Why We Watch The Beautiful Game
Mission imPOSSIBLE. That was the task faced by Serie A giants Juventus as they took on the back-to-back defending champion Real Madrid in a second leg following an at home drubbing at the hands, or feet of Los Blancos. In their first meeting, soccer megastar Cristiano Ronaldo capped off an all-round performance with an outrageous bicycle kick and left Juventus stadium with a three goal to nil advantage heading back to Spain. Juventus headed into the belly of the beast, without their brightest star, La Joya, Argentinian Paulo Dybala due to suspension via red card received in the first leg.
It was all but over..or was it? After just two minutes of play, Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic scored to make that mission that much more possible. The remaining 43 minutes of play were a non-stop tit-for-tat display of each teams counter attacks, which saw “Super” Mario, again bang home another header to cut the lead in half near the end of the first half. Pressure mounted on the backs of the hosts as they headed to the dressing rooms for half time. Could Juventus upset Ronaldo and Real Madrid?
Second half on and what a half it was. There were chances created by both teams, back and forth, until finally, something had to give and Madrid goalie Keylor Navas would drop a caught cross-pass under some pressure from Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi, and allow the Frenchman to slot home the third and more importantly, the aggregate tying goal for Juventus. With extra time looming, Juventus seemed to have all momentum until the 93rd minute Madrid forward Lucas Vasquez fell down in the opposing team’s penalty area for what seemed like simulated contact from Juve defender Medhi Benatia. Penalty awarded for illegal contact, and during the adrenaline fuelled protests, Juventus icon and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon lost his cool and looked to slightly push the referee from behind, prompting a straight red card and a sending off from potentially his last Champions League match. Who else to step up in extra time to take the penalty kick and last kick of the game, Cristiano Ronaldo. In classic Ronaldo form, he scores and sends his team into the semifinal of European club football’s most famed and prestigious tournament.
On the other side of the draw, an English clash between Premier League juggernauts Liverpool and Manchester City saw the reds deliver Man City’s only two loses across two legs. 3-0, then 2-1. Can the most electrifying offence in Europe continue to deliver and win their first Champions League crown since 2005? The 4th tie was between German giants Bayern Munich and Spanish upstarts Sevilla. The first leg was a tightly matched affair, ending 2-1 in Bayern’s favour only to lead to an anti-climactic second leg 0-0 finish. The Juventus-Real tie clearly over shadowed this, one for the ages. With the semi-finalists determined, and the draw determined, each of the four teams will be from different countries. Italian side Roma will take on Liverpool, after an unprecedented 3-1 comeback against favourites Barcelona and Real Madrid will take on Bayern Munich in the other tie. Many believe this to be the true final, as both teams are consider to be in the top 3 clubs in the world. If anything from the wild week in the second leg matchups, nothing is certain in the beautiful game and all you need is to be better for the 90 minutes of the final game, have a bit of luck and you can shock the world. Who will be on Europe’s grandest stage May 26th?