Turin, March 13
Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed a hat-trick against his favourite opponents Atletico Madrid as the Italians overturned a two-goal first-leg deficit to win 3-0 and reach the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday.
Ronaldo blasted home the decisive goal from a penalty with four minutes left to seal a 3-2 overall triumph having made the breakthrough in the 27th minute and levelled the aggregate score three minutes after halftime with another towering header.
It was his eighth hat-trick in the Champions League, pulling him level with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, and took the Portugal international’s tally in his favourite club competition, where he is the all-time leading scorer, to 124.
“This was why Juventus brought me here, to help do things that they have never done before,” said Ronaldo, now 34. “This is the mentality you need to win in the Champions League.”
Shell-shocked Atletico failed to muster a shot on target as they paid the price for an ultra-cautious approach by defensive-minded coach Diego Simeone in the last-16 second leg tie.
Defender Chiellini had the ball in the visitors’ net after just four minutes following a goalmouth scramble but it was disallowed for foul by Ronaldo on goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
The Serie A side bombarded the Atletico area with crosses but made little headway against a packed defence until Federico Bernardeschi switched to the left and floated a cross to the far post where Ronaldo outjumped Juanfran to head in.
With Atletico making little effort to look for the away goal that could have changed the complexion of the tie, Juventus continued to press forward.
Bernardeschi curled a free kick over the crossbar and also produced an ambitious bicycle kick which flew wide before Chiellini had a header tipped over by Oblak.
Atletico’s first real chance fell to on-loan striker Alvaro Morata who got between two defenders to meet Koke’s cross from the right only to head over.
Juve went straight back on the attack after the break and quickly levelled the aggregate score at 2-2.
Ronaldo met Joao Cancelo’s cross with another powerful header and although Oblak clawed the ball away, goal line technology showed that it had crossed the line by centimetres and the referee signalled a goal.
Atletico brought on Vitolo and Angel Correa in an attempt to add more bite to their attack but to no avail.
With extra-time looming, Bernardeschi powered into the area and was pushed in the back by Correa, leaving Ronaldo to blast home the penalty to the delight of the Juve supporters.
City on fire
Earlier, rampant Manchester City demolished a woeful Schalke 7-0 to complete a 10-2 aggregate win and become the third English side into the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
City’s record home win in Europe did not look likely after a quiet opening 35 minutes but once Sergio Aguero began the rout from the penalty spot it became embarrassingly easy as City reached the last eight for the third time in four years.
Aguero doubled City’s lead three minutes later and the impressive Leroy Sane made it 3-0 before halftime.
Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva finished off flowing moves after the break and youngster Phil Foden bagged his first European goal before Gabriel Jesus made it seven, rounding off the biggest ever Champions League defeat for a German side. — Reuters
Juve shares soar
Juventus shares soared by over 20 per cent on the Milan stock exchange on Wednesday, the morning after Cristiano Ronaldo’s incredible hat-trick rescued the Italian giants’ Champions League campaign. The Turin club’s shares jumped by 23 per cent after the Milan stock exchange opened before dipping to 17.09 per cent later in the morning. The seven-time reigning Italian title-holders have not won the Champions League since 1996, and have finished runners-up twice in the past four seasons.
Neymar under lens
Paris St Germain forward Neymar will be investigated by UEFA for lashing out at the video assistant referee (VAR) system after their Champions League exit to Manchester United last week, European soccer’s governing body said on Wednesday. The Brazilian, sidelined by injury, was infuriated by a late penalty awarded to United in PSG’s last-16 second-leg defeat in Paris which saw them go out on away goals and Neymar later called the VAR system a “disgrace”.
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