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Holders win royal seal of approval

King Juan Carlos of Spain revealed his delight after seeing Real Madrid CF defeat Juventus FC on Tuesday.

By Graham Hunter

There was an air of regal satisfaction at the Santiago Bernabéu on Wednesday after Real Madrid CF's determined 2-1 victory over Juventus FC in their UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg.

Honours even
Both Vicente del Bosque and Marcello Lippi, the respective coaches, and King Juan Carlos of Spain left the match content with a result which can either be viewed as a threat to Madrid's progression to the final because of Juventus' away goal, or a fine home victory after a frustrating 90 minutes.

'See you at Old Trafford'
The Spanish monarch chose the latter view, according to Madrid president Florentino Pérez, who revealed: "When the King left the directors' box the last thing he said to me was: 'See you at Old Trafford for the final!' I agree with him that it is a very good result and I'm happy with Madrid's performance tonight. We played particularly well in the first-half and if the game had ended in a draw I don't think Juventus would have merited it. We will go to Turin to win the next leg too. Real Madrid never go anywhere to defend."

Lippi surprise
Goals from Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos, either side of a David Trezeguet strike just before half-time, gave the European Champions the advantage. But Juventus coach Lippi is certain his side is poised for their first final appearance since 1998. "They surprised me a little bit with their offensive line-up because I had expected two central midfielders like Steve McManaman or Flavio Conceição to be in contention to play," he said. "Instead it was Guti with [Fernando] Morientes up front.

'Total confidence'
"But my team always fought for the result we wanted," Lippi added. "We expected to suffer a little bit against a team of such quality, but it appeared to me that Real Madrid tired a little as the game went on. I look very positively at the return leg and I have total confidence we can overturn their lead and reach the final."

Good grace
Showing his usual grace, Lippi refused to debate the decision which allowed Roberto Carlos' goal to stand on 73 minutes, when Norwegian referee Terje Hauge overruled an offside flag, and also praised Zinedine Zidane for his man-of-the-match performance. "I accept referees decisions and I'm happy enough with the score," he said. "Zidane was great tonight but that's the type of player he is. On big nights in a great stadium he always shows up."

Del Bosque was equally satisfied with the scoreline. "It's obvious to me that it is nearly impossible to kill off a tie against a club of Juventus' quality in the first game," he said. "The score is tight but we have the advantage. Juventus are a defensive team, with many players behind the ball, and that is why I tried to give them a surprise by playing Guti and Morientes."

Ronaldo injury
The latter combined well with Ronaldo for the Brazilian to put the home side ahead on 23 minutes, and may now have further opportunities as Ronaldo was forced off with an injury five minutes into the second-half. "I was short of a little match practice because I don't play so often," Morientes said. "But I'm happy because the tie is still very open and we go to Turin with total confidence in our ability to win there."

'We showed our quality'
Juventus goalscorer Trezeguet added: "We showed our quality tonight and we are pleased with what we got for our efforts. Now I have two objectives - to win the Scudetto this weekend and then to reach the Champions League final."