On a boiling night at the Santiago Bernabeu, tailor-made for the younger, presumably more fit Galacticos of Real Madrid, it was the far older, far more experienced Bianconeri of Juventus that remained standing, booking their place in Berlin for the 2015 Champions League final.
A flurry of Madrid pressure and chances in the first half paid dividends when Giorgio Chiellini hacked James Rodriguez down in the penalty area, with Cristiano Ronaldo converting the resulting spot kick right down the middle of Gianluigi Buffon’s net. This goal tipped the balance of the tie in Madrid’s favor, and for the remainder of the period it seemed they were more likely to extend their lead than relinquish it.
Juventus, however, remained composed after the break, and their persistence paid off in the 57th minute, when a cleared corner kick was headed back into the path of Alvaro Morata, who controlled the ball with his chest before rifling a left-footed shot past Iker Casillas to put the Old Lady back in control.
Madrid seemed to have run out of steam, and the introduction of Andrea Barzagli coupled with a switch to a 3-5-2 tightened up Juve’s rearguard, allowing them to see out the game and oust the holders in front of a shocked Bernabeu crowd.
STARTERS (rated on scale of 1-10)
GK Gianluigi Buffon, 8: Could do nothing about Ronaldo’s well-executed spot kick, and his experience shone through at vital moments. He was confident in the air and his sense of timing for when to come out and intervene was impeccable. Buffon continues to set the standard for goalkeeping, and will be looking for his first Champions League triumph in June.
RB Stephen Lichtsteiner, 5: He was badly outmaneuvered by the crafty Marcelo in the first half, often giving his counterpart far too much room to work with inside his own half. He was composed, however, on the ball, tenacious defensively, and he made a few slaloming runs to relieve pressure on the back line.
CB Leonardo Bonucci, 8: Worked an almost perfect game at the back, continually getting in front of crosses and clearing the danger when it entered his area. He rarely let Karim Benzema out of his sight and sent a number of long balls forward successfully to help launch counterattacks.
CB Giorgio Chiellini, 6: Always ready for war, Chiellini’s clumsy challenge on James allowed Madrid to take an advantage early on, but from there on he looked keen on redeeming himself, confident in tackles and measured with his passing. It was his header back into the box that ultimately set up Morata’s equaliser, and he led the team with 12 clearances and three interceptions.
LB Patrice Evra, 6: Evra had his hands full with Gareth Bale’s speed and athleticism, but he kept his own and rarely strayed into the wrong position. He was not very active going forward but made a few vital clearances just outside the six-yard box after the switch to a back three.
CDM Andrea Pirlo, 5: The Italian legend looked his age today, often losing out in possession or making sloppy passes in key areas that provided the impetus for Real Madrid counterattacks. He struggled to recover defensively against the quicker James and Isco, but did provide some stability at the base of midfield as the game wore on.
RM Claudio Marchisio, 6.5: The tenacious Azzurri midfielder was all over the pitch, making himself available to relieve pressure and darting forward on occasion. It was one of these runs that nearly led to a second Juventus goal, with Vidal playing Marchisio through on goal only to see his steered effort saved well by Casillas.
LM Paul Pogba, 6: The French starlet’s passing was a bit rusty, but the effort was certainly there; he was key in curtailing the forward runs by Dani Carvajal, and his effortless runs with the ball helped Juve build attacks quickly. He also headed the ball across goal that Morata turned in for the equaliser.
CAM Arturo Vidal, 7: Vidal put loads of pressure on the tired-looking Toni Kroos, and he nearly sealed the tie with an interception and through ball to Marchisio that the Italian should have put away. His first-half shot from outside the box was saved well by Casillas, and despite an iota of sloppiness, his energy was vital in securing a final berth.
FW Carlos Tevez, 6: Channeling his inner Leo Messi, Tevez often dropped back as far as Pirlo to collect the ball and help start attacks, but the going was tough for Carlito in this one. Counterattacks looked more sluggish than they did in Turin, and he was never able to stamp his authority on the game as he did in the first leg.
FW Alvaro Morata, 7.5: Morata was once again the hero against his former club, chesting Pogba’s header down smoothly before slamming a left-footed shot past Casillas. He was not as influential as he was in the first leg, but he grew into the match and showed his maturity with a number of cleverly drawn fouls to settle things down.
CB Andrea Barzagli, 7: Brought on for Pirlo, Barzargli’s introduction signaled Max Allegri’s intentions with a switch to a back three. Did not put a foot wrong, helping Juve shut up shop and deny Madrid a way back.
FW Fernando Llorente, NR: Was more industrious than in his first leg cameo, bringing fresh legs and turning Sergio Ramos inside out to set up Pogba for a point-blank opportunity that the Frenchman drilled right at Casillas.
CM Roberto Pereyra, NR: Replaced the fatigued Pogba with a few minutes remaining, helping to bring more energy to the Juve midfield.