TURIN: Cristiano Ronaldo made a mockery of Atletico Madrid’s vaunted defense, and then mocked its coach as well.
Ronaldo scored a hat trick against the normally resilient Spanish side to send Juventus into the Champions League quarterfinals with a 3-0 win on Tuesday as the Bianconeri fought back from a two-goal first-leg defeat.
The former Real Madrid player blasted home the decisive goal from a penalty with four minutes left to seal a 3-2 overall triumph having made the breakthrough in the 27th minute and levelled the aggregate score three minutes after halftime with another towering header for his first hat-trick since joining Juve in the summer and just when they needed it most.
He celebrated at the final whistle by mimicking the obscene gesture Atletico coach Diego Simeone made after the Spanish side’s second goal in the first leg having the final say against rivals he so often defeated as a Real player.
Simeone was fined 20,000 euros ($22,500) by UEFA for improper conduct and it remains to be seen whether Ronaldo will face a similar punishment.
It was Ronaldo’s eighth hat-trick in the Champions League, moving him level with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and demonstrating why Juventus paid Real Madrid 112 million euros (then $131.5 million) for the Portugal star who has dominated the competition in recent years.
It was the first time Juve came back from a two-goal defeat in the first leg. The Italian champions have not won the Champions League since 1996 and have finished runners-up twice in the past four seasons.
“Maybe that’s why Juventus signed me,” Ronaldo said. “To help do things that they have never done before. This result is a great push for the future, we’re strong and we showed it.”
The 34-year-old Ronaldo has won the Champions League five times, including in four of the last five seasons, and is aiming to win the Champions League with his third different club, having also lifted the trophy with Manchester United. Without him, Real were eliminated by Ajax last week.
However, Ronaldo had only scored one goal in the competition for Juve until Tuesday.
“It would have been strange if Ronaldo’s Champions League season ended with only one goal,” Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “Juventus signed him for nights like this and tonight he made the difference.”
For Atletico, it was more heartache in the competition in the year the final is being held in their Wanda Metropolitano Stadium and more pain caused by Ronaldo. While at Real, Ronaldo helped beat Atletico in two Champions League finals.
He has also now scored 25 goals in 33 matches against Atletico in his career. “He’s the best in the world,” Simeone said.
Atletico were a shadow of the team who had run riot in the first leg and failed to muster a shot on target as they paid the price for an ultra-cautious approach by the defensive-minded Simeone.
“We suffered, as happened to them in the first leg. They’re through and that’s right. They deserved it ... Maybe I didn’t manage to transmit to my players what we needed.”
RAMPANT CITY DEMOLISH SCHALKE
Manchester City are also through to the final eight after routing Schalke 04 7-0 at their Etihad Stadium in the night’s other game to progress 10-2 on aggregate.
City’s record home win in Europe did not look likely after a quiet opening 35 minutes but once Sergio Aguero began the rout from the penalty spot it became embarrassingly easy as City reached the last eight for the third time in four years.
Aguero doubled City’s lead three minutes later and the impressive Leroy Sane made it 3-0 before halftime.
Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva finished off flowing moves after the break and youngster Phil Foden bagged his first European goal before Gabriel Jesus made it seven, rounding off the biggest ever Champions League defeat for a German side.
City, who trailed 2-1 in the away leg with 10 men before turning it around late on, join local rivals Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in Friday’s quarter-final draw, the first time since 2011 that at least three English clubs are in the last eight.
With Real Madrid and Paris St Germain having been knocked out, Guardiola’s side will fancy their chances of going all the way for the first time in the competition.
“It was a clear result. We didn’t start that well, we were a bit scared to play,” Guardiola, whose side racked up the biggest aggregate win by an English club in the knockout rounds, said. “But after it went 1-0, we relaxed and decided to play and be aggressive.”
Schalke’s players were barracked by their own fans at the end of a miserable night for Domenico Tedesco’s side who face a fight to preserve their Bundesliga status.
“You can imagine how I’m feeling. Terrible,” Tedesco said. “We played well for 30 minutes, but after we went 1-0 down, we had an extreme drop off in performance.”
With two months left of the season, a quadruple of trophies remains on for City, who have already won the English League Cup, are top of the Premier League, and play second-tier Swansea City in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.
Winning the Champions League for the first time will be the toughest task with City’s best performance a semi-final appearance in 2016 under Guardiola’s predecessor Manuel Pellegrini.
“Real are out but still Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo,” Guardiola said. “He goes there to win the Champions League with Juventus. He has all the pressure on his shoulders, he scores three against Atletico and goes through that is the type of guy you face [in] the next stages. We are going to try. If it doesn’t work, I am sorry but I assure you next season we are going to try.”
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2019