TURIN: Carlos Tévez’s penalty gave Juventus the edge in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid CF after a gripping contest.
A vibrant start from the home side brought early reward as Álvaro Morata struck against the club he left last summer, but Madrid responded swiftly and levelled before the half-hour with Cristiano Ronaldo’s ninth goal in this season’s UEFA Champions League and 76th overall.
Juve, however, regained the initiative through Tévez’s spot kick early in the second half, earning them a slender but valuable lead to take to Spain next week.
Juventus, in their first semi-final since beating Madrid in 2002/03, began at pace and were in front before ten minutes had been played.
Stefano Sturaro making his first UEFA Champions League start and Morata had already tested Iker Casillas before Claudio Marchisio played a pass into Tévez down the right channel. The Argentinian’s low shot was only pushed out by Casillas and Morata could not miss.
Madrid’s riposte was swift, Toni Kroos calling Gianluigi Buffon into action for the first time before Isco’s pass offered Ronaldo the chance to stretch his legs; the shot was dragged across the face of goal.
The next opportunity came Juve’s way, as Stephan Lichtsteiner got the better of Marcelo down the right and advanced into the penalty area, but his hurried effort was slashed wide.
Three minutes later, the full impact of that miss was felt as Madrid equalised with a fine goal. With the ball bouncing into the home penalty box, James Rodríguez lifted a volleyed cross in for Ronaldo to nod past Buffon from close range.
The momentum had shifted and it was Madrid who should have scored the third goal of a thrilling first half. A slick passing move worked the ball from right to left, Isco breaking clear and centring for James.
From two metres out and with the goal beckoning, the Colombian somehow headed against the crossbar; Marcelo’s follow-up landed on the top of the net.
Although the second period began at a more considered pace than the first, it burst into life in the 56th minute as Juve counterattacked at speed.
Morata slipped in a pass to Tévez, who burst into the area only to be felled by Dani Carvajal. The Argentinian picked himself up to slot the penalty past Casillas.
Madrid were unable to muster a second equaliser as Juventus preserved their one-goal cushion with some degree of comfort.
Indeed, it was the newly-crowned Italian champions who came closest to another goal, first as Raphaël Varane failed to cut out a long ball and substitute Fernando Llorente rounded Casillas; Carvajal was there to pip Roberto Pereyra to his fellow replacement’s cross.
Llorente passed up an even better opening in added time having been picked out in space by Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick. His weak header was blocked by the goalkeeper, leaving the tie finely balanced.