Atletico 2-0 Juventus: Madrid’s star-studded defence deals Juve a brutal blow in Champions League

Atletico 2-0 Juventus: It was not only Atletico that looked like potential champions here. Juventus actually looked like they’d badly regressed, even with Cristiano Ronaldo

Miguel Delaney
Wanda Metropolitano
Wednesday 20 February 2019 23:11 GMT
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Atletico Madrid celebrate Diego Godin’s goal
Atletico Madrid celebrate Diego Godin’s goal

A game where the best defenders in Europe reigned, but not in the manner anyone expected. Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin forced the goals for a 2-0 win, but they were only the consequence of a complete and convincing over Juventus, where Atletico Madrid frankly looked on another level. It was also like they were moving to another level, such was the sparkling rampaging nature of the victory.

That they had the set-back of an Alvaro Morata goal being dubiously ruled out by VAR only added to the performance, because it brought out better in them, as well as those two goals. A bad-luck story of the type they’ve suffered too often in Europe instead became a brilliant win, and a bad lesson for Juventus.

It was not only Atletico that looked like potential champions here. Juventus actually looked like they’d badly regressed, even with Cristiano Ronaldo.

He ended up doing very little, other than goading the fans, who in turn got even more worked up and energised their own players. The Metropolitano – the site of the 2019 final – did resemble the old Vicente Calderon in that regard.

Juve’s own famous defence also looked so much more suspect, and the nature of the goals felt all the more symbolic: two set-pieces involving two central defenders.

Ronaldo had in the course of the game offered a sign of his own, raising five fingers to the crowd to indicate how many Champions Leagues he’d won, against none from Atletico.

They were to gleefully remind him of that by the end.

One of only two moments of class from the Portuguese was admittedly also one of the moments of the match, and that lasered long-range free-kick. The quality of the effort was only matched by the reactions of Jan Oblak. If Ronaldo was predictably the centre of attention – with Atletico fans booing his every involvement – it was another player at the centre of everything else.

This was close to a vintage Diego Costa display. It set the tone for the entire Atletico victory, even if he did not last it all. He’d done his job.

It’s hard not to think the abrasive profile of Juventus’ defence only further fired Costa. He relished it. Costa was of course the first player booked, and that after just seven minutes to now put him out of the second leg, but it didn’t deter him. He was still going up for everything with Giorgio Chiellini and Leo Bonucci, and often won. There was one spell in the first half where the attacker won every single header. That really is impressive against a defence as imposing as this.

Less impressive – at least to purists – would have been another piece of vintage Costa. The most generous description you could give of his fall on 28 minutes was that it was “street-wise”, but it was canny enough to convince the officials twice. Referee Felix Zwayer initially pointed to the spot, only to consult VAR, but they just judged that it was outside the box rather than a dive.

Griezmann stepped up and smashed forward a free-kick that was an impressive tribute to Ronaldo’s in its own right, but Wojciech Szczesny also did well to beat it away.

The goalkeeper looked completely exposed shortly into the second half, but was saved himself, because this was only [open itals] close [close] to a vintage Costa display. It didn’t involve his old level of finishing, something that has been a real problem since returning to Atletico.

It was a frustrating night for Cristiano Ronaldo

Put clean through on goal by a pristine Koke through ball, Costa somehow skewed it well past the goal. That finish was one reason he was eventually brought off for Morata, although he isn’t exactly a striker getting the breaks either right now, as the game’s other key moment made clear.

Costa looked set for another opportunity minutes later, but was this time denied by vintage Juventus defending. Szczesny first did superbly to touch Griezmann’s lob onto the bar, before Chiellini steamed in to aggressively clear it before Costa could even react, and then responded himself by masculinely hugging his goalkeeper.

It had already long become that kind of tie, where both sides were pushing each other to limits in pulsating manner. This typified when Ronaldo finally got a bit of freedom on the ball to go into overdrive and scorch into the Atletico box, only for Diego Godin to steam across and fairly clean the striker out by clearing the ball.

That reflected the brutal reality that Juventus looked much easier to get. Certainly easier to get at than Atletico, and most of their own last few seasons.

There was just so much space around their area. Atletico had seemed to exploit that when Filipe Luis crossed for Morata to score, only for the goal to be ruled for a foul.

It looked very soft, and the kind of thing that can cause teams to finally buckle.

That happened… but with Juve.

That moment was when the levee broke. The soft decision brought out a harder edge in Atletico, who just outfought the Italian champions – and out-jumped them.

For the first, Morata headed down for Gimenez. For the second, Godin diverted the ball in off Ronaldo.

There’s a lot of pressure on the Portuguese now to rescue this in three weeks. Juventus will have to show so much more fight. Here, however, it was ominous that Atletico just had far too much for them. In so many ways.

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