Sports desk: Gianluigi Buffon’s Champions League career looks likely to end in a red mist of rage after Cristiano Ronaldo’s late penalty on Wednesday rescued Real Madrid from a pulsating Juventus comeback.
Buffon’s anger earned him a red card from English referee Michael Oliver, moments before Ronaldo slammed a 97th-minute penalty into the top corner to send Real into the semi-finals.
Oliver’s decision was not as poor as Buffon claimed. Mehdi Benatia’s challenge on Lucas Vazquez had been clumsy, from behind and a desperate attempt to stop the Spaniard finishing from five yards.
But Juve had made the impossible possible, having cancelled out a 3-0 deficit from the first leg, to lead by the same scoreline at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Buffon, who has racked up 125 Champions League appearances but never won the competition, could not contain his frustration as Ronaldo’s goal made the aggregate score 4-3.
“This referee has no heart, he has a garbage bag instead of a heart,” Buffon told Italian channel Mediaset Premium after the match.
“If you do not have personality and courage, you should go to the stands to watch the match with your wife and a Sprite.”
Benatia controversially likened the penalty decision to being “raped”.
Amidst the swarm of Juventus players surrounding Oliver, and Buffon at the front of them, Ronaldo kept his cool. This was a record-strecthing 11th consecutive Champions League game in which he has scored.
“I do not understand why they protest against the penalty,” Ronaldo told beIN Sports.
“If he did not commit the foul, Lucas would have scored. During the game, Benatia and the rest of them had already been kicking us from behind. But we are happy and we are in the semi-finals.”
Real coach Zinedine Zidane was more sympathetic towards Buffon.
“He did not deserve that,” Zidane said. “But we cannot change it. It will not take away everything he has done, even if it’s a shame to end his Champions League career this way.”
Mario Mandzukic set Juve on their way with a goal after 76 seconds — the fastest Real have ever conceded in this competition — and then scored again before half-time with another header at the back post.
When Keylor Navas fumbled Douglas Costa’s cross on the hour, allowing Blaise Matuidi to stab home, Juve were on the cusp of ensuring there would be no Spanish representative in the last four.
But Oliver blew, Buffon exploded and Ronaldo hit the net.
“It leaves a bitter taste,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said.
“Because we have not had the chance to take the game to extra-time. In view of the two legs both teams would have deserved to move on to the next phase.”
Real, meanwhile, edge one step closer to claiming an unprecedented third consecutive Champions League triumph, a fourth in five years.
They join Bayern Munich, who knocked out Sevilla, Liverpool and Roma in Friday’s semi-final draw.
“What I did not expect is in minute one to score a goal,” Zidane said. “By conceding the goal after a minute, you drop your head and give them life. Then they played a good game — they were good and we were bad.”
Gareth Bale perhaps paid the heaviest price. Bale had been handed his first Champions League start since September by Zidane but the Welshman was hauled off at half-time, with his team 2-0 down. Casemiro also made way as Marco Asensio and Vazquez came on.
“Something had to change,” Zidane said. “I was not happy with the approach, it was not to punish Gareth or Casemiro. “
“We have changed a little more the dynamics, with Lucas and Marco giving us a little more energy. We had to do it.”AFP.