The Portugese scored the latest of goals to thwart a comeback to rival any other in an astonishing round of quarterfinal matches. Gianluigi Buffon received a straight red card in what could be his final European game.
Real Madrid 1-3 Juventus (4-3 agg.), Santiago Bernabeu
(Ronaldo 90'+8 — Mandzukic 2', 37', Matuidi 61')
A Champions League quarterfinal round of unlikely heroes and underdog stories looked set for another miraculous twist. Juventus, 3-0 down from the first leg and without creator-in-chief Paulo Dybala, produced a blood, sweat and tears performance to drag themselves level on aggregate. Somehow, this game was going to extra time.
That was until referee Michael Oliver awarded a hotly disputed last-gasp penalty to the home side. Before this match Cristiano Ronaldo hadn’t failed to score at home in a Champions League tie for seven years. The run continued as he drove the ball into the top corner into Wojciech Szczesny’s net with the clock showing 98 minutes played. It was the latest goal — excluding extra time — scored in the Champions League since 2003; an excruciatingly late defiance of the evening’s narrative.
Read more: Pragmatic Bayern reach last four
Szczesny found himself staring down the barrel of the gun after Gianluigi Buffon, so fundamental in his team’s performance until that point, received a straight red card for protesting Oliver's call a little overzealously. He may have had a point. There was contact from behind on Lucas Vázquez as he tumbled to the ground just yards from goal, but even so it appeared generous.
A veteran of 159 Champions League matches, Buffon chose the wrong time to abandon his better judgement and it would be a sad thing were this to be his final performance in the competition. He has lost in the final twice before, but this will surely rank alongside his most painful European exits.
It had all been going so well, too. Mario Mandzukic gave Juventus the lead after just two minutes, connecting with a Sami Khedira cross to head home from close range. If a three-goal defecit is to be overturned at the Santiagio Bernabeu, this is the way to start. The Croat added a second in the 37th minute, powering home another close range header after Stephan Lichtsteiner’s sweeping cross found him on the run.
It wasn’t all one way traffic though. Twice Buffon was called into action to deny Ronaldo from point blank range, twice he rose to the challenge. It was a vintage performance from the Italian; every stop savoured with a gurning eruption of emotion.
It looked destined when Buffon’s opposite number, the usually reliable Keylor Navas, fumbled an innocuous cross into the onrushing legs of Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi. The Frenchman brought the ball under control and sent the away fans into raptures with the simplest of finishes in the 61st minute.
But it wasn't to be. With the game heading into extra time, Oliver made the sort of call a referee is long remembered for and it's safe to say he should probably cancel any scheduled trips to Turin. Ronaldo, ever happy to take on the role of pantomime villain, never looked like missing. The Portugese puffed out his cheeks, rolled back his shoulders, and fired his team into the semifinals.
With Barcelona and Manchester City dispatched already, Real Madrid may yet look back on this quarterfinal as the enabler for a third straight Champions League title. For Juventus, and Buffon in particular, it will always represent what might have been.