Juventus gave fresh hope to their UEFA Champions League campaign with a thrilling 2-2 draw against Real Madrid after Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale had put the Spaniards within sight of a fourth consecutive group win in Turin, Italy, on Tuesday.
With 10 points and games at home to Galatasaray and away to Copenhagen remaining, Real have reinforced top spot in Group B and are virtually qualified for the round-of-16.
Juventus dropped to last, but Copenhagen’s 1-0 home win over Galatasaray means Antonio Conte’s men now trail the Turks and the Danes by just one point, ahead of hosting the Danes and traveling to Istanbul.
Despite the Italians being without a win so far, Conte was buoyed by a performance which has left their knockout phase destiny in their own hands.
“It’s a positive result and seeing how much the players put into this game against a team like Real Madrid really satisfies me,” said the Italian, who led his side into the quarter-finals last season prior to elimination by champions Bayern Munich. “We were well organized, well prepared and we showed a lot of intensity. We drew, but we could have won this match.”
Conte sent out a similar setup to the one deployed in the 2-1 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Fernando Llorente partnering Carlos Tevez at the head of a 4-3-3 — a change from the Italians’ preferred 3-5-2 formation.
After a shaky start the Italian champions finally found their feet and held a 1-0 lead at the interval after Arturo Vidal’s 42nd-minute spot-kick following a foul on Paul Pogba by fellow Frenchman Raphael Varane.
However, Real turned the match in eight second-half minutes with Ronaldo chipping Gianluigi Buffon to level and then Bale beating the Italian goalkeeper on the hour mark with a clinical shot after sidestepping Kwadwo Asamoah, deployed as a leftback instead of his usual position on the wing.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti had spoken of the need for his side to rebalance recent defensive lapses, but he applauded his side’s improved performance after the break.
“We’ve progressed, but we’re still having problems finding the right balance, as we did at the end of the first half,” said Ancelotti, who sent a welcome boost to his former club.
Referee Howard Webb looked unimpressed when waving away two soft penalty claims by the hosts in the first half, but the Englishman finally pointed to the spot, amid protests from Real, after Varane made contact with Pogba, who tumbled to the left of goal to hand Juve a lifeline.
Vidal gave Iker Casillas no chance, smashing the ball into the top-right corner.
Juve endured a nervous end to the half, a Bale corner causing a scare and a first-time effort from Ronaldo following Marcelo’s weighted cut-back going high over the bar.
Ancelotti’s men continued as they had left off, pressing Juventus from the restart and being rewarded when Caceres blundered with a missed back-pass which Ronaldo, following Benzema’s layoff, deftly chipped over the onrushing Buffon.
Ronaldo’s eighth goal of the campaign knocked the wind from Juve’s sails and the visitors were unlucky when Xabi Alonso smashed a drive off the crossbar minutes later.
Just as belief began creeping back among the Bianconeri fans, following a dangerous Pogba pass across goal which Casillas blocked, Real took the lead in clinical fashion.
Bale picked up Ronaldo’s pass and turned Asamoah to send a smart left-footed strike inside Buffon’s near post.
However, Juve were back on level terms minutes later, Caceres making amends for his earlier blunder with a curling cross which Llorente headed past Casillas.
Real remained a constant threat, though, and despite Juventus creating chances late on, the Italians did well to take a share of the points.