bottom of the group, but only one point behind Copenhagen and Galatasaray.
Giorgio Chiellini was suspended for the hosts after being sent off in the return fixture, so Leonardo Bonucci deputised.
Real named a now familiar front three of Karim Benzema, Ronaldo and Bale, while Raphael Varane partnered Pepe in the centre of defence.
The visitors made the brighter start, but Juventus grew into the game and were twice thwarted by Casillas.
First he made a superb reflex save to beat away Marcelo’s inadvertent deflection in the 17th minute, before denying Llorente at point-blank range with his right foot.
However, there was nothing the goalkeeper could do to prevent the opener three minutes before the break as Madrid conceded their fifth penalty in three matches.
Varane was penalised for catching Paul Pogba's trailing leg and the resulting spot-kick was dispatched high into the goal by Vidal.
Real pressed much higher up the pitch in the second half and were rewarded with the equaliser in the 52nd minute.
Martin Caceres' slack backpass was deflected into the path of Benzema and his throughball was collected by Ronaldo, who applied a cool finish beyond Gianluigi Buffon.
Real nearly punished Juventus further four minutes later when Xabi Alonso's thunderous half-volley cannoned back off the crossbar.
After surviving that scare, the hosts nearly retook the lead when Claudio Marchisio was twice denied, first by Casillas and then by Pepe's goal-line block.
Marchisio's misfortune appeared more significant as Real moved in front on the hour mark, Ronaldo collecting Marcelo’s pass with a sublime touch and finding Bale, who drove at the Juve defence and found the bottom-right corner with a drilled left-footed shot.
Yet Juventus were back level six minutes later, Caceres atoning for his earlier error with a teasing cross that Llorente stooped low to head home.
The home fans almost had the chance to celebrate a winner, but were once again frustrated by Casillas as he kept out Tevez’s long-distance effort.