Juventus spent big for the kind of performance that Cristiano Ronaldo delivered vs. Atletico Madrid, with the Italian power completing a sensational comeback to stay alive in the Champions League. Man City, meanwhile, had far less trouble going through.
Cristiano Ronaldo struck for a hat trick as Juventus overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit to beat Atletico Madrid and progress to the Champions League quarterfinals in sensational fashion on Tuesday.
Two headers from Ronaldo pulled the aggregate score level before a penalty four minutes from time sealed a 3-0 second-leg victory and a 3-2 aggregate triumph, a famous one for Juventus, which had its star summer signing come through when it needed him most.
In rather less dramatic circumstances, Manchester City secured its place in the quarterfinal by destroying Schalke 7-0 to complete an astonishing 10-2 aggregate victory and send the struggling German side out of the competition.
Here are three thoughts on the day in the Champions League:
This is why Juventus spent big for Ronaldo
Juventus acquired Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Champions League. The $110 million it took to sign him from Real Madrid had seemed questionable as he scored just one goal in his first six European games for the club, but as time has gone by, Ronaldo has become more and more a man for the big occasion. The knockout stage of the Champions league is where he comes alive. He had scored a hat trick against Atletico Madrid in the semifinal in 2017 and scored another one Tuesday. This is why Juve signed the 34-year-old.
Juventus in general was much better than in Madrid, pressing aggressively and denying Atletico time to breathe. With its two fullbacks pushed high, Juve again and again worked crossing positions to the point that it had felt inevitable Juve would take the lead on the night long before Ronaldo headed in Federico Bernardeschi’s cross. It had earlier had a goal ruled out, in the fourth minute, with Ronaldo deemed to have fouled goalkeeper Jan Oblak before Giorgio Chiellini jabbed in a rebound.
But this was Ronaldo's night, and after Joao Cancelo delivered a perfect ball for Ronaldo to attack, he did so with a superb header. Although Oblak clawed the ball away, goal-line technology indicated it had already crossed the line.
With Atletico struggling to break the pressure, it seemed only a matter of time before the third and decisive goal came. Sure enough, it arrived with four minutes to go, with Juan Correa penalized for a push on Bernardeschi to give Ronaldo the opportunity to complete his eighth Champions League hat trick. Whether the push was enough to constitute a foul is another issue; Bernardeschi seemed to go down because he had kicked himself on the back of the calf. Perhaps the contact was sufficient to cause him to do that, but this seemed like another instance in which VAR only added to the confusion. Whatever the merits if the decision, there was never any doubt Ronaldo would convert, sending Juventus through and Atletico out.
Diego Costa's suspension costly for Atletico Madrid
Juve was almost unimaginably better than it had been in Madrid, and Atletico was almost unimaginably worse. Part of the reason for the latter is that the suspended Diego Costa was badly missed. That Juve would tear at Atletico and press high was no surprise, but what must have been hugely disappointing for Diego Simeone was the way that whenever the ball was pumped forward to relieve pressure, it came straight back.
Alvaro Morata, his confidence battered out of him by his experience with Chelsea, was weirdly listless, making next to no impression against Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. The oddity is that in Madrid, he had been a threat, and only a harsh VAR call denied him a goal for a slight push on Chiellini. This, though, was the Morata of Stamford Bridge, weak and seemingly lacking fight.
Not that it was just Morata’s fault, if fault is the right word when Juventus played so well. Juanfran was badly exposed at fullback, looking every second of his 34 years. The other fullback, Santiago Arias, found himself regularly outmatched as well, which in turn had an impact on wide midfielders Koke and Thomas Lemar. Atletico, which so often seems the toughest and most resilient of sides, simply seemed overwhelmed and could have benefited greatly by a presence like Costa.
VAR the only quibble as Man City destroys Schalke
Manchester City completed its passage to the quarterfinal with the minimum of fuss. Against a Schalke side in dismal domestic form, City had looked comfortable in Gelsenkirchen before a collective wobble after the concession of a first-half penalty, but this was the win it should have secured there.
Two goals from Sergio Aguero and a third from Leroy Sane ended any chance of a Schalke comeback before halftime. Sane then had one ruled out for offside after a VAR review, before Raheem Sterling added City's fourth–but only after a VAR review had overturned an initial offside call. Bernardo Silva swept in a Sane cross to make it five and Sane was the architect of the sixth, scored by Phil Foden, as well. Gabriel Jesus added the seventh, with Schalke’s spirit utterly broken.
The only gripe was the delays while VAR confirmed that the second and third goals should stand, prompting City fans into ironic secondary celebrations when no reason was found to rule the goals out. Perhaps the delays are a necessary part of the new technology, but it does rather destroy the moment, taking a minute or more to confirm what used to take a glance at the linesman.