Throwback Thursday: Champions League drama on this day (2018)
Quite often we like to take it far back with our Throwback Thursday features, but what with today being the one year anniversary of some classic Champions League scenes, it seems right to add these memories to what has already been a thrilling week of European football.
And it turns out that a lot can change in a year. For on April 11, 2018, Real Madrid – now knocked out of the Champions League – faced Juventus, who were held by Los Blancos’ conquerors, Ajax, last night. More interestingly, the man who of course settled this 2018 tie, now wears the black and white stripes of the Turin side.
Having scored an overhead kick in the first leg, Cristiano Ronaldo looked to have inspired Real Madrid to yet another famous Champions League knockout win. Facing Juventus in the Bernabeu, it seemed highly improbable, if not impossible, that the Old Lady would overturn the 3-0 deficit suffered back in Italy. But football is a game capable of producing the impossible and, a little over a minute into the match, it was clear that something was in the air on this evening in Madrid.
AS Roma had just completed a similar comeback against FC Barcelona in the same round, so when Mario Mandzukic headed Juventus into an early lead, another comeback was well and truly on. And onwards went Juventus, making the Madrid fans increasingly nervous as they attacked and attacked. And Mandzukic headed in another, before even half-time.
Whistles grew louder and louder as the nerves increased for those in white. And it seemed that it was actually their player dressed in black, their goalkeeper, Keylor Navas, who had felt the nerves most. Spilling a cross from the right-hand side, his error allowed Blaise Matuidi to bundle home the most unlikely of equalisers and Juve were in dreamland. 60 minutes played and mission impossible was complete.
But with 30 minutes to play, there was always the chance for one last twist in the tale. A cruel twist perhaps?
Edging towards extra time, one late cross from Real Madrid found Lucas Vasquez who, struggling to gain control of the ball, was allegedly impeded by Mehdi Benatia. The Old Lady was incensed and their oldest player of all, Gigi Buffon, was the man who lost his head the most. Screaming at the referee who he felt had wrongly put his last* chance of a Champions League winners’ medal in doubt, he was shown a red card and marched off down the tunnel.
Amongst all the madness, who better to keep a cool head than Cristiano Ronaldo? His emphatic penalty turned the game back in Real Madrid’s favour and was the last kick of the tie, finishing off a modern classic of a Champions League tie. What will this year’s quarter-finals bring?