David Ramos/Getty Images
Real Madrid‘s Cristiano Ronaldo can’t understand the complaints from Juventus players following their dramatic aggregate win over the Italian side in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday.
After trailing 3-0 from the first leg of the tie, Juve produced a heroic performance at the Santiago Bernabeu to level the contest before a late penalty was awarded to Los Blancos after Medhi Benatia was deemed to have fouled Lucas Vazquez.
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was sent off for protesting referee Michael Oliver’s decision. Ronaldo kept his cool amid dramatic scenes to strike home the kick and put Madrid in the semi-finals.
“I don’t understand why they were protesting about the penalty” said Ronaldo, per AS. “If they don’t foul him, Lucas would have scored. He’s hit from behind. During the entire game, Benatia and the rest were kicking us from behind. It’s the way they play. Real Madrid are happy and in the semi-finals.”
Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images
Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane also spoke after the game but said he hadn’t seen the penalty incident.
“They told me it was—it was [a foul], wasn’t it?,” the Frenchman said to beIN Sports (h/t AS). “And Cristiano never misses. … We suffered. We made far too many mistakes—Juventus got their tactics spot on.”
Additionally, Zidane commented on why the side were slow out of the blocks, insisting there were no individuals to blame despite the focus being on Gareth Bale and Casemiro, who were substituted at the interval.
“That was why we made a few changes at the break,” he said. “It wasn’t that Gareth and Casemiro were to blame, but Marco Asensio and Lucas gave us a bit more depth, as did Mateo [Kovacic] later in the second half.”
As we can see here, Juventus’ players pulled no punches in their assessment of the referee, with Buffon, who is believed to have played his final Champions League match, particularly unhappy with the conclusion:
After their performance in Turin, Madrid appeared to be in total control of the contest. But two goals from Mario Mandzukic and another from Blaise Matuidi shocked the Bernabeu, and the game appeared destined for extra time.
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
Still, as they so often do, Madrid had a say late on. Ronaldo leaped highest to nod the ball into Vazquez’s path. While Benatia’s contact on the forward wasn’t too forceful, a hand in the back and a high foot was enough to put the Spain international off.
The decision has split opinion. As ItalianFootballTV relayed, the Italian press were not pleased:
Front pages of the Italian newspapers this morning: Everyone saying it was dubious call & shouldn’t have been a penalty https://t.co/H473dxKMn2
Meanwhile, plenty feel as though Oliver was right to award the spot-kick. As journalist Rik Sharma noted, the English referee couldn’t be accused of shirking the call:
Although Madrid struggled in front of their own fans here, they remain on course to win the Champions League for the fourth time in five years and a third prize in a row.
Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Roma are also through to the semi-finals, with the draw for the final four to come on Friday. And while the other three teams will see weaknesses in this Madrid side after Wednesday night, the holders’ ability to find a way through in tough moments is why they remain favourites to lift this trophy yet again.