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Ronaldo lifts Juventus into Champions League quarterfinals

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a spectacular hat-trick to fire Juventus into the Champions League quarterfinals with a 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid on Tuesday that saw his side claim a thrilling tie 3-2 on aggregate.

The Portuguese superstar scored two headers either side of half-time and a late penalty to clinch a place in Friday’s last-eight draw with a dominant display by the Italian champions in Turin.

“It was always going to be a special night and it was, not only for the goals, but for the team,” said Ronaldo. “This is the mentality of champions. This is why Juve brought me in, to help on magical nights like this.”

Diego Simeone’s Atletico were a shadow of the team who had run riot in the first leg in Madrid, and crashed out of the tournament they had been hoping to win in their own Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on June 1.

“The lads have shown great maturity,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri. “They interpreted the game at their best, I have to congratulate them. This is what we wanted in the first leg.”

“Tonight we were lucid, there was the risk of having a hysterical match, as if everything had to be done in 10 minutes,” he added.

It is the eighth time that Ronaldo has scored a hat-trick in the competition and mirrors his improbable treble which lifted former club Real Madrid past Wolfsburg in April 2016 with the Spaniards 2-0 down after the first leg.

The Champions League’s record scorer took his tally in the tournament to 124, with four goals this season.

Juventus signed 34-year-old Ronaldo last summer from Real Madrid for €100-million in order to make the difference on the continent for the Italian champions, who have not won the Champions League since 1996 and have finished runners-up twice in the past four seasons.

And five-time Ballon d’Or winner, Ronaldo, pulled out a spectacular performance as he spearheaded the attack along with Federico Bernardeschi and Mario Mandzukic.

Dominant Juve

Allegri’s side came out firing, dominating the first half with nine shots on goal compared to three for the Spaniards.

Atletico had an early scare when Juventus skipper Giorgio Chiellini, making his 500th Juve appearance, had the ball in the back of the net after four minutes.

But a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) review confirmed Ronaldo fouled goalkeeper Jan Oblak in a scramble in front of goal before defender Chiellini had finished off.

Defensive specialists Atletico held off the Juventus pressure until the 27th minute, when Ronaldo met a pin-point Bernardeschi cross to head home the opener.

Bernardeschi sent a curling free-kick just wide minutes later with Ronaldo missing a chance for a second when he headed wide.

A Chiellini header from a Miralem Pjanic corner was cleared by Oblak, before Alvaro Morata missed a chance for an away goal before the break when he shook off Leonardo Bonucci only to head over.

But back after the break Ronaldo levelled the tie with his second goal. A move he began from his own half with a pass to Leonardo Spinazzola down the left.

The ball was worked to Joao Cancelo, who crossed into the penalty area for Ronaldo, whose powerful header was pushed out by Oblak but not before it had crossed over the line.

Teenager Moise Kean missed a chance to put Juve ahead just after coming off the bench, sending wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.

But the decisive goal came with four minutes left when Bernardeschi burst into the penalty area from the left and was brought down by Angel Correa.

Ronaldo made no mistake from the spot to score his 25th goal against Atletico, and fourth hat-trick, to spark pandemonium among the home crowd.

“Juventus played in a similar way to what we did in the first leg. We struggled and they deservedly go through to the quarterfinals,” said Simeone.

“I don’t think it was our worst performance, nor did I see a lack of character. They simply played better and we have to congratulate them.”

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Emmeline Moore
Italian sports correspondent for @AFP based in Milan. All views my own.

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