Roldo thwarts epic Juventus comeback to lead Real into CL semis

Madrid, April 12: Real Madrid forward Cristiano Roldo converted a controversially-awarded pelty in injury time here to quell Juventus’ stunning comeback as the defending champions lost 1-3 in the second leg but won the Champions League quarter-fil tie 4-3 on aggregate.
The joy of the Real Madrid faithful at the Santiago Berbeu was mixed with relief after seeing the hosts blow a 3-0 advantage from the first leg on Wednesday, reports Efe.
Juventus’ defender Medhi Betia appeared to have touched ball as Lucas Vazquez was brought down inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot. An enraged Juventus legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon protested the decision of the referee, earning a red card.
The crowd at the Berbeu stadium, perhaps remembering the ovation Juventus fans gave Roldo after his spectacular bicycle kick goal in the first leg, cheered the Italian veteran as he walked off the pitch.
With substitute keeper Wojciech Szczesny on the goal line, Roldo sent a blast into the top corner to win the tie for Real Madrid with his 15th goal of the current Champions League campaign.
At the beginning of the second leg, virtually nobody thought Juventus had a chance of overcoming that deficit against a Real Madrid side in pursuit of their third consecutive Champions League crown.
But Juventus, inspired by AS Roma’s giant-killing performance on Tuesday to elimite Barcelo from the competition, were determined not to go quietly.
Unsettled on the backline due to the absence of the suspended Sergio Ramos, the Blancos conceded a goal in the second minute when Croatian forward Mario Mandzukic fired home on a cross from Sami Khedira.
The visitors would have a second three minutes later if Gonzalo Higuain hadn’t wasted a golden opportunity in front of the net, much as he did in last season’s Champions League fil between the same two clubs.
Real Madrid regrouped and began to get chances, but 40-year-old keeper Gianluigi Buffon stopped efforts by Isco Alarcon — twice — and Gareth Bale.
Just as the Blancos began to feel more comfortable, Mandzukic struck again, beating keeper Keylor vas with a header to bring Juventus within one goal on aggregate.
The closest Real Madrid came to scoring in the first half was a shot in the fil seconds by Rafael Varane that hit the cross-bar.
Blancos coach Zinedane Zidane started the second half with a double-substitution, replacing Bale with Lucas Vazquez and opting for Marco Asensio over Casemiro.
While the changes resulted in more possession for the hosts, the Berbeu remained on edge and the apprehension was borne out at the hour mark, as a vas blunder set up Blaise Matuidi to level the aggregate score at 3-3.
The home side continued to struggle on offense and when they did breach the Bianconeri wall, Buffon was always there to dispel the danger, making an outstanding stop against Roldo.
The match looked destined for extra time until the referee’s pelty decision. The entire Juventus squad argued with the referee, feeling let down by a dubious decision.
Roldo set another new record, becoming the first to score in 11 straight Champions League matches.
“I am happy and we are in the semi-fils. For the pelty, my heart was beating hard, but I tried to stay calm. I knew it would be a decisive pelty, thank God I scored and we went through,” Roldo told Real Madrid’s website.
Juventus chief coach Massimiliano Allegri bemoaned the absence of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) which could have given the right decision. IANS