Over the course of 90 minutes on Wednesday, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez saw his stock among Real Madrid fans go from “zero,” to “less than zero,” to “hero,” as the out-of-favor Mexican striker was ultimately the difference maker in securing Real’s passage into the UEFA Champions League semifinals with a 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid.
Hernandez made just his sixth start of the season (all competitions) on Tuesday, and wouldn’t you know it, the first chance of the game feel to the 26-year-old striker in the 12th minute, but Hernandez skewed his shot wildly from a tight angle, only narrowly hitting the side netting of Jan Oblak’s goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo nearly broke the deadlock in the 44th minute, but the Portuguese superstar’s first-time shot from a tight was saved by Oblak after Ronaldo beat the offside trap and found himself one on one with the Slovenian ‘keeper.
Real started the second half quickly, much like they finished the first period. Isco slipped a through ball to a possibly offside Hernandez, whose first-time shot looked destined for the inside of the far post, but swerved just wide at the last second, keeping the game and the tie level at 0-0.
The game completely changed in the 76th minute when Atleti midfielder Arda Turan was shown a second yellow card for a high challenge on Sergio Ramos. Turan made contact with the foot of Ramos near chest-high, though Turan could only clatter into the foot of Ramos at that height if his foot was there, too. Since Ramos was in the process of playing the ball in the air, and Turan arrived much later than Ramos, a yellow card is justifiable.
It wasn’t until Hernandez’s 7th shot of the game, after so many went narrowly wide of the goal, that Real finally broke through and scored the game and tie’s only only goal (88th minute). Ronaldo broke down the right side of Atleti’s penalty area, attracted the attention of two defenders and Oblak, and squared the ball for Hernandez, who couldn’t miss an empty net from 12 yards out (above video).
The goal was Hernandez’s first Champions League goal in 895 days, going back to his time with Manchester United in the 2012-13 competition.
Real Madrid: Casillas, Carvajal, Pepe, Varane, Coentrao, Isco, Sergio Ramos, Kroos, Hernandez, Ronaldo, Rodriguez
Goals: Hernandez (88′)
Atletico Madrid: Oblak, Juanfran, Godin, Miranda, Jesus Gamez, Tiago (Gimenez 86′), Koke, Saul Niguez (Gabi 46′), Turan, Griezmann (Garcia 65′), Mandzukic