SAN FRANCISCO, February 21, (THEWILL) – Raheem Sterling sealed a dramatic 3-2 Champions League win for 10-man Manchester City at Schalke as the English champions scored twice in the last five minutes on Wednesday as Atletico Madrid dismantled the Italian juggernauts Juventus winning the first leg match 2-0 in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League.
Sterling tucked away the winner at the Veltins Arena in the 90th minute just after substitute Leroy Sane fired home a stunning free-kick for the Premier League leaders against his former club in the last 16, first leg.
Schalke led 2-1 at half-time as the video assistant referee (VAR) twice intervened to award penalties, both converted by Nabil Bentaleb, cancelling out Sergio Aguero’s opener in Gelsenkirchen.
City were in real trouble with 22 minutes left when Nicolas Otamendi, who gave away the controversial first penalty, was sent off for a second yellow card before Sane’s moment of brilliance and Sterling’s winner.
Although Juventus, parading Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic had superior possession, Atletico were more menacing in the box, with more shots on target. But the glory of the night at the Wanda Metropolitano. belonged to defenders Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez who scored Atletico’s two goals within five minutes deep in the second half.
The victory has put Atletico within sight of the quarter-finals and called into question Ronaldo’s mission with Juventus.
It was a victory that Diego Simeone’s side fully deserved. Antoine Griezmann had hit the crossbar while VAR twice intervened, correctly, in Juve’s favour, cancelling a first-half penalty for a foul on Diego Costa and then ruling out an Alvaro Morata header shortly before Gimenez struck.
Juve are certainly not dead and buried yet, particularly given Costa and Thomas Partey will both be suspended for the return in Turin after each picked up yellow cards here.
But the failure to score an away goal, and their clear inferiority for much of the second half, does not bode well for their hopes of a comeback.
Defeat in the last 16 for either team would be unthinkable, for Atletico, who know the final will be played here, at their own stadium, on June 1, the perfect chance to wrest the trophy off Real in the very city they share.
And for Juventus, whose wait for Europe’s premier prize has now entered its 23rd year, when expectations are higher than ever given they now boast the tournament’s most prolific ever player, Ronaldo.