TURIN (Reuters) – Juventus have never before overturned a two-goal deficit at home in European competition – but then they never had Cristiano Ronaldo leading their attack.
If the aim of buying the five-times World Player of the Year really was to make a difference on big Champions League nights it certainly paid off on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old got his eighth Champions League hat-trick, two headers and a late penalty, as Juve overturned a 2-0 last-16 first leg deficit against Atletico Madrid by winning 3-0.
“It was meant to be a special night and it was, not just for my goals but for the attitude we showed,” said Ronaldo. “That is the sort of mentality you need to win the Champions League.
“This was why Juventus brought me here,” he added. “To help do things that they have never done before.”
It was all very different to the first leg where former Real Madrid forward Ronaldo was jeered by Atletico fans and the home side’s second goal took a deflection off him.
Angry at the barracking, the Portuguese replied by holding up five fingers to remind them of the five times he had won Europe’s elite club competition.
Ronaldo, who one year ago scored a memorable bicycle kick goal for Real at Juve in a Champions League match and was applauded off the field by the home fans in Turin, had also begun to look stale in recent Serie A matches.
But he was rested against Udinese on Friday and was raring to go on Tuesday.
Atletico, who had not conceded a goal in their previous four Champions League games, packed their defence believing they could shut Ronaldo out again.
They made no serious attempt to get an away goal which could have put a different complexion on the tie and paid the price
With Federico Bernardeschi pumping crosses into the area, Atletico were never able cope with Ronaldo’s aerial threat.
“Atletico are a really tough team to face, but we are strong too and proved we deserved to go through,” said Ronaldo.
Elsewhere, Pep Guardiola described his Manchester City side as “teenagers” in the Champions League before the second leg of their last-16 clash with Schalke 04 but with their resounding 7-0 rout of the Germans they showed they are growing up fast.
Having left it late to earn a 3-2 win in the first leg, City took a while to hit their stride at The Etihad on Tuesday but when they did Guardiola’s team produced a magnificent attacking display that will ring alarm bells around Europe.
Admittedly they were up against a side who had leaked 11 goals in their last three Bundesliga games and are in danger of relegation, but City’s movement, energy and clinical edge would have left far better teams in tatters.
City, for all their investment and domestic silverware, have still reached only one semi-final in their seven previous Champions League campaigns. But they have won 17 of their last 19 matches in all competitions and won nine and drawn one of their last 10 and have a momentum that could carry them to the final in Madrid.
“We are delighted to be in the quarter-finals,” Guardiola, who twice took Barcelona to Champions League glory, told reporters. “The last 15 minutes and the second half we were incredibly good, quick and dynamic.
“I know Schalke are in a tough period but even in that situation you have to do your job.”