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A superb goal in each half from captain Alessandro Del Piero gave Juventus a victory at Real Madrid CF which secured their place in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round with two matches to spare.
Juventus had not won on this ground in six visits, since a 1-0 triumph in February 1962, yet with Madrid having failed to keep a clean sheet in their preceding nine games, chances were always likely to be forthcoming. So it proved as Del Piero took advantage of hesitant defending to curl in the opener early in the first half, before he ended the home team's challenge with a trademark free-kick midway through the second. A late shot centimetres past the post almost completed a memorable hat-trick for the No10, four days before his 34th birthday, though there was still much for the visitors to celebrate.
Home coach Bernd Schuster had been forced into two late changes. Pepe failed a fitness test on his bruised thigh, enabling Gabriel Heinze to come into central defence, while Arjen Robben limped out of the warm-up with Royston Drenthe taking his place on the left. Madrid nevertheless enjoyed the better of the early exchanges, as Guti and Mahamadou Diarra both tried their luck from distance without overly worrying goalkeeper Alex Manninger. As the hosts probed in vain for a breakthrough, the Bianconeri began to grow in confidence with the menacing Del Piero at the heart of many of their forward thrusts.
Seventeen minutes in, the skipper gave the Serie A side the lead in clinical fashion. Madrid were the architects of their own downfall, with Marco Marchionni picking up Guti's stray pass on the halfway line and feeding Del Piero. With the Merengues defence backing off, the Italian international advanced unchallenged to the edge of the penalty area and used his former team-mate Fabio Cannavaro as a shield to send a left-footed shot low past Iker Casillas's right hand – thus fulfilling his pre-match wish to finally score at this ground.
Madrid rallied and passed up two gilt-edged opportunities to level before half-time. Two left-wing crosses caught out the visiting back line, with Wesley Sneijder's deep ball finding the unmarked Sergio Ramos at the far post only for the right-back to mis-hit his volley down into the ground and up over the crossbar, before Diarra climbed highest to meet another Drenthe delivery but direct his header too high.
As on Matchday 3 – when they lost 2-1 in Turin – Madrid emerged for the second period a goal in arrears. Drenthe immediately tried to lift spirits when he escaped down the left before shooting into the side-netting. The Santiago Bernabéu burst into life yet Juventus stood firm, holding the Spanish champions at arm's length. Then, with 67 minutes gone, Mohamed Sissoko won a free-kick in range of Casillas's goal. As Del Piero placed the ball the stadium fell silent, and the fears of the Madrid supporters were realised directly by an effort that flew unerringly into the bottom corner. Substitute Gonzalo Higuaín might have done better from another Drenthe centre, yet Madrid must now regroup before their trip to FC BATE Borisov on Matchday 5, when their conquerors visit FC Zenit St. Petersburg looking to clinch first place.
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