From a purely dramatic point of view, it is somewhat fascinating with the mess that Juventus has entered. In its desperation to win the Champions League, every decision it has taken has apparently made that success less likely. An away defeat against Lyon in the round of 16 is a much bigger embarrassment than last season’s defeat against Ajax in the quarterfinals. The team that finished in seventh place in Ligue 1 is the one that advances to the season’s last eight final in Portugal, where it will face Manchester City, who finished the job against Real Madrid on Friday with relative ease.
Cristiano Ronaldo was signed in 201
Juventus have been crass all season, its ninth consecutive league title more the result of the grotesque financial imbalances in Serie A rather than its own excellence. This was the calculation that had come. Even after losing the first stage more than five months ago, there was a strange feeling that Juve did not think it could go out. As I said, Lyon took the lead in the 13th minute when Memphis Depay delivered a penalty on Panenka after Houssem Aouar (almost) had been fouled by Rodrigo Bentancur.
Juventus had the better of the game from then on, but its threat had been limited before it also received a successful penalty after the ball hit Depay’s arm. Ronaldo converted to kickstart what he hoped was a second straight year where Juve would go through after making three unanswered in the second stage.
At the hour mark, Ronaldo got a second, and it came nowhere. There had been no long-term pressure. It was not the result of a major move. Rather, he just buzzed a left foot in the upper corner from a position just outside the box.
It was a goal that seemed emblematic for modern football: the big team did not play very well but has players who can screw a game on its way. It can be argued that this is why Juventus spent so much on Ronaldo, for just that kind of goal at that very kind of moment.
Despite this, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the argument that the cost of the flow of the team has been worth it.
In a less dramatic way, Madrid suffered a similar fate, a 2-1 defeat to City that completed a 4-2 overall exit. But what was striking was the smaller result than the way it was done, as Madrid made a catalog of mistakes as if it had not been used to challenge domestically and it has lost the ability to deal with when the law opposes it. Even his standards pushed City hard and high early, but Madrid’s discomfort was still unexpected, the feeling of stunned mistrust that was evoked directly to Raheem Sterling’s goal when Gabriel Jesus drove Raphael Varane into his own box.
But City are also vulnerable defensively. It has struggled to sit on a left-back all season, and in the absence of suspended Benjamin Mendy, it was Joao Cancelo who took the role. He was beaten too easily by Rodrygo, and even though his cross was accurate, it was still a bit puzzling that Karim Benzema could get a head to it undoubtedly by any of the three City players around him.
City presented an exciting dilemma, one that highlighted the limitations (and undoubtedly the glory) of the Pep Guardiola philosophy. The pressing tactics used by Madrid were successful as the ball remained close to the half way line at all times. Thibaut Courtois was given a chance to change things around. And with the away goal rule, City could not afford to be drawn into a free for all. It’s there, maybe the ability to close a game can be valuable, but it’s a way of approaching the game that Guardiola is ideologically opposed to.
But in the end, Madrid’s mistake was overwhelming. The idea only began to form that City could pay for his failure to punish Madrid’s negligence in possession when Varane misjudged an obvious clearance and then did not get enough power on his backward head, which allowed Jesus to score with a strong finish. Whether the chaos was the result of Sergio Ramos’ absence (his red card in the first leg ruled him out for the second) or the inability to be pressured – or perhaps a little by both – Madrid’s jitters were extraordinary for a team that effectively won La Liga at the back of his defensive record.
Man City and Lyon may have straightened out, but the deeper impression was how poor the champions of Italy and Spain looked when they went out.