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Ronaldo Saves Real Madrid Once Again

They had battled back from a three-goal deficit and were dreaming of a Miracle in Madrid. Then, deep into added time, Cristiano Ronaldo broke Juve’s hearts.

In scenes of high drama, even by the standards of one of football’s greatest stages, Real were awarded a last-gasp penalty by English referee Michael Oliver, Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was sent off for his full-throated protest and Ronaldo nailed the winner from the spot.

Comebacks can be contagious and whatever Barcelona and Roma had on Tuesday, Madrid and Juventus had a serious dose of it 24 hours later. This time the patient survived.

Real were rattled for 90 minutes but when Lucas Vazquez was put through by Toni Kroos and Medhi Benatia put a hand on his back, he went down and Oliver pointed to the spot before dismissing the furious, wild-eyed Buffon.

Real’s supporters had always planned on giving the legendary goalkeeper a big ovation but never in these circumstances. Still, they applauded him off and former Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny came on. Ronaldo only had eyes for the net and blasted the ball to Szczesny’s right to send Real Madrid into the semi-finals.

Ronaldo said:

‘You have to fight to the finish in football. It was a penalty. I don’t know why they were protesting. Benatia kicked a lot from behind during the game. It was the right decision.’

Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri was not so sure. He lamented:

‘We deserved the extra time. We had substitutes to bring on. But it’s no good to cry over it. There is no video assistant so we are out. We absolutely need VAR in the Champions League.’

A jubilant Ronaldo added:

‘It was a difficult night. We were not great in the first half but this will be a lesson to us.’

‘Difficult’ does not begin to describe how Juventus made Madrid suffer. They were so shaken in the early stages that they could have been 3-0 down after seven minutes. As it was, it was only one. Douglas Costa combined with Sami Khedira, and Mario Mandzukic scored at the far post in the second minute.

Gonzalo Higuain then had a shot cut out by Jesus Vallejo and a second effort from close range saved by Keylor Navas.

With Sergio Ramos suspended, Madrid had 21-year-old Vallejo and Raphael Varane bumping into each other in central defence.

Juventus, meanwhile, were showing the same spirit that saw them turn Tottenham over at Wembley. But could it last? Gareth Bale had a shot saved by Buffon and he back-heeled the rebound into the side-netting. Isco then had a goal ruled out for offside. Ronaldo, who had nutmegged Mattia De Sciglio in the first minute, tried the same on Benatia and was flattened.

Stephan Lichtsteiner was booked for another foul on Ronaldo, playing his 150th Champions League game. The Swiss defender was a liability at the back but on 38 minutes he appeared at the other end and made the second goal with a cross to the far post that Mandzukic converted.

Buffon jumped up and down in his area to celebrate and raised a fist to Juventus supporters as he walked off at half-time. One more goal and they would be level.

Madrid had almost scored just before the break when Varane headed on to the bar but Zinedine Zidane had seen enough and sent Vazquez and Marco Asensio on to replace Casemiro and Gareth Bale. It did not change the narrative. On the hour Juventus were level thanks to a howler from Navas, who failed to gather a routine ball and Blaise Matuidi turned the ball in.

Again, no one celebrated more than Buffon. He then saved brilliantly from Isco, turning the midfielder’s shot round the post.

Madrid knew another Juventus goal would leave them needing two but they camped in the Italians’ half regardless. Ronaldo went down more in hope than expectation of getting anything from referee Oliver.

Juventus, who had spent the first half betraying their tradition by flying forward with abandon, had now reverted to type. There seemed no way through until Vazquez tried to wriggle clear and Ronaldo rammed in the resulting spot kick.

Zidane is now two games from the chance to win a third straight Champions League.

‘It was definitely a penalty,’ he said. ‘I didn’t see it but the referee gave it so it was a penalty.’

Asked about Ronaldo’s five-minute wait to take the kick while Juventus players surrounded the referee fuming at Buffon’s dismissal, he shrugged:

‘He’s used to it. He scored and we’re through.’

Bayern Munich joined Real in the semi-finals after a goalless draw at home to Sevilla took them through 2-1 on aggregate.

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