Morata breaks Madrid hearts

Real Madrid’s hopes of La Undecima were dashed by Juventus after Alvaro Morata returned to haunt his former club in a 1-1 draw on Wednesday.

Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba both missed the first leg at Juventus Stadium with injury but as expected returned to their respective XIs, with Javier Hernandez and Stefano Sturaro the players sacrificed.

Madrid went with their strongest team available in a 4-3-3 set-up, starting with Iker Casillas between the sticks and a backline of Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane – as opposed to Pepe – and Marcelo.

Their midfield consisted of attack-minded trio of Isco, Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez, with the German allaying fears that he could miss the return leg by passing fitness tests before kick-off. Up top, Benzema slotted in between Turin goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, the latter of whom needed an inspired performance if he was to silence his mounting army of critics.

Juve, meanwhile, named a similarly full-strength XI that featured Gianluigi Buffon in goal, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Patrice Evra occupying the full-back positions and Leonardo Bonucci partnering Giorgio Chiellini at centre-back. In the middle of the pitch, Andrea Pirlo was flanked by Claudio Marchisio and Pogba, leaving Arturo Vidal to play as the No 10 behind first-leg heroes Carlos Tevez and former Blanco Alvaro Morata.

Madrid required either a 1-0 win or two-goal swing at the Bernabeu to reach Berlin next month as talk of the side becoming the first-ever club in the Champions League era to defend their title and a Clasico final following Barcelona’s triumph over Bayern Munich a day earlier swept the Spanish capital.

Los Blancos made their intentions known from as early as the first minute as Benzema almost headed them into the lead straight from kick-off. The Frenchman carved out a number of shooting opportunities in a lively first-half display.

The Serie A champions, on the other hand, struggled to compete in the midfield battle as the hosts always seemed to be fractionally quicker in getting to the ball. Toni Kroos was particularly nippy in the absence of a designated ball-winner.

Unsurprisingly then, Madrid took charge of the tie when Chiellini barged into an in-flight James near the penalty area, leaving Ronaldo send to Buffon the wrong way from the spot.

Juve’s only claim to a chance came via Arturo Vidal, who tested Casillas with a low shot from the Madrid D, but the European champions could choose from a succession. Bale helped himself to one as his powerful drive from some way out was tipped wide by Buffon.

Ronaldo has faced accusations of selfish play in the second part of the season, but he refreshingly tried to pick out a teammate for a free header after a lightning-quick breakaway, before crashing a half-volley into the side-netting of the veteran’s goal.

However, the restart was a completely different affair as Juve, in the knowledge that their Champions League adventure was 45 minutes away from a premature end, upped the intensity and took the game to Madrid’s tiring team.

They eventually found the elusive goal as Morata, in the most dramatic of scripts, pounced on a poorly-cleared Andrea Pirlo free kick to smash the ball through the heart of Casillas’ goal. Similarly to last week, the striker refused to celebrate against his former club.

Indeed, the Old Lady seemed to have passed up a glorious chance to make easy work of their route to the German capital as the goalkeeper stopped Marchisio’s curling finish from close range, but none of Madrid’s superstars .

Nonetheless, Juve held on in typically-Italian fashion to reach their first final in 12 years, when they were beaten by Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan, made all the more remarkable when their relegation to Serie B in 2006 is taken into account.

Real Madrid 1-1 Juventus (2-3 agg.)

Ronaldo pen 23 (RM), Morata 57 (J)

Real Madrid: Casillas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Isco, Kroos, James; Bale, Benzema (Chicharito 67), Ronaldo

Juventus: Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Marchisio, Pirlo (Barzagli 79), Pogba (Pereyra 89); Vidal; Tevez, Morata (Llorente 84)

Referee: Jonas Eriksson [SWE]

Tags Juventus