After the final whistle of Juventus' Champions League games like this one, you need to take a step back and breathe a couple of times to regain your composure. Games like this literally take any supporter from ecstasy to agony and then back again. When Delving Ndinga scored the second for Olympiakos, a decent number of Juventini definitely saw 'Galatasaray' written all over it again. And it would have been like that had Paul Pogba not came up with the goal which gave the Old Lady a well-deserved lead and ensured Juventus stay on the top European scene with real chances of qualifying for the knockout stages.
Forced by the team’s injury problems and by the slow, predictable attacking football the 3-5-2 formation offers, Max Allegri decided to start the game with a 4-4-2 diamond, with Arturo Vidal playing behind the two strikers, Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tévez. As expected, Juventus dominated the game from the start and indeed created quite a few chances but unfortunately squandered too many of them. When aiming to become a proper top team with something to say in Europe, you simply can’t miss such opportunities to score.
Olympiacos know their counter-attack game very well and it was pretty obvious they would come to Turin, defend and try to deploy the counter, hoping to cause problems with quick actions on large spaces. Ironically, Juventus dealt with that threat in a decent manner but conceded twice from set pieces. They have showed great character to turn the result though and Allegri deserves credit for that. There couldn’t have been a better timing to bring in Fernando Llorente who inspired the comeback.
There is still life in Champions League for now but there is also another two-week international break fast-approaching. Juventus’ tricky away fixture versus Malmö is only to be played on November 26, four days after facing an in-form Lazio, in Rome. Considering the recent problems Bianconeri had in similar trips to Nordsjaelland and Copenhagen, we can only hope the break doesn’t put the team off. The game against Malmö might very well be a season-defining one, therefore coming home without the three points is out of question.
After some opening 10 minutes of little action, Juventus slowly moved in the opposition half playing their usual passing game. Claudio Marchisio had a first dangerous