Draw in Turin has feel of victory for Real

Posted by Rob Train

Claudio Villa/Getty ImagesIker Casillas was back in net for Real Madrid and helped Los Blancos earn a 2-2 draw at Juventus.

When does a draw taste like victory? In Real Madrid's case, when you have won just four times in history on Italian soil, haven't beaten Juventus in Turin over 50 years and have never once shared the spoils with the Old Lady.

- Report: Juventus 2-2 Real Madrid

In overturning a few historical statistics in Turin on Tuesday night, Carlo Ancelotti's side pretty much played themselves into the Champions League knockout stages for a staggering 17th consecutive season in a pulsating 2-2 encounter. Juventus, meanwhile, prevented the fat lady from making an unwelcome appearance on European football's grandest stage.

Cristiano Ronaldo -- who equalled the record of eight goals scored by a single player in the group stages with two games remaining -- and Gareth Bale provided the strikes to cancel out Arturo Vidal's opener, with Fernando Llorente again hitting the target to earn Juventus a valuable point.

Real hadn't beaten Juventus in Italy in six attempts since a 1-0 win in 1962, courtesy of an Alfredo di Stefano goal, and during a first half in which Antonio Conte's side was fully aware that their Champions League future hung in the balance, the visitor was barely allowed to put its foot on the ball. Ancelotti chose to start with Xabi Alonso, hardly something that was going to throw the opposition in terms of team selection considering Real's recent problems keeping opposing sides from finding a way through to the back four. But he did spring a little surprise in playing Sergio Ramos on the right of defence; as much a commentary on his continued concerns over his full backs as the Sevillan's prowess both on the counter and his ability to cross with accuracy.

Not that Real was able to exploit much in the way of its attacking potential across the field in a very open first half. After largely controlling the opening exchanges, Ancelotti's side found itself under sustained pressure from the home side, led by the industry of Paul Pogba and the probing passes of Andrea Pirlo from the heart of a nominal 4-1-4-1 designed to drop back in number and attack in the same vein.

Real had Iker Casillas to thank for keeping the score level as Juventus sought to exploit their numerical superiority. The man from Mostoles prevented teammate Pepe from opening Juventus's account with an instinctive save from a deflection off the Portuguese defender and was again up to the challenge of the occasion when Juve point-man Llorente powered a header goalward, Casillas throwing out a leg -- a la his Arjen Robben save from the 2010 World Cup -- to deny his La Roja teammate.

But even the beatified stopper could not prevent Juve from taking the lead when Raphael Varane was penalized for bringing down the livewire Pogba. It was perhaps a little harsh, the Frenchmen colliding when Varane's trailing leg made contact with Pogba as the ball was zipping away from his command, but contact was made and Real can hardly complain on the soft penalty front this season. Vidal stepped up and hammered the ball into the roof of the net, giving Casillas no chance.

Perversely, the decision played into Real's hands to an extent. At the outset of the second period it quickly became clear that Conte had told his players to hit on the break, but at all costs to prevent Real from scoring: a case of aiming the gun at his own foot considering Real had found the net in their last 28 Champions League outings home and away. Ramos, particularly, posed a significant threat, freed as he was by the defensive cover afforded by Sami Khedira, who drifted to the right whenever the vice-captain ventured upfield.

Still, it took an error of colossal proportions for Real to crack Juventus. Martin Caceres attempted a square ball that fell directly to the feet of Karim Benzema, who set Ronaldo on his way. The Portuguese doesn't require too many invitations of the sort to join the party and duly burst through on goal and fired past Gianluigi Buffon, who was far from amused at being put in the position in the first place.

Minutes later, Alonso set himself like a ballet dancer to power a loose ball against the bar, while at the other end Pepe and Casillas combined to keep Juve out amid a goalmouth melee in which Claudio Marchisio almost pounced to score. But it would be Real who struck next, Ronaldo bringing down a high ball with an exquisite touch and feeding Bale on the right of the area, the former Tottenham man shooting low and hard to beat Buffon.

Juventus were not finished though, and Caceres went some way to redeeming himself by spraying a long cross that eluded Varane but found Llorente, who made no mistake from close range.

Ancelotti has now fielded 16 different line-ups in 16 games in charge of Real Madrid and in Turin he found the right formula to ensure Juventus was matched across the field in a game that was about as Italian as " 'Allo 'Allo"'s Captain Alberto Bertorelli. Apart from the mistakes made in recent games when allowing the opposition to regain a foothold from a winning position, Real came from behind at the Juventus Stadium, held on during a final Juve fling and even flirted with a famous victory on Italian soil.


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