Late goals by central defenders Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin earned Atletico Madrid a 2-0 victory over Juventus in their Champions League round-of-16 first leg at the Wanda Metropolitano, amid more video assistant referee (VAR) controversy.
The tie saw losers of four of the past five finals face off, with both sides renowned for their defensive solidity. This was the first round in the tournament’s history in which VAR was in use and, just as it had in last week’s matches, the new technology heavily impacted this clash.
With the game seemingly heading for a 0-0 draw, Gimenez pounced after a goalmouth scramble with 12 minutes remaining to give Atletico the lead before Godin put the hosts in a commanding position five minutes later.
Atletico forward Costa set the tone for the evening inside eight minutes when he was booked for refusing to retreat from a Juve free-kick, and the yellow was costly as it ruled him out of the return leg.
Despite being nearly 30 metres out, Cristiano Ronaldo came close for the visitors from the resulting free-kick, with goalkeeper Jan Oblak producing a fine save to tip the effort over.
Atletico thought they had a penalty on 28 minutes when Mattia Di Sciglio tangled with Diego Costa on the edge of the box. The referee pointed to the spot before consulting the VAR and changing his decision to a free-kick just outside the area.
Antoine Griezmann’s swerving effort forced a save by Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Costa should have opened the scoring on 49 minutes when Griezmann pounced on a lax Giorgio Chiellini header to put the ex- Chelsea forward clean through with an inch-perfect pass. However, Costa shot wide despite successfully deceiving Szczesny, who dived the wrong way.
And moments later, Szczesny made a superb save from a Griezmann lob before Chiellini cleared for a corner ahead of the incoming Costa after the rebound came off the bar. That proved to be Costa’s final act in the match as he was replaced by ex- Juventus man Alvaro Morata.
One of the game’s biggest talking points came on 71 minutes when Morata got in behind Chiellini to head past Sczcesny — only for the referee to reverse the decision after consulting with VAR.
But, just seven minutes later, Gimenez scored after Juventus had failed to clear the lines following a corner, with the visitors asking for VAR check following a supposed foul on Leonardo Bonucci.
And Godin put Atletico in an even stronger position after the Serie A leaders failed to deal with a free-kick and the veteran defender poked the ball home via a Ronaldo deflection.