Cristiano Ronaldo’s stunning bicycle kick goal helps Real Madrid walk over Juventus

Juventus 0 Real Madrid 3: The defending champions put Juventus to the sword in a game that will always be remembered for Ronaldo's simply sensational second-half goal

Jack Pitt-Brooke
Allianz Stadium
Wednesday 04 April 2018 09:43
Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane on Cristiano Ronaldo's incredible Champions League overhead kick

This is one of the proudest, loudest, most impenetrable grounds in Europe but tonight the Juventus Stadium stood to applaud the man who conquered it like no-one has done before.

Cristiano Ronaldo had already put Real Madrid 1-0 up but his second goal, half-way through the second half and with his team under pressure, was stunning even by the standards of his own greatness.

Facing away from goal, just inside the box, his overhead kick plucked Dani Carvajal’s cross from high out of the rainy sky and struck it like a tennis smash, but one with his body eight feet up in the air, rather than feet planted on the ground. Making contact with the ball was hard enough but he sent it into the opposite bottom corner of Gianluigi Buffon’s net.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a sensational bicycle kick goal

Once 40,000 Juventus fans had come to terms with what they had seen, the audacity, the difficulty, and the fact their team was out of the Champions League, they got off their feet to clap. This is not what they filed in here for tonight, but how often do you see the second-greatest player of the modern era do something that only he in the world could do? This was Ronaldo’s 23rd goal in his last 12 games – astonishing enough in itself – but even among the hundreds he has scored in his unique career, this will be remembered among the very best. Giorgio Chiellini called Ronaldo ‘un nueve mostruoso’ before this game, but how many monsters are this imaginative or this precise?

This version of Ronaldo, the far side of 30, is no longer about ripping through teams from the wing. He stays in the box and picks his moments. Big goals and big games: five in the quarter-final against Bayern Munich last year, three in the semi against Atletico, two in the final against Juventus. This year has been no different. He rescued Real from 1-0 down against Paris Saint Germain in February, scoring twice at home and once away. But even among all of those decisive moments, against the best teams in the world, this night - the 10th straight Champions League game he has scored in - will stand out.

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This Turin crowd are certainly not used to that type of thing, nor are they used to this type of result. Juventus had only ever lost one European game here before tonight, to Bayern Munich’s famous treble winners in 2013. But by losing this game 3-0 – Ronaldo obviously set up the third, and should have scored a fourth – they conceded more goals than they did in all six home Champions League games last season. Having lost nobly in the 2015 and 2017 finals, Juventus finished the evening facing the fact that the quarter-finals will be the end of their European journey this year.

What was so frustrating for Juventus was that even before Ronaldo’s magical moment, they were underperforming. This team is meant to be all about efficiency, details, and doing just enough to get over the line. Tottenham outplayed them for almost three hours, remember, but Juventus scored twice in three minutes to go through. But here they carelessly forgot everything that made them so good. They looked sloppy and callow, up against a side which has made itself the greatest winning machine of the modern era. Two Champions Leagues in a row and, playing like this at Juventus away, they made a case that they could win a third.

It was only the third minute of the whole tie when Real Madrid sensed that uncharacteristic slackness from Juventus, and made the most of it. Zinedine Zidane had one team decision to make here, the third man in the front-line with Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. He did what he did in Cardiff, picking Isco over Gareth Bale, but even Zidane could not have hoped for vindication this thorough, or this quick. Isco can play wherever he wants in this team and he floated out to the left wing, receiving a pass from Marcelo. Played onside by Kwadwo Asamoah, not closed down by Mattia De Sciglio, he caught his hosts by surprise. So he drove a cross to the near post, where Ronaldo darted towards the ball and turned it past Buffon.

Ronaldo opened the scoring after just three minutes

Juventus’ plans had been shredded and they had to raise their game. But that pressure, that onus, seemed to mess with their heads. They spent the rest of the first half playing with so much haste that they made mistakes you would never expect. Every time they got near the edge of the Madrid area, otherwise accomplished players – Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa – would miscue and the attack would break down. Chiellini, usually the king of both boxes, misjudged a free header from a corner and Dybala, at the end of the first half, was booked for a ludicrous dive. All night he lacked the cool execution of a true top player.

And when Juventus came close to scoring, there were Real Madrid players ready to throw themselves in their way. Keylor Navas produced a close-range reflex save reminiscent of the best of Iker Casillas. Sergio Ramos blocked one Dybala shot, headed another away from the wall and then, early in the second half, was flattened by Navas punching out a cross. Chiellini himself would have been proud of all this reckless physical bravery to keep the ball out.

The forward was given a standing ovation for his stunning bicycle kick goal

Juventus knew that a 1-0 defeat here was useless, and they pushed on in the second half. But they only left themselves more exposed at the back and Chiellini, who looked frazzled all night, came for a ball that should have been Buffon’s. Ronaldo squared to Lucas Vazquez but when his shot was saved, Carvajal crossed and Ronaldo produced the finish this night will always be remembered for.

When Dybala carelessly kicked Carvajal in the stomach and was sent off, that was the end of the tie. Although there was still time for Ronaldo to slide in Marcelo, bursting into the box, to bundle in the confirming third. From there all that was left was for Ronaldo to score a hat-trick and after going close twice, he missed from eight yards in added time. He looked briefly upset, but he had already won the tie, and further burnished his place in football history.

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