April 12, 2018 / 9:47 AM / 3 months ago

Soccer: Juventus left with a mixture of pride and anger

MILAN (Reuters) - Juventus were left with what Gazzetta dello Sport described as a mixture of pride and anger after their extraordinary Champions League comeback against Real Madrid was thwarted by a contentious injury-time penalty.

Soccer Football - Champions League - Juventus Press Conference - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - April 10, 2018 Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri during the press conference REUTERS/Juan Medina

Having overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit at Real’s Bernabeu stadium on Wednesday, Juve were cruelly knocked out by a soft penalty converted by Cristiano Ronaldo in stoppage time of the quarter-final second leg.

The penalty, awarded for a foul by Medhi Benatia on Lucas Vazquez, was greeted with howls of protest although it was exactly the sort of decision which Juve’s rivals and critics say tend to go the way of the Turin side in Serie A.

Only four days earlier, Juventus had benefitted from two penalties - the second after Juve forward Gonzalo Higuain’s legs crumpled without any apparent contact from his marker - to win 4-2 at Benevento in Serie A.

Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri avoided direct criticism of the decision which meant, despite winning 3-1, his side were eliminated 4-3 on aggregate.

However, he could not resist pointing out that his team were denied a spot kick for a similar challenge on Juan Cuadrado in stoppage time of the first leg.

He was, however, proud of a performance which he said showed that Juve’s first leg defeat was merely an unfortunate blip rather than a true reflection of the gap between the two sides.

“If there is a feeling which prevails, it’s pride. The lads were marvellous and it was moving; we start again from here, with our heads high, very high,” he said.

“Games like these are great moments against the biggest clubs in the world. We want to be the best. Sometimes things go for you, and other times they don’t. We need to get over this hard moment and move forwards.

“We showed that Juve as a side and club have grown a lot in the last years.”

The phlegmatic coach, whose team lead Serie A by four points and have reached the Coppa Italia final, said Juventus must now focus on winning a domestic double.

“We have to react quickly from this blow because we still have titles to play for,” he said.

“It’s a pity because we proved that the result in Turin was not fair, but unfortunately it was not enough.” Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, sent off for his furious protests over the decision, bitterly criticised referee Michael Oliver immediately after the match, saying he was out of his depth and should have been in the stands eating crisps.

The 40-year-old was more reflective later, and appeared to confirm that the game, his 117th Champions League appearance, was also his last in the tournament.

“We started the game saying to each other that we had 0.000001 percent chance of qualifying but you never know in life, especially because we have a team with players with amazing characters who are capable of everything,” he said.

“Life goes on. I’m happy and proud of how we played, we made the impossible possible. It’s a shame it ends like this.”

Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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