The UEFA Champions League is nearing its end. The tournament is in the semi-final stages with rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid facing off, while Juventus play red-hot Monaco. The 1st leg of each round is complete and has left two teams in a hole to dig themselves out of. The excitement is felt all around the globe as even the US facing sportsbooks ramp up with the latest odds and betting lines on the semi-finals leg of the tournament.
The first match came out of Madrid. Real hosted Atletico and the scoring opened within the first ten minutes. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a header off an early cross, lighting up the stadium and bringing the fans into the game. Atletico seemed to be playing defense for most of the game with one of their only real chances coming in the 17th minute. The match remained 1-0 until the 73rd minute when Ronaldo bagged his second goal off an incredible half-volley. The nail in the coffin came in the 86th minute when Ronaldo completed his hat trick against a worn-down Atletico defense.
Ronaldo’s efforts set a record for the first player to complete two consecutive hat tricks in the Champions League. Real Madrid’s pressing and energy were consistent throughout the match and ultimately too much for Atletico to handle. If they carry this dominant performance into next week for the 2nd leg, Real Madrid will be on their way to a consecutive Champions League final appearance.
In Monaco, things proved to be difficult for the hosts. Veteran goalkeeper Gigi Buffon repelled all efforts made by Monaco throughout the match, and Juventus’ impeccable defense kept Monaco’s offense in check. The first goal came in the 29th minute and was some of the best teamplay seen in the tournament so far. After a flashy backheel pass from Dybala, defender Dani Avles played a one-two with Higuain before sprinting up the field and delivering another perfectly executed back heel pass for Higuain to hit into the back of the net.
The next goal came in the 59th minute after Alves closed down, won the ball and sent a perfectly weighted pass into the box for Higuain to finish through the goalkeeper’s legs. Monaco had been playing phenomenally in the rounds before this but were unable to penetrate Juventus’ firm defense. Juventus left Monaco with 2 vital away goals heading into the next fixture.
Monaco have the tougher battle in the 2nd leg, seeing as Juventus managed to bag those away goals. If Atletico can manage a couple of goals in their 2nd leg they can send the match into extra time. If Real happens to score again the goal differential will be burst wide open. Ronaldo will look to keep his scoring momentum going while Atletico will want to get their offense going. Juventus will host the 2nd leg in Turin, which means Monaco will have to deal with Juventus’ supporters along with their already stout defense. As things stand now, the Champions League final will be Real Madrid v. Juventus. Real won the tournament last year, and no team has ever won two years in a row. Atletico and Monaco will need nothing short of a miracle to advance, but this Champions League campaign alone has already seen the incredible happen.