Juventus traveled to Sweden in fantastic form, with Massimiliano Allegri's switch to a four-man defense seeing four straight wins recorded by the resounding combined margin of 15-2. Those two goals did however come in Champions League play, where the Juventus defense has been much leakier. Juventus did record a clean sheet against Malmö in the Juventus Stadium, and another 2-0 result in Sweden is exactly what Juventus needed.
The pitch in Sweden was cutting up even before the game began, and with Juventus coming out in their green jerseys, the early omens felt a tad worrying. The bad feeling continued into the first half as Juve created few chances and gave Malmö hope of their own, with the Swedish side able to pass around comfortably and create the occasional chance by putting long balls into the Juventus box. None of the early chances were very good, but Malmö generally competed well.
As Juventus came to grips with the pitch conditions and the physical style of the hosts, creases began to appear in the Malmö defense. Claudio Marchisio was twice able to run behind the Swedish defense onto excellent chipped passes from Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal as the Old Lady bared her teeth.
The second half showed a newly determined Juventus, with the full knowledge that this was their last chance. Fail to score and the Champions League dream would again be over too early for the Italian champions. In the end the deadlock only lasted for a few minutes, as Fernando Llorente was able to race clear and make his chance count. Juventus saw out the remainder of the game fairly comfortably, with Carlos Tévez adding a deserved second in stoppage time.
In the end it was the kind of victory we expect when Juventus goes away to Europe's lesser lights, and which too often failed to materialize in the past few years. Next the Bianconeri can look ahead to emotional clashes with Torino and Fiorentina before the crunch clash with Atlético Madrid, knowing that a draw with the Spanish champions will see them through to the knockout stages.
As soon as Malmo kicked the ball off from the center circle this looked like another difficult away day in Scandinavia, with the well-drilled and physical home side happy to stick together in defense and look for long balls into their strikers. The best chances of the early minutes went to the home side, as Juventus struggled to play the ball cleanly out from defense and were occasionally caught flat-footed by Malmö's physical strike partnership.
Juventus grew into the game as the half went along, and the counterattacking game that was so deadly against Lazio appeared once again with Vidal forcing a save out of Olsen when he perhaps should have scored following excellent work from Stephan Lichtsteiner down the right. Juventus began recovering the ball higher up the pitch, and forcing Malmö into a defensive shell, but the finishing was not quite there.
Clipped balls over the top were a constant source of danger for the home side, with Pirlo in particular reveling in the space provided in front of Malmö's defensive lines. Twice Marchisio broke through the Swedish defense, but was unable to beat Olsen in net. A couple of late counterattacks nearly produced chances in on goal as the strikers and advanced midfielders played quick combinations, but Malmö and the linesman did just enough to keep the scoreline at 0-0 into the break.
Whatever Allegri said at halftime certainly had the desired effect, as Juventus came out on a mission to get at the Malmö goal. Marchisio had another good chance after Llorente hooked a high ball down for the Italian midfielder, but again his finish was too central. Minutes later Paul Pogba created another good chance for Marchisio, flicking the ball through the last line of defense, but Malmö recovered and when the ball came in again Tévez just missed it at the far post.
With all this pressure the goal was surely coming, and in the 49th minute Llorente made it 1-0. Marchisio was again involved, with a perfect pass along the ground that split the Malmö defense wide open and put the Spanish striker in on goal, where he was able to round the keeper and slot home.
The goal certainly relieved some of the pressure on Juventus, and with the goal that they needed control and patience became the order of the day. Malmö didn't seem to have a more aggressive gameplan in store for chasing the game, and Juventus was happy to keep the ball and watch the clock wind down, while always searching for a killer second goal. Pirlo took a guiding role as the game became more controlled, directing traffic and always looking for the killer pass to put a man in on goal.
Although Malmö were contained fairly well, the home side continued to threaten the Juventus defense with simple high balls into the box. Set-pieces were a constant danger for Juventus with just the one-goal lead, with corners, free kicks, and even long-throws causing a bit of nerves considering the narrow margin for error.
