TURIN, Italy – Italy’s sports daily newspapers hailed Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo on Wednesday for striking a stunning hat-trick to earn his side a 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid, for a 3-2 aggregate victory in their UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie.
The Portugal international, who hoisted the Champions League trophy in each of the last three years as a member of Real Madrid, bagged two headers and a penalty, single-handedly powering a comeback that sent the Serie A giants into the quarterfinals of Europe’s elite club competition.
“Wrath of God,” was the headline in the Italian sports paper La Gazzetta dello Sport, with a photo of the 34-year-old goal machine seemingly imitating a gesture made by Atletico’s Argentine coach Diego Simeone after his side won 2-0 in the first leg.
Turin-based daily Tuttosport led with “Martians,” calling the club a “giant” with a poster of the squad celebrating the victory achieved at Juventus Stadium.
Although it did not hesitate to criticize the striker in recent months, Sports daily Corriere dello Sport praised the “legendary” skills of Ronaldo, the Champions League all-time leading scorer with a record of 124 goals.
Last year’s final, between Real Madrid and Liverpool, was the first since 2014 to not include either Atletico Madrid or Juventus.
With the help of Ronaldo, Madrid defeated Atletico in 2014 and 2016, while Juventus went down in 2015 and 2017 to Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively.
Atletico, whose Wanda Metropolitano stadium is the venue for this year’s final, won the first leg 2-0 and took a conservative approach to Tuesday night’s duel at Turin’s Allianz Stadium, where the home side went for goals from the starting whistle.
Juve’s Giorgio Chiellini put the ball in the Atletico net in the 4th minute, but the goal was called back for a Ronaldo foul on goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
Atleti did an admirable job of keeping their shape, yet the pressure continued to build and the breakthrough came in the 27th minute, when Ronaldo got his head to Federico Bernardeschi’s cross and beat Oblak to cut the visitors’ edge in half.
Cristiano threatened twice more before half-time: a bicycle kick and another header that both went wide and the teams went to the dressing rooms with the tie still in the balance.
Three minutes into the second half, Ronaldo’s header off Joao Cancelo’s cross drove Oblak back into the net. Though the keeper made the stop, enough of the ball crossed the line for the referee to signal goal.
Both coaches made changes. Atletico’s Diego Simeone pulled Thomas Lemar in favor of Angel Correa and Bianconeri manager Massimiliano Allegri opted to replace Leonardo Spinazzola with Paulo Dybala.
The match then settled into an extended quiet stretch until the 80th minute, when Allegri took the bold step of sending in 19-year-old Moise Kean, the star of last week’s Serie A win against Udinese.
Kean had a chance to score the winner, but failed in the 1-on-1 with Oblak.
With five minutes left in regulation, Correa brought down Bernardeschi in the box and the referee awarded a penalty.
Ronaldo, who dispatched Juve from the spot last season for Real Madrid, fooled Oblak and converted to set off delirium among the 40,000-plus in the stands at the Allianz.