Ronaldo penalty snatches Juventus first-leg draw at Milan
MILAN — Cristiano Ronaldo's injury-time penalty grabbed Juventus a 1-1 draw at AC Milan in their Italian Cup semifinal, first leg on Thursday as his incredible scoring run continued.
The 35-year-old has now scored 12 goals in his last eight games in all competitions after the Portuguese ultimately got the better of old rival Zlatan Ibrahimovic despite being largely anonymous for much of the match.
Milan paid for Theo Hernandez's 71st-minute red card as they failed to close out a game they had dominated for long periods and led through Ante Rebic.
Juve will now be favorites to finish the job in the second leg at the Allianz Stadium next month, with a final against either Inter Milan or Napoli up for grabs.
The hosts started strongly, with Ibrahimovic heading over the crossbar inside the first minute.
He continued to be a threat to his former club early on, but could only direct an ambitious backheel flick beyond the far post, before picking up a booking which will see him miss the second leg through suspension.
Juventus finally produced their first shot in anger nine minutes before half-time, as Juan Cuadrado saw his low strike well saved by Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Milan started the second half as they did the first, on the front foot, but Rebic was denied an opening goal by Gianluigi Buffon.
Samu Castillejo also called Buffon into action seven minutes after the break, with the 42-year-old goalkeeper able to make a comfortable save.
Stefano Pioli's side finally made the breakthrough in the 61st minute, though, as Castillejo's clipped cross was volleyed home at the back post by Rebic.
Juventus were gifted a way back into the game with 18 minutes remaining as Hernandez was handed a second yellow card for a late challenge on Paulo Dybala.
That prompted the 13-time winners to belatedly pile some pressure on the home goal, and Donnarumma had to be alert to keep out Matthijs de Ligt's header.
Dybala curled wide with five minutes remaining, but Juve were awarded a spot-kick in the final minute of normal time as VAR spotted a handball by Davide Calabria.
Ronaldo stepped up and slammed the ball down the middle to score his 24th goal of the season.
Six minutes of injury-time gave the visitors hope of clinching an unlikely victory, but Milan at least held on for a draw to keep their bid for a first Cup crown since 2003 alive.
On Wednesday, Napoli struck first blood in their semi-final as Gennaro Gattuso's men downed Serie A leaders Inter Milan 1-0 at the San Siro, with Fabian Ruiz scoring the winner.
The last-four second legs will take place on March 4 and 5, with the final on May 13 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Italian Football chiefs propose
player-led VAR reviews to FIFA
Italy's Football authorities revealed on Thursday that it had asked FIFA to experiment with a VAR system that allows players to request decisions be reviewed, similar to tennis and cricket.
In a statement, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) said it had made the appeal to Football's global governing body to review the games' system of video refereeing after receiving requests from "numerous Serie A clubs in recent weeks".
The FIGC added it had told FIFA that it was ready to experiment in top division Serie A with "challenges", appeals for the referee to carry out an on-field review of an incident.
The body also said that it had asked the head of Serie A's refereeing commission Nicola Rizzoli to encourage officials to "intensify" on-field reviews for controversial incidents.
Serie A adopted VAR in 2017, before the technology was permanently written into the rules of the game by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in March the following year.
The system is broadly popular in Italy, unlike in England where fans of Premier League clubs have been angered by razor-thin offside decisions and the slowing down of play. — AFP