But in the close-up Peps gaze seemed already focused on the match to come and his mind must have been racing to remember where he put the Porto rematch playbook.
Four minutes later Rakitic found Messi again just outside the box and on the right of goal and with Bayerns Boateng marking him closely. One was left to imagine what it might have been like with those two attacking superstars present.
The Turin side dominated play for stretches and though Madrid had its chances it was Juventus who created the greater number. The Barca striker eluded his marker with a simple move, but one that so thoroughly mystified Boateng that the defender seemed to drop backward like a fallen tree. The match was nonetheless action packed as the quality of the m88 players created and diffused opportunities all over the pitch. Bayern, playing without Arjen Robben or Frank Ribery were every bit their hosts equal if not as potent offensively. But the match settled into a more even-handed pace thereafter, albeit with a decided Juve tint. Half an hour into the second half the rhythm for a draw seemed set, until a four-minute span of genius from Messi settled the match. The striker immediately turned assist man putting Neymar through at the 93rd minute. The current best keeper in the world was dominating play in his box. In the first nine minutes alone the Italians seemed to overwhelm their visitors and created chance after chance.
Those fortunate enough to catch the first half of the football game were treated to perhaps the highest level of competition the sport has to offer. The Spanish team had plenty of opportunities to open the score but were simply off target, particularly Suarez and Rakitic, whose long range cannon was not quite calibrated tonight.
Wednesday, at the Camp Nou, in Barcelona Spain, FC Barcelona defeated Bayern Munich 3-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semifinals. He was also fortunate that Neymar and Suarez did not score on a couple of plays that did see the Iberians get past their visitors keeper only to see the defense swoop in to save the day.
At matchs end visiting manager, Pep Guardiola, exchanged hugs with host Luis Enrique. The diminutive Argentine controlled the pass, settled it for a shot with a second touch, and boomed a low curler to Neuers lower left corner for the opening score.. Rizzoli rightfully called play on as Neymar was put one-on-one with Neuer.
Yesterday, in Turin, Italy, Juventus defeated Real Madrid 2-1 with goals from ex-Madrid striker Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez offsetting Cristiano Ronaldo’s easy header for Madrid. Referee, Nicola Rizzoli, who officiated the 2014 World Cup Final, and who called a pretty good match, then made the call of the game toward the middle of his five minutes of stoppage time. Then, as Neuer came out to close the angles and contest the shot, Messi simply chipped him with a long right-footed flip that also eluded a slide by a trailing defender for the 2-0 score.
Barca, needing a home win going into next weeks away match, went all out on offense with their vaunted striker trioLuis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messibacked-up by a midfield of Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta, and Sergio Busquets, put the Bayern defense on its heels for most of the match and the German defense was up to the task time and again.
At the 77th minute Dani Alves passed to himself around a Bayern defender and then found Messi at the edge of the box, on the right of goal. He was the classic libero at times and the perfectly placed keeper nearly every time. The Brazilian striker stutter stepped before placing the ball past the rushing keeper who had bought the feint and was grounded when the ball rolled by. Barca 3, Bayern 0, and ghosts of Champions Leagues past seemed to evaporate before the fans eyes.
The second half began as a replica of the first and the match seemed destined to end 0-0, particularly with Bayern not managing a shot on goal all match. Suarez was clearly fouled in the center circle but the ball trickled out of the clash and onto Messis boot. Also at play will be Ancelotti’s tactics as playing Sergio Ramos in mid-field and starting a red-hot Chicharito on the bench were made to look as foolish as they sounded.
The possession of the first half was nearly identical but the Germans did not have a single shot on goal. What will be at play in next week’s Bernabeu clash is Real’s pride as not one of their players seemed to be competing at his best in this match. The rubber match is next week in Germany. The return match should be one to watch despite the fact that a single goal win by Real would see them through on the away-goal rule. The Italian club’s slim margin and Real’s away goal seemed to augur well for Carlo Ancelotti’s men on their return to the Berabeu next week.
Juventus 2, Real Madrid 1
Manuel Neuer, laying early claim to man of the match honors, was making spectacular stops, particularly on a one-on-one against Suarez
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