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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Late Ronaldo penalty puts Madrid into Champions League semis

Winger’s 120th goal in the competition held off from Juventus who fought back from 3-0 down to three-all

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring the that saw Real Madrid squeak past Juventus at Santiago Bernabeu stadium. EPA/RODRIGO JIMENEZ
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring the that saw Real Madrid squeak past Juventus at Santiago Bernabeu stadium. EPA/RODRIGO JIMENEZ

Cristiano Ronaldo converted an injury-time penalty to keep Juventus from pulling off another stunning comeback in the quarterfinals of the Champions League as Read Madrid advanced despite a 3-1 home loss on Wednesday.

The goal was enough to clinch a 4-3 aggregate win for Madrid, as the two-time defending champion reached the semi-finals for the eighth straight season.

A day after seeing Spanish rival Barcelona blow a three-goal advantage against Roma in Italy, Madrid nearly did the same. But Juventus’ heroics came up just short after substitute Lucas Vazquez appeared to be pushed from behind inside the area in the third and final minute of stoppage time.

Veteran Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, in what was likely his last Champions League game, was then sent off for furiously complaining after the penalty decision. The Madrid crowd at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium gave Buffon a standing ovation as he left the field.

“Life goes on,” Buffon said. “I’m happy and proud of how we played, we made the impossible possible. It’s a shame it ends like this.”

Madrid won the first leg 3-0 in Turin last week, when Ronaldo scored with a spectacular bicycle kick for his second goal of the match.

That deficit made Wednesday’s return leg seem like an impossible task for Juventus but they got off to the perfect start when Mario Mandzukic opened the scoring with a header two minutes into the match. He added to the lead with another header before halftime, and Blaise Matuidi scored the third early in the second half after a blunder by Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

But Ronaldo, in his 150th Champions League appearance, then netted his 120th goal in the competition by converting the penalty with a firm shot into the top corner. He celebrated by taking off his shirt and running toward the euphoric Madrid crowd.

Ronaldo has scored 21 goals in his last 11 matches in all competitions and has netted in 11 straight Champions League matches.

The penalty came as Vazquez was in position to score in front of the goal after Ronaldo headed down a cross into the area. Juventus players stormed toward English referee Michael Oliver, who apparently had help from his behind-the-goal assistant to make the call.

“We didn’t expect to concede an early goal like that,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “That allowed their team to grow and it made things difficult for us.”

Madrid had conceded three goals at home only two other times this season, in a 3-0 loss to Barcelona and a 6-3 win over Girona. It was the first time Madrid was down 3-0 in the Champions League since losing 4-0 at Liverpool in the round of 16 in 2008-09.

Juventus took advantage of Madrid’s depleted defence, which was without suspended captain Sergio Ramos and had 21-year-old Jesus Vallejo playing alongside Raphael Varane.

Mandzukic opened the scoring in the second minute by entering the area behind the Madrid defenders to head in a well-placed right-flank cross by Sami Khedira in what was the fastest ever goal conceded by Madrid at home in the Champions league.

Mandzukic’s second goal came with another header in the 37th, after Madrid had created a few good scoring opportunities of its own despite looking lost on defence. Stephan Lichtsteiner made the cross from the right side and Mandzukic beat Dani Carvajal to the ball.

The third goal came thanks to a 61st-minute mistake by Navas, who failed to hold on to a mid-height cross into the area and dropped the ball into Matuidi’s feet in front of the goal.

“The first leg had given me confidence we could do this and the side deserved at least extra time,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said.