The build-up to the game revolved around Cristiano Ronaldo. Would he be able to perform against a team that had reached two of the last four Champions League finals? Would he be able to reach the heights like he did during nine seasons at Real Madrid for Juventus? That and more, Ronaldo answered in emphatic fashion at the expense of Atletico Madrid.
Juventus headed into the encounter trailing 2-0 from the first leg against an Atletico Madrid side famed for having arguably the hardest defence to break down in all European leagues but if there ever was any man that did so regularly in the Champions League, it was Ronaldo. And he did so, yet again, for Juventus as he scored a hat-trick to help overturn the deficit and send the Italian side into the quarter-final with a 3-2 aggregate win.
Knowing what was at stake, Juventus kicked off the game in Turin all guns blazing and had the ball in the net after just four minutes when a goalmouth scramble from a corner kick saw the ball break for Giorgio Chiellini to score, only for his effort to be ruled out by the referee who consulted with Video Assistant Referee (VAR) as Ronaldo was deemed to have fouled Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak when challenging for the loose ball.
The opening 20 minutes saw Juve put heavy pressure on Atletico, using the flanks through Federico Bernardeschi – starting in place of Paulo Dybala – and, especially, the left flank of Ronaldo to cause great grief for the Atletico defenders. The pressure inevitably paid off after 26 minutes when coach Massimiliano Allegri’s decision to start Bernardeschi yielded fruit as it was the midfielder’s cross in that Ronaldo headed in for the opener.
It came in dramatic circumstance, though, as just moments before the goal, Juve players had screamed for a penalty after Diego Godin headed a ball to the arm of his Atletico teammate – shouts which the referee waved aside. Meanwhile, Bernardeschi was proving his worth as he came close to levelling the tie in the 32nd minute only to see his free kick sail just over the Spanish side’s goal. The Italian midfielder would go close again two minutes later when his bicycle kick from Leonardo Spinazzola cross went just over the bar, too, as the first half ended 1-0.
Juve needed one more goal to send the game to extra time, and two more to win the game outright. And they went looking for a second goal of the night right as the second half kicked off as Mario Mandzukic almost connected with a Ronaldo cross only for Jose Gimenez to intervene before the Croatian striker could do any damage.
Their next attack would shatter Atletico’s resolve, though, with the Spaniards taken by surprise as Juve launched a blistering counter-attack which ended with Bernardeschi again finding Ronaldo with a cross which the Portuguese superstar headed in to give Juve a 2-0 lead on the night and draw them level on aggregate after just 48 minutes.
Atletico Madrid star, Antoine Griezmann was a loner upfront – it was from his run that Juve scored their second on the counter and in the 50th minute, the Frenchman was crowded out again when he tried to penetrate the Juventus defence. Smelling blood, Allegri decided to bring on Dybala for the impressive Spinazzola to mount more pressure on the Atletico defence in search of that winning goal.
With tempers threatening to boil over, Juve continued to dominate and substitute, Moise Kean, who scored twice on Friday in his first Serie A start for the club, came close to getting that third goal two minutes after coming on. The 19-year-old latched on to a clearance by Chiellini and shot across a retreating Oblak only to see the ball curl away from goal to the relief of the Atletico team.
But their relief turned to agony two minutes later when Angel Correa pushed Bernardeschi, that man again, in the box to concede a penalty. VAR was consulted first, though, as the suspense grew, with the referee eventually awarding the penalty.
There was only one man in the stadium who would take it and Ronaldo did justice to the spot kick which he slammed in past Oblak who flew the wrong way to give Juve that third goal to put them ahead for the first time on aggregate.
Juve held on to claim their place in the last eight and they had two men to thank – Federico Bernardeschi and the man who had critics to silence, Cristiano Ronaldo!