• Morata sends Juventus into finals at Madrid’s expense

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    MADRID: Juventus will face Barcelona in the Champions League finals after Alvaro Morata came back to haunt former club and holders Real Madrid with the precious away goal in a 1-1 draw in the second leg of their semifinals on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) to progress 3-2 on aggregate.

    With Juventus leading 2-1 from the first leg, Cristiano Ronaldo’s first-half penalty had put the hosts ahead on away goals.

    However, Morata, who left Madrid for the Italian champions last July, struck the vital blow when he volleyed home Paul Pogba’s knockdown on 57 minutes to take Juventus to their first final in 12 years in Berlin on June 6.

    The final will see Barca’s Luis Suarez face Giorgio Chiellini, who he was banned four months for biting at the World Cup, and Patrice Evra, who the Uruguayan was charged with racially abusing during their time at Liverpool and Manchester United respectively.

    “It was a difficult match because Madrid have so much strength up front if you are not concentrated they will punish you,” said Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri.

    “We had a lot of chances in which we lacked the final pass. We deserved to be in the final because the boys grew as the game went on.

    “We maintained a great balance throughout the game and stayed strong mentally.”

    Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti meanwhile may have overseen his final European game in charge of Los Blancos and claimed his side lacked the luck they had in scoring in stoppage time in last season’s final.

    “We lacked very little, it was small details,” said Ancelotti.

    “We didn’t have a lot of luck. If we had luck to win the Champions League in the last minute then maybe we lacked it tonight.

    “If I have to criticize something it would be the way we played in the first leg. I thank my players because they have worked as hard as they could.”

    Soaring temperatures of over 30 degrees celsius didn’t prevent a frantic start to the match as the hosts went looking for the goal they needed from the off.

    Gareth Bale had the first chance as he headed over Marcelo’s cross before Karim Benzema blasted off target from a narrow angle having turned Stephan Lichtsteiner brilliantly inside the area.

    The unrelenting Madrid pressure continued as Bale’s piledriver was brilliantly turned behind by Gianluigi Buffon.

    However, there was nothing the Italian captain could do to prevent Ronaldo registering his 10th goal in Champions League semi-finals from the spot after James Rodriguez had been felled by Giorgio Chiellini midway through the half.

    Buffon came to his side’s rescue with two more saves from Benzema, whilst Ronaldo also smashed into the side-netting and wasted a clear opening by trying to square for Isco with the goal at his mercy before half-time.

    Claudio Marchisio was first to take aim after the break as his driven effort flew just beyond Casillas’s right-hand post.

    Juventus did get the all-important away goal just before the hour mark when Madrid failed to fully clear from Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick and Morata was on hand to volley home after Pogba outmuscled Sergio Ramos.

    Bale had the chance to silence his critics five minutes later as Marcelo stormed down the left and his low cross was sliced wide by the Welshman at the near post.

    Casillas kept Madrid in the tie as he spread himself to make a fine save from Marchisio as the game raged from end to end.

    Bale headed over from Ronaldo’s cross as the European champions grip on the trophy started to slip away.

    Casillas denied Juventus victory on the night by getting strong hands to Pogba’s drive.

    But their captain’s efforts were in vain as Madrid’s final realistic hopes of winning a major trophy this season disappeared and Juventus progressed to their eighth European Cup final. AFP

    Full result of Champions League semi-final second leg match between holders Real Madrid and Juventus:

    Real Madrid (ESP) 1 (Cristiano Ronaldo 23-pen) Juventus (ITA) 1 (Morata 57)

    Teams Real Madrid:
    Iker Casillas (capt) – Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo – Isco, Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez – Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema (Javier Hernandez 67), Cristiano Ronaldo
    Yellow cards: Isco (32),
    James Rodriguez (44)
    Coach: Carlo Ancelotti (ITA)

    Juventus:
    Gianluigi Buffon (capt) – Stephan Lichtsteiner, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Patrice Evra – Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo (Andrea Barzagli 79), Arturo Vidal – Paul Pogba (Roberto Pereyra 89) – Carlos Tevez, Alvaro Morata (Fernando Llorente 84)
    Yellow cards: Carlos Tevez (70), Stephan Lichtsteiner (77)
    Coach: Massimiliano Allegri (ITA)
    Referee: Jonas Eriksson (SWE)

    AFP

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