Defending champions Real Madrid exited the European Cup on Wednesday night as a 1-1 home draw with Juventus saw the La Liga giants defeated 3-2 on aggregate.
Real were briefly ahead on away goals after Cristiano Ronaldo’s 23rd-minute penalty, but a second-half strike from Alvaro Morata eventually decided the tie in the Serie A side’s favour.
On a night that Juventus’s older players shone, Real’s experienced names let their team down.
Juve’s starting XI included six stars in their 30s – Gianluigi Buffon (37), Giorgio Chiellini (30), Stephan Lichtsteiner (31), Patrice Evra (33), Andrea Pirlo (35) and Carlos Tevez (31).
All six of these men stood up, showed great discipline and worked their socks off for their team.
Real’s elder statesmen, on the other hand, were rash and ultimately lost the tie.
Morata’s goal was the result of errors by 33-year-old goalkeeper Iker Casillas and defender Sergio Ramos, who has 126 senior Spanish caps to his name.
Ramos gave away a needless free kick by losing his cool and making a moronic lunge for the ball, despite having no chance of taking it from Arturo Vidal legally.
Casillas then failed to catch the subsequent cross, allowing Juve a second phase to their attack. That presented Morata with a chance to score, which he did, after Casillas could only palm his volley into the back of the net. Having got two hands to the ball, he really should have kept it out.
At the other end of the pitch, Ronaldo, 30, underwhelmed. Yes, he smashed home from 12 yards to put his weekend miss behind him. But this was the only shot on target he could muster in the whole 90 minutes.
To compound Real’s frustration at their older players’ inability to deliver on the night, it was one of their former youth products who did the damage for Juve.
Morata left Madrid to join Juve last summer in a deal that cost the Italian side a modest €20m transfer fee, according to The Independent.
The 22-year-old also scored in the first leg. He refused to celebrate on the pitch, but he must have been thrilled to prove a point by knocking out the team who clearly didn’t value him highly enough.
As for Real’s three under-performers, questions must be asked. Ronaldo’s extraordinary goal record entitles him to an off-day, while Ramos – although rash and error-prone- has been one of his side’s best players this season.
Casillas, however, has not been good enough for at least two years now. From the outside, it seems that his selection is based on reputation and not ability. A team with the ambition of Real Madrid need a better goalkeeper – it is as simple as that.