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UCL: Cristiano Ronaldo Sinks Juve

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored one of the greatest goals in Champions League history as Real Madrid took a big step toward the semi-finals by powering past Juventus 3-0 on Tuesday night at the Juventus Stadium in Turin.
The Portuguese superstar lived up to the billing, scoring a goal in each half before Marcelo added the third that, for all intents and purposes, settled the tie between last season’s finalists.

But the story, and rightly so, will be Ronaldo. His overhead kick to score Real’s second of the night in the 64th minute was so superb, so sensational, that even the stunned Juventus fans offered up applause for the otherworldly strike.

With the brace, Ronaldo has now scored in every Champions League match in which he has appeared this season. More importantly, his goals have Real nearing a 13th European title.

After much speculation, Real manager Zinedine Zidane opted to field the same XI that started last spring’s Champions League final against Juventus in Cardiff, which meant a start for Isco, while Gareth Bale took a seat on the bench.

Zidane’s decision paid off handsomely with Ronaldo stabbing home an effort to hand Real a 1-0 lead before three minutes had even lapsed. Marcelo fed a pass to an onside Isco down the left and the cross found a cutting Ronaldo, who fired in for the score.

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Juve sought a response and anyone with a pulse in Turin thought that Gonzalo Higuain had pulled the hosts level when he got on the end of a deep free-kick from Paulo Dybala, but Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas made a huge reaction save to maintain the advantage.

The Italians were creating chances though, much of it coming through the middle of the park via former Real man Sami Khedira, but the finishing wasn’t there. Real were staying patient, knowing that their chances would come and Toni Kroos almost took advantage when his long-range rocket slammed off the crossbar and out.

Juve were having to commit more numbers in attack, and that opened up room for Real, and Ronaldo came within inches of making it two when his shot from the right after a one-two combination with Karim Benzema skirted the far post.

Ronaldo’s near-miss was then followed up by a near miss for Dybala, whose deflected free-kick spun wide while a helpless Navas watched on. Zidane was not getting much from Benzema and needed to regain control of the midfield, so the French boss hauled off his No. 9 for Lucas Vazquez just shy of the hour mark.

Yet what would happen minutes later was simply one of the most spectacular goals one will ever see, and it had to be Ronaldo. A defensive miscue deep in the Juve penalty area saw Ronaldo feed a pass to Lucas Vazquez, whose shot was well-saved by Juve stopper Gigi Buffon. But Real controlled the rebound and Dani Carvajal served up a cross that Ronaldo bicycled in past Buffon for a goal that will long live in Real Madrid and Champions League lore.

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The goal was so impressive that even the Juve fans had to stand and applaud; more important for Real, it gave them a 2-0 lead. Dybala then did his side no favours by getting himself sent off for a reckless challenge on Carvajal, reducing an already down Juve to 10 men.

Real were running rampant, and the series was pretty much sealed up when Marcelo collected a pass from Ronaldo and loped past Buffon and into goal to extend the Real lead to 3-0.

By that point it was just damage control for Juve, yet a stinging shot from substitute from Mateo Kovacic almost made it four, but the shot rang off the crossbar.

In the end, it was a Real romp and another signal to the rest of Europe that it will take something special to knock out the reigning champs.

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