European Round-Up

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Juventus: Advantage Atleti as Juve crumble late on

Atletico Madrid took complete control of their last 16 Champions League clash with Juventus, winning 2-0 in the first leg on Wednesday night. Coming into the tie, many observers were struggling to pick a winner, with both clubs appearing evenly-matched and enjoying impressive domestic campaigns in their respective countries. Yet it was Atletico who put in a convincing display, to leave the Italian giants on the brink of elimination.

Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin were the unlikely goal-scoring heroes, both netting inside the final fifteen minutes. For Juventus, runners-up in the competition in 2015 and 2017, questions will be asked of manager Massimiliano Allegri, whose conservative tactics failed miserably on this occasion.

Initially, Juventus looked to have settled fairly quickly. Cristiano Ronaldo tested Jan Oblak with a free-kick from range, whilst Leonardo Bonucci narrowly missed the target with a header from a corner.

As the half progressed though, it was Atletico that began to assert themselves. They thought they had a penalty when Diego Costa was tugged back by Mattia De Sciglio, but replays were quick to show that the incident was outside the box, with VAR amending the decision to a free-kick on the edge of the area. Antoine Griezmann’s resulting set piece was beaten away by Wojciech Szszesny, ensuring the game remained goalless at the break.

Atletico appeared to have more purpose to their play after the break, creating numerous opportunities to break the deadlock. Costa shrugged off the attentions of Bonucci, only to skew his shot horribly wide when through on goal. Moments later, the hosts went even closer, Szczesny having to be at his absolute best to tip Griezmann’s dinked finish onto the crossbar.

The warning signs were there, but Juventus could not halt Atletico’s momentum. Substitute Alvaro Morata finally found the net, yet following a lengthy VAR review his effort was ruled out for a push on Giorgio Chiellini. A borderline call, the second one of the night to go in Juventus’s favour.

Still, Atletico would not be denied. They deservedly went ahead in the 78th minute, Gimenez the quickest to react in the box when the ball bounced around in the goalmouth, steering his shot home. The Atletico fans were in full voice at this point, and the noise would only get louder when they doubled their advantage five minutes later. Juventus were unable to clear a free-kick, allowing Godin to volley home from a tight angle via a deflection.

This had become a desperate situation for Juventus, and they set about claiming a valuable away goal in the closing minutes, but Oblak was alert to keep out Federico Bernardeschi’s measured finish.

Juventus nearly pulled off the impossible last season against Atletico’s city rivals, Real Madrid, fighting back from a three goal deficit in the quarter-finals before losing out to a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty. With Ronaldo now in their ranks, they will need to produce a similarly inspired performance in Turin to turn this tie around.

Lazio crash out, Napoli and Inter safely through

Sevilla moved into the last 16 of the Europa League at the expense of Lazio on Wednesday, winning 2-0 on the night to advance 3-0 on aggregate. Wissam Ben Yedder netted his second goal of the tie to give Sevilla a half time lead, but Lazio’s hopes were lifted when Franco Vazquez was sent off on the hour mark. However, their man advantage lasted a mere 11 minutes, as Adam Marusic was given his marching orders for a raised arm against Roque Mesa. Pablo Sarabia rounded off the scoring to put Lazio well and truly out of the contest. They now have the Coppa Italia as their only chance of silverware, with the first leg of their semi-final against AC Milan taking place next Tuesday.

Napoli eased into the last 16, securing a resounding 5-1 aggregate victory over FC Zurich after a 2-0 win in Naples on Thursday. Simone Verdi and Adam Ounas scored the goals on a comfortable evening for the home side.

Inter Milan won their fourth straight game in all competitions to book their spot in the round of 16, thrashing Rapid Vienna 4-0 on the night, to record a 5-0 aggregate win. First half goals from Matias Vecino and Andrea Ranocchia put the result beyond doubt, before Ivan Perisic and Matteo Politano found the target in the final ten minutes to add gloss to the scoreline.


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