Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin struck late to earn Atletico Madrid a 2-0 victory in an entertaining first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with Juventus.
Gimenez picked up the pieces at a 78th-minute corner to drill home the opener, before Diego Godin’s strike five minutes later deflected in off former Real Madrid man Cristiano Ronaldo.
Alvaro Morata had earlier been denied a goal against his old club by VAR, while Juve’s best chance saw a Ronaldo free-kick tipped over by Jan Oblak in the first 10 minutes.
The Serie A champions looked on course to take a goalless draw back to Turin until Atleti, who will have Diego Costa and Thomas Partey suspended for the return trip, snared the victory.
It may be only the first leg, it may be only the last 16, but the manner of Atlético’s victory convinced them that maybe it is possible after all, at a time when some needed convincing.
Atlético had looked a little lost of late and Juventus had been considered the worst possible opponents, twice finalists in the last four years, the team whose own pursuit of this trophy had led them to sign Cristiano Ronaldo – the leader of Atlético’s rivals who had twice scored penalties against them in fatalistic finals of their own. He stung Jan Oblak’s hands with a free-kick six minutes into this match and leapt to head goalwards in the very last minute here.
But Ronaldo could not find the finish and Atlético were not to be denied, not even after they twice thought they had the breakthrough only twice to have it taken away from them by VAR: a first-half penalty that was turned into a free-kick and a second-half goal, headed in by Álvaro Morata, that was ruled out for a foul.
That might have brought the fatalism flooding back; instead it brought Atlético flooding forward even more. And by the end of a tough, intense and sometimes exhilarating night, they had secured a deserved lead to take to Turin, and this place was going wild. They had just been denied the opening goal when Giménez struck from close range, reaching Morata’s knockdown. And four minutes later Godín got the second.
That this was not going to be the expected tight, defensive game was announced early. After only 48 seconds Antoine Griezmann hooked a shot wide and within a minute Diego Costa was running at Juve. Although his pass was overhit, the start was striking, the game shaping to be direct and open, although there was one Atlético move made up of four consecutive backheels. By half time there had also been 12 shots.
Leonardo Bonucci headed over, as did Mario Mandzukic. But it was Atlético who came closest with a swift move that started with Rodrigo and went through Thomas Partey and Koke to send Costa racing away, only to be sent tumbling by Mattia De Sciglio. The referee, Felix Zwayer, pointed to the penalty spot but the VAR corrected him. With the outside of his foot Griezmann’s free-kick drew a save from Wojciech Szczesny.
Another run brought another chance early in the second half, Griezmann sending Costa dashing clean through, only for him to scuff a dreadful shot wide, his foot taking some of the turf with it.
Next a clever ball from Koke released Griezmann, who gently lifted his shot over Szczesny and back off the bar. Diego Simeone could sense the opportunity that others feared was slipping away, replacing Costa with Morata and sending on Thomas Lemar and Ángel Correa.
The changes were partly forced but Atlético, on top and seeing the space before them, were now set up to run at Juventus with even greater determination. The goal came – but then went again.
Morata powered in a header and celebrated wildly. Post-goal music boomed out. But Giorgio Chiellini complained of a push so Zwayer went to the VAR and, for the second time, came back with bad news for Atlético. Good news, though, followed fast.