At Allianz Stadium on Wednesday, Juventus had to win by a three-goal margin to progress in their UEFA Champions League Group of 16 tie against Atletico Madrid. The Spaniards had previously won 0-2 at home with two late, fortunate goals.
This is the type of challenge that has Cristiano Ronaldo salivating.
In Turin, Ronaldo scored a hat trick to eliminate Atleti 3-0, 3-2 on aggregate. He has now scored 124 Champions League goals, 18 more than his closest rival, Lionel Messi, at 106, 53 more than Raul, in third place all time, and 61 more than Karim Benzema, in fourth place.
Only the diehard Juve faithful had any hope that the visiting defensive stalwarts, who had not conceded a goal in their four previous European matches, would concede the needed three to see the Italians through.
The pundits at every major media outlet from ESPN to Sports Illustrated, from Bleacher Report to Univision Deportes, and from BeIn Sports to CBS News, the refrain was unanimous—Atletico would progress at Juve and Ronaldo’s expense.
The match was tense and included an early, disallowed Ronaldo-enabled goal which could have gone either way, and two clear hand balls by Atleti which the referee missed.
The Portuguese superstar was on a mission, though, and on the night no one was going to deny him. He powered in two headers with men hanging on him (27th and 49th) and the winning penalty at the 86th minute. The Italians, who turned in a fine defensive effort, not allowing Atletico a single shot on goal the entire game, hung on after the third goal for another nine minutes, counting stoppage time, and then the fans and team let loose in celebration.
Ronaldo’s second hat trick against Atleti was his fourth in four years in European competition (Wolfburg, 2016, Bayern Munich 2017, Atletico Madrid, 2017, and 2019). He has eight hat tricks overall, including against lesser sides such as Shakhtar, Malmo, Galatasaray, and Ajax. This year he is also second in Serie A scoring with 19 goals and first in assists with eight.
This night, Juve president and owner Andrea Agnelli had all the reasons to celebrate his recent purchase. The man he hopes will bring him the coveted Champions League trophy had proven he was a worthy investment. And on a night no other Juve player had more than a single hope of a chance to score Ronaldo helped put four in the back of the net, including the three that counted most.