Comeback kid Tevez banishes ghosts of seasons past
Petulant for Man City against Bayern in 2011, Tevez is peerless against Real Madrid
SEMI-FINAL, 1ST LEG
(Alvaro Morata 8, Carlos Tevez 57-pen)
REAL MADRID 1
(Cristiano Ronaldo 27)
Carlos Tevez has become a sports story straight from Dickens.
His career is not just a tale of two cities. It's also a tale of two different countries, two different leagues and two different players.
One night in Munich showed him in all his inglorious ugliness. One night in Turin reminded the world of his inner beauty.
The Juventus striker had already resurrected his career this season. But the first leg of the Champions League semi-final felt like an exorcism.
In delivering a 2-1 victory against Real Madrid yesterday morning (Singapore time), he banished the ghosts of seasons past.
He went some way in washing away the sins of a once unrepentant sinner.
Sport loves a comic book hero, but it loves a comeback kid even more.
In September 2011, he was a cautionary tale for kids, a bogeyman to haunt all budding athletes.
From Manchester to Marine Parade, the message was clear. Don't allow the ego to suffocate the talent. Don't end up like Tevez.
Those images in Munich remain seared in every sporting purist's soul.
Tevez sat on that gloomy bench and turned away from his Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini.
He ignored the pleas to come on and save the Champions League tie against Bayern Munich.
He turned his back on the game to spit in the face of every idealistic youngster who harboured dreams of becoming a footballer.
And the game turned its back on Tevez. He was done. His manager wrote him off. So did pros and writers around the world. So did this column.
In Munich four years ago, he killed his career. In Turin yesterday morning, he killed off Real Madrid.
The Spanish side may bounce back from the dead at the Bernabeu, but that's a fight for another day.
Now is the time to acknowledge a rare story with a happy twist.
Tevez terrorised the European champions. A goal and two assists - he set up both his goal and that of the excellent Alvaro Morata - dominated the stats, but he not only excited the bean counters, he also inflamed the passions.
He was the brightest star in a galaxy that illuminated one of the best Champions League games of the season.
Tevez scampered into space to drill in a shot that set up Morata's tap-in, but his winner was something else.
He carried the ball a full 70 metres, demonstrating a burst of pace that belied his 31 years, before being upended by the panting Dani Carvajal.
Tevez earned a penalty. Tevez scored the penalty. It was that simple. He smashed home with all the fuss of a daddy knocking a beach ball past his son on a beach.
The penalty made it seven Champions League goals this season. In four campaigns with Manchester City, he didn't score once.
The difference is obvious. Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri uses Tevez properly. Mancini didn't (quite often, he didn't use him at all).
Tevez's role in both goals encapsulated his responsibilities under Allegri. He arrived late in the box from the right for the first. He exploded through the middle on the counter-attack to earn the penalty.
Tevez roams where he pleases. Allegri didn't sign the Argentinian, but he did grant him freedom of the final third. Centre backs weren't enough for Real Madrid. They needed pest controllers.
Tevez buzzed around Pepe and Raphael Varane, antagonising both men by pulling away from the box and forcing them out of position, only to charge again from deeper positions.
Sir Alex Ferguson once permitted him a similar licence at Man United and it was no coincidence that Patrice Evra made that connection.
"Carlos Tevez has United blood like myself," the Juve left back said. "He is a champion."
A born winner and a born whiner, Tevez's temperament took control in his final years in English football. He was always having his head turned. The grass was forever greener elsewhere.
At City, he was engulfed by his ego, unloved and untamable. At Juventus, Allegri deserves huge credit for rescuing the Argentinian when others looked away.
In the 86th minute, the old Tevez briefly returned.
He raged against a coach's decision to make a substitution in the Champions League once again. But, on this occasion, he was coming off to a standing ovation.
Tevez sulked because he wanted to give more, not less: a similar outburst, but a very different player.
From Munich to Turin, his redemptive journey is just about complete.
BY THE NUMBERS
5 Juventus have always advanced to the next round after winning 2-1 at home in the first leg of European competitions - five out of five times.
Ancelotti: We can turn things around
Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti is confident his reigning European champions will overturn a first-leg defeat by Juventus and reach the Champions League final.
The Italian oversaw a 2-1 loss in Turin yesterday morning (Singapore time) as strikes from Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez cancelled out the effect of Cristiano Ronaldo's 76th goal in the competition, which moved him one goal ahead of Lionel Messi in the all-time Champions League scoring chart.
Real must now win the home leg to stand a chance of meeting either Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the Berlin final on June 6.
Ancelotti told realmadrid.com: "This result does not fill us with joy, but we are confident about turning things around at the Santiago Bernabeu.
DANGEROUS OLD LADY
"We looked good when we passed the ball around and carved out chances, but Juventus are dangerous on the break.
"We could have played better. Throughout the game, we tried to play efficiently and with quality. We wanted to control the match, but were unlucky with the counter-attack that made it 2-1.
"1-1 would have been a good result. We played an attacking game, but it became difficult to find space and Juve were extremely dangerous on the break.
"They are in great form at the moment. Last season, we played them in the group stage, while this year, it's a two-legged semi-final.
"They are a very well organised team at the back. It is difficult to find a way of breaking them down - it requires patience."
Ancelotti will have to rethink his tactics for the return leg after Sergio Ramos came unstuck in an experimental midfield role against Juventus, in the absence of the injured Luka Modric.
Acclaimed as one of the game's best centre backs, Ramos looked like a fish out of water in the middle of the pitch, both defensively in front of the backline and most noticeably in building play.
"I am here to help the team wherever I can," said Ramos. "The other day, it worked out for me (in midfield), but this was a bad game on a personal and a group level.
"I have to run a lot more than in central defence but that is not a big worry for me. We have to be self-critical and learn from our mistakes."
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri was delighted with the victory over Real, but believes they still have a lot to do to progress to the final.
"I'm really pleased with my players' performance," Allegri said.
"They played with extraordinary intensity and afforded Real very little. We defended really well."
Juventus will be aiming to reach the Champions League final for the first time since 2003 when they visit the Bernabeu for the second leg next week.
Real have won four and lost just one of their five home Champions League games in the competition.
"It's not easy to get a result in Madrid," Allegri said. "Now we must prepare for Wednesday's return leg knowing we have to play even better.
"We will be up against a wounded Real team. We've got to score in Madrid or it's going to be hard for us to reach the final.
"If we want to make the final, we've got to deliver a masterpiece in Madrid."
- Wire Services.
- JUVENTUS: Gianluigi Buffon, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Patrice Evra, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Stefano Sturaro (Andrea Barzagli 64), Arturo Vidal, Carlos Tevez (Robert Pereyra 86), Alvaro Morata (Fernando Llorente 78)
- REAL MADRID: Iker Casillas, Dani Carvajal, Pepe, Raphael Varane, Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos, James Rodriguez, Isco (Javier Hernandez 63), Gareth Bale (Jese 86), Cristiano Ronaldo