On 70 minutes, Llorente had a good chance for his second, when Padoin provided an excellent cross only to see his header saved. Álvaro Morata came on to replace his countryman just after, and Juventus could have sealed the result when countering off a Malmö corner, only for Vidal to miscue his pass. Juventus continued to create chances through the onrushing midfielders, but the home side nearly crashed the party when a late free kick found a Malmö head in the box, only for Chiellini and Buffon to react quickest and deal with the danger.
Morata had a fantastic chance to make the scoreline safe on 87 minutes after his fellow substitute Roberto Pereyra dribbled to the byline and Tévez produced a fantastic cross, but somehow hit the crossbar from inside the six-yard box. But finally the second did come, and Morata played a vital role.
Chiellini played a long ball out of defense for Morata to contest, and while Malmö complained of a foul the referee saw nothing wrong as the ball rebounded to Paul Pogba. The French midfielder rolled the ball across to Tévez for a confident first-time finish to finally put the game out of reach in the 91st minute. Two Malmö players were booked for their protests, including a second yellow for center back Johansson.
Malmö did create one more chance, with Rosenberg firing near post following a run from substitute Cibicky, but it was well-saved by Buffon. So 2-0 it finished, which, combined with Atlético Madrid's 4-0 win over Olympiacos, means that a draw will be enough for Atleti and Juve to go through to the next round, with Juventus needing a two-goal victory to finish 1st. While qualification remains uncertain, today's results were certainly what the Old Lady ordered.
Buffon: 6 Once again left with little to do, the Italian goalkeeper showed once again that he doesn't need constant action to be at his best with an excellent late stop on Rosenberg.
Lichtsteiner: 6.5 The Swiss Express has been in excellent form of late, with the switch to a four-man backline doing nothing to hinder his attacking output.
Bonucci: 6 The challenge today was mostly in the air, where Bonucci was able to hold his own. His distribution was a bit erratic at times, but defensively he did the job.
Chiellini: 6.5 Like his partner, Chiellini held his own while frequently challenged in the air. A physical game that played right into his hands, the hardman also contributed to the second goal.
Padoin: 5.5 Again showed the difficulties of playing out of position, allowing several crosses in and only sporadically contributing in attack. One of these contributions did lead to a good chance for Llorente.
Pogba: 6.5 The Frenchman didn't have his best day in recent weeks but his physicality and technique repeatedly kept the ball for Juventus in tight spaces. Did well defensively to cover the back four.
Pirlo: 6 The bearded veteran had a mixed performance early on, with one poor giveaway nearly gifting Malmö an opener. However, as the game wore on, his influence became much greater and could easily have led to assists.
Marchisio: 7.5 Constantly running behind the opposing defense and always willing to have a shot, Marchisio was the standout performer for Juventus. With a bit more luck in his finishing could have bagged a hat trick.
Vidal: 6 Although he can never be faulted for effort and defensive ability, Vidal's attacking has left something to be desired. While last year every shot seemed to fly past the keeper, this year has been a bit more of a struggle for the Chilean.
Llorente: 6 A tough first half for the Spaniard in which he hardly touched the ball was more than eclipsed with a vital goal just after the break. Could have added another with two good headed chances.
Tévez: 7 All-action and with the technique and decision-making to get the final touch just right, Carlos Tévez is in some of the form of his life. Made himself available as an outlet on the counter and scored a well-taken insurance goal.
Morata: 6 Brought on for Llorente in the 71st minute, Morata played a vital role in Tévez's goal by contesting the long ball. Should have really gotten the second himself when he somehow hit the crossbar from Tévez's cross just before.
Pereyra: 6 The Argentine came in for Marchisio and took on the role behind the strikers. Always willing to take on his man and dribble into the box, Pereyra showed his defensive side by stopping a Malmö counter and earning yellow for his trouble.
Allegri: 7 A lot could have gone wrong in this match, especially after enduring a goalless first-half, but the coach's halftime talk reinvigorated the side. The four-man defense continues its undefeated run, with Juventus having won all five games since dropping the sweeper. Allegri continues to get things right on the bench and is very much winning over the Juventus faithful.
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