By Graham Hunter in Madrid
Real Madrid CF are on course for their fourth UEFA Champions League final in six seasons thanks to a hard fought 2-1 victory over Juventus FC at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Roberto Carlos winner
Goals from the Brazilian duo of Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos handed Madrid the win but Marcello Lippi will treasure his side's away goal, scored seconds before half-time by David Trezeguet.
From the outset it was evident that Vicente del Bosque had been more than honest in his pre-match promise to cure Madrid's problems by increasing their attacking options rather than opting for even a hint of conservatism. Seeking to take advantage of the absence of the suspended Edgar Davids and Alessio Tacchinardi in Juventus's central midfield, the Madrid coach surprised even the most seasoned spectators of his stellar team.
Capitalising on Fernando Morientes' recent sparkling form, the previously exiled striker was paired with Ronaldo. In central midfield, Guti played next to Claude Makelele, far from the defensive addition of Flavio Conceição which both Fernando Hierro and Iván Helguera had hinted at after Saturday's 5-1 home defeat against RCD Mallorca.
Zidane on fire
As a result Madrid made the early running - although at a gentler pace than the electric first half they laid on in the quarter-finals against Manchester United FC. Zinedine Zidane, playing against his former team-mates, initiated Juventus' problems. Finding space wherever he roamed it was the Frenchman's calm, intelligent passing which gradually established Madrid's rhythm.
Buffon to the rescue
Ten minutes in and Zidane's ability to beat Juve's marking system earned Igor Tudor a dressing down from midfield player Antonio Conte. Then with the dead ball, from a free-kick conceded by Conte himself on Ronaldo, Zidane brought the finest of one-handed saves from Gianluigi Buffon.
With 23 minutes on the clock, Ronaldo opened the scoring. Turning in midfield, he played a wall pass off Morientes, whose body position took Mark Iuliano out of the play, and the Brazilian stroked past Buffon with his right foot.
Juventus' positive moments were sparse; a Pavel Nedved shot into the arms of Iker Casillas minutes after the goal being a highlight. As Madrid increasingly imposed themselves, without ever hitting top gear, the Italian side's composure was rattled.
Iuliano, Alessandro Birindelli and Gianluca Zambrotta and Ciro Ferarra were all booked and Iuliano and Ferarra now miss the return leg in Turin next Wednesday. However, against the run of play, Juve's only real chance of the half produced an equaliser in added time. Alessandro Del Piero wriggled free on the right, Hierro could not match his pace and his shot hit Míchel Salgado, leaving David Trezeguet to slot past Casillas.
Bad news for Madrid
Barely five minutes into the second half the news got worse for Madrid. Ronaldo hobbled to the side of the pitch, clearly struggling after Iuliano's first-half challenge, and with the Brazilian unable to continue, Javier Portillo was introduced.
Home nerves were frayed still further by both Makelele and Roberto Carlos giving the ball away as Juve pressed Casillas' goal. Yet it was only a superb athletic tackle from Zambrotta that prevented Guti putting the holders ahead again from Zidane's 61st-minute pass.
Madrid's breakthrough came in the 73rd minute when a corner found Roberto Carlos and he beat Buffon from the edge of the area with a stunning left-foot effort. The assistant referee flagged for offside but, after discussions with referee Terje Hauge, decided that the three Madrid players were not interfering with play and what may prove to be a crucial winner stood.