The Champions League semi-final draw presented us with two completely different match ups. On one side was Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid, two sides that needed no further introduction to each other. City rivals, they know each other like the back of their hands, even meeting each other in the Finals, twice. On both occasions, the Galacticos ruled supreme.
On the other side were two teams that had seldom faced each other. Both potential champions of their own leagues, they couldn’t have been more different if they tried. French flamboyance and guile vs Italian structure and order. One relying on free flowing attack while the other building up from an impregnable defense. It was Monaco vs Juventus. However they had one common thread uniting them. Both were out to prove their European dominance.
The first draw presented a result which was all too familiar. Real Madrid dominated Atletico, with Ronaldo scoring a hattrick, ending the match 3-0. Varane and Casemiro did their defensive jobs brilliantly, snuffing out any potential attacks, with Marcelo romping down the left flank, as usual. Isco, given a free role by Zidane, showed sparks of brilliance, but failed to stamp his authority over that position. Atletico’s star man, Griezmann, barely threatened the Madrid goalkeeper, as he was handicapped by the lack of service from his teammates. However, the evening was all about one man. Cristiano Ronaldo.
The only man to score a century of goals and back-to-back hattricks in the Champions League, Ronaldo showed us that though he may have lost some of his explosive pace due to age, he is as good as a goalscorer as he ever was. Moulding himself to a new role as a poacher, he showcased his brilliant attacking sense and resolute finishing, both with his head and feet, and proved to the world, once again, why he is considered one of the best to ever play the game.
The second match had two players epitomizing each side. Gianluigi Buffon, the Grand Old Man of Italy, has more games under his belt than Mbappe, the French attacking prodigy, has days since his professional debut. Juventus had an aging team, with Barzaghli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Dani Alves, their defensive crux, all over the age of 30, while Monaco had one of the youngest teams in the tournament. The game went Monaco’s way at first, with them creating chances at the other hand, which were dealt with by Buffon. However, in the end, experience won over youth. Following a brilliant counter attack, Higuan opened the scoresheet for Juventus. He added another in the second half after Monaco lost possession in their own half. Both were assisted by Dani Alves. Mbappe and Bernardo Silva both were a menace for the Juventus defence, but they soon fizzled out as Juventus started controlling the game. In the end, it was a convincing 2-0 victory.
The winners of both the first legs have a huge advantage over their opponents. Atletico have a mammoth undertaking ahead of them, to try and make up the three goal deficit. On the other hand, Monaco will have the thankless task of penetrating the strongest defence in Europe, at least twice, in their own home, a feat few can claim to have achieved. But in the end, it is football, and in a season where Barcelona came back from 4 goals down in the first leg to win it all in the second leg, anything seems possible.
Pic Credits- goal.com
Article Contributed by Anirban Bhattacharya