Luxemburgo delivers for Madrid

Vanderlei Luxemburgo passed his first real test as Real Madrid CF coach by beating Juventus FC.

By Andy Hall at the Santiago Bernabéu

Perhaps when Real Madrid CF decided to bring in Vanderlei Luxemburgo from Santos FC to replace Mariano García Remón as coach in December, they had tonight's UEFA Champions League meeting with Juventus FC on their minds.

Impeccable record
Since making their debut in the competition in 1995/96, and barring the 1996/97 edition (the only year they failed to qualify), Madrid have been crowned champions on three occasions and at worst, bowed out at the quarter-final stage. To fail to make the last eight, for those in the capital, would be seen as a total disaster and a decent win from tonight's game practically a necessity. Tonight Madrid may not have been rewarded with the goals their inventiveness deserved, but Luxemburgo's side will travel to Turin with confidence high after an enthralling attacking performance.

Same formation
Both Luxemburgo and Juve coach Fabio Capello employed 4-4-2 formations at the Santiago Bernabéu. Madrid, long since departed from the midfield double-pivot pairing, used a rhombus shape with David Beckham returning to his preferred right-wing slot and new recruit Thomas Gravesen adding cover for the back four. In contrast, Capello plays a pivot with Manuele Blasi and Emerson holding the centre of the park. In recent weeks, however, he has modified his formation to 3-5-2, with three central defenders.

Enthusiastic start
The match started as expected with both teams playing with great enthusiasm but with little flowing football during the opening minutes. Emerson shot wildly over on four minutes, failing to spot Alessandro Del Piero who had lost his marker and was perfectly positioned in the area. The game took a different tone when Madrid lost right-back Míchel Salgado to a knee injury in the eighth minute. Luxemburgo, instead of fielding Francisco Pavón, surprisingly brought on left-footed defender Raúl Bravo to take his place and keep tabs on Del Piero and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Helguera header
Juventus's central pair of Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro stuck tight to frontrunners Raúl González and Ronaldo, but the Italian side did leave gaps and Raúl was unlucky to smash Roberto Carlos's sweeping centre against the bar on 24 minutes. Nor did the visitors pick up Iván Helguera from a free-kick set-piece seven minutes later. The centre-back was left free to head Madrid into the lead.

Heated second half
Capello's side were dealt another blow when Pavel Nedved was carried off with concussion after clashing heads with Raúl Bravo towards the end of the second half. With a slender lead, Madrid managed to dominate during the second half. More tense moments ensued with Raúl cueing the ball over the bar after Gianluigi Buffon had denied Zinedine Zidane on 56 minutes. In a chaotic and heated last 45 minutes, the ball even burst at one point, after ending on the receiving end of Roberto Carlos's studs.

Hard to call
Capello swapped Blasi for Alessio Tacchinardi on 67 minutes, and Luxemburgo also made a switch, changing Ronaldo for Michael Owen ten minutes later. But the home side remained in control. Whether a 1-0 is enough to take to the Delle Alpi is hard to say. In 1996, Juve won 2-0 in Turin with Zidane in their side to advance, while in 2003, the Italian side scored a 3-1 win to eliminate the holders.

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