Late Ronaldo penalty keeps Madrid alive in Champions League

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Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo scores a penalty during a Champions League quarter-final, 2nd leg match between Real Madrid and Juventus at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, April 11. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo scores a penalty during a Champions League quarter-final, 2nd leg match between Real Madrid and Juventus at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, April 11. (AP Photo/Paul White)

Madrid (AP) — Just when it looked like Juventus would pull off another stunning Champions League comeback, Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up once again.

Ronaldo converted a penalty kick deep into injury time to send Real Madrid through to the semifinals for the eighth straight season despite a 3-1 home loss to Juventus on Wednesday. The goal was enough to give the two-time defending champions a 4-3 aggregate win and avoid nerve-racking extra time after the Italian side had erased a seemingly insurmountable deficit from the first leg.

“It was a match in which we suffered,” Ronaldo said. “It shows that nothing is a given in football, you have to fight until the end. We didn’t play well, we have to admit. But in the end we deserved to advance.”

A day after seeing Spanish rivals Barcelona blow a three-goal advantage against Roma in Italy, Madrid nearly did the same. But Juventus’ heroics came up just short after substitute Lucas Vazquez appeared to be pushed from behind inside the area in the third and final minute of stoppage time.

Veteran Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, in what was likely his last Champions League game, was then sent off for furiously complaining after the penalty decision. The Madrid crowd at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium gave Buffon a standing ovation as he left the field.

“Life goes on,” Buffon said. “I’m happy and proud of how we played, we made the impossible possible. It’s a shame it ends like this.”

Madrid won the first leg 3-0 in Turin last week, when Ronaldo scored with a spectacular bicycle kick for his second goal of the match.

That deficit made Wednesday’s return leg seem like an impossible task for Juventus but they got off to the perfect start when Mario Mandzukic opened the scoring with a header two minutes into the match. He added to the lead with another header before halftime, and Blaise Matuidi scored the third early in the second half after a blunder by Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

But Ronaldo, in his 150th Champions League appearance, then netted his 120th goal in the competition by converting the penalty with a firm shot into the top corner. He celebrated by taking off his shirt and running toward the euphoric Madrid crowd.

Ronaldo has scored 21 goals in his last 11 matches in all competitions, and has netted in 11 straight Champions League matches.

The penalty came as Vazquez was in position to score in front of the goal after Ronaldo headed down a cross into the area. Juventus players stormed toward English referee Michael Oliver, who apparently had help from his behind-the-goal assistant to make the call.

The penalty was taken eight minutes into stoppage time as it took a while for Oliver to clear the Juventus players who were protesting against the decision.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said he had a brief encounter in the tunnel with Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who didn’t play because of a suspension.

“I just told him that it wasn’t a clear penalty,” Allegri said.

Madrid had conceded three goals at home only two other times this season, in a 3-0 loss to Barcelona and a 6-3 win over Girona. It was the first time Madrid were down 3-0 in the Champions League since losing 4-0 at Liverpool in the round of 16 in 2008-09.

“We didn’t expect to concede an early goal like that,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “That allowed their team to grow and it made things difficult for us.”