Atletico Madrid 2-2 Juventus:
Last-minute Herrera strike splits the points in Group D thriller
Photo Credit(gettyimages/SoccratesImages)

Atletico Madrid 2-2 Juventus: Last-minute Herrera strike splits the points in Group D thriller

Atletico came back from two goals down to hold Juventus to a dramatic 2-2 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Wednesday. 

Uttiyo Sarkar

Atletico Madrid salvaged a 2-2 draw against Juventus at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium to get their group stages campaign off with a real bang. After the Bianconeri had taken a comfortable lead through Juan Cuadrado and Blaise Matuidi’s goals, Madrid rallied back with Stefan Savic’s goal, before Hector Herrera’s last-minute strike split the points in Group D.

Story of the Match

Things started in an end-to-end fashion with both teams desperate to draw first-blood. The hosts created the first chance in the 10th minute when Joao Felix ran from his own half to Juventus’ penalty area past multiple players, but his toe-poke shot was parried out by Wojciech Szczesny.

Jose Gimenez had a golden opportunity to open scoring seconds later, but his powerful header went just over. In the 14th minute, Felix had another chance to score from Kieran Trippier’s promising cross, but his header was saved. Cristiano Ronaldo received a nasty response from Atletico fans, which forced him to try an ambitious long-ranger saved comfortably by Oblak in the 23rd minute.

Both Portuguese stars took a few swipes at goal towards the end, but neither could make an impact in a cagey first-half.

However, Juventus lit up proceedings immediately after the break, as Leonardo Bonucci flung the ball forward for Gonzalo Higuain to launch a counter-attack in the 48th minute. The Argentine did well to find an onrushing Juan Cuadrado on the right, as the Colombian did a fancy step-over before striking a sweet curler which raced into the top corner to give the Bianconeri the lead.

Atletico took their gloves off after going behind. They bewildered Juventus’ back-line with a stunning one-touch play between Saul Niguez, Trippier and Koke in the 59th minute, but Gimenez’s shot rocketed over the posts.

However, the visitors doubled their lead in the 65th minute when Alex Sandro’s stunning cross from the left perfectly fell for Blaise Matuidi, whose header was too strong for Oblak to keep out. Atletico did pull one back five minutes later, when a free-kick was flung onto Gimenez’s head and he found Stefan Savic who headed in from close range, making it 1-2.

Juventus had the chance to put the game to bed three minutes later, but Higuain’s shot from close range was saved by Oblak before Matuidi’s follow up was cleared off the line by Trippier. Atletico pegged for an equalizer and finally got it in the 90th minute, when Trippier’s corner was flicked in by substitute Hector Herrera to lift the roof of the Wanda Metropolitano.

Ronaldo had a chance to score a dramatic winner in the 94th minute after skipping past multiple defenders, but his low shot just skimmed wide of the target to end the game in thrilling fashion.

Takeaways from the Game

Juventus’ outcasts make their mark

Maurizio Sarri stuck to his guns in starting the less popular Blaise Matuidi and Juan Cuadrado over the likes of Aaron Ramsey or Federico Bernardeschi in such a crunch game. However, he wasn’t disappointed as both ended up finding the back of the net in style. Cuadrado maintained a proactive figure going forward, but his sensational finish reaffirmed his quality. Matuidi also worked all over the pitch to get his side going, but his instinctive header proved that x-factor in him. Mingled with this, Gonzalo Higuain continued his revival back at Juventus with a delightful assist for the opener. With these players all contributing valiantly with their impressive work-rate, Sarri’s ability to churn the best out of static talents is being showcased once again.

Atletico are deadly in set-pieces

Kieran Trippier’s added another dimension to Atletico Madrid’s attacking scheme, with his fantastic set-piece delivery fitting perfectly with Simeone’s style. The Argentine’s always preferred having physically capable players with the tendency to launch themselves in set-pieces and that paid off to mount the comeback against Juventus. Indeed, it was a looping in-direct free-kick which allowed Gimenez to assist Savic heading home in the first, before Trippier’s inviting corner was leapt on by Hector Herrera to get the dramatic equalizer. Simeone’s clearly churned his side to capitalize on from free-kicks and corners. Considering the quality involved, teams will think twice before sloppily conceding set-pieces against them.

Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs De Ligt partnership a work in progress

Juventus actually managed to keep a tight defensive line for a long time but ended up crumbling apart against the set-pieces drilled in by the visitors. Neither Bonucci nor De Ligt could take control to clear away the deliveries, inviting pressure onto themselves by conceding even more of them. While Bonucci did showcase his strong defensive skills by keeping Diego Costa quiet, he wasn’t so effective in thwarting off Atletico’s aerial delivery. De Ligt also effectively got the better off fellow teenage-sensation Joao Felix but failed to establish his authority when it really mattered. Of course, promising signs are there with their stellar defensive contribution, but those cheap goals to concede proves this partnership still needs to work on solidifying certain elements.

Stand-Out Players

Trippier is proving to be a bargain buy for the Los Rojiblancos, as he created a mammoth seven chances against Juventus to keep his side in the game. While he was defensively solid, making timely challenges to keep Ronaldo at bay, the English wing-backs prowess was shown in those corners. After some sumptuous delivery, he finally received his well-earned assist when Herrera scored the equalizer to help validate his brilliant performance on both sides of the field.

Cuadrado also shone through in the big-game scenario, marching forward with intent to cause the hosts all sorts of problems. Not only did the Colombian ride forward with pace and link well with his attackers, but proved his ability with a beautiful curler. He still possesses a lot of spice in his game-play and reiterated how he’s here to stay at the Bianconeri indefinitely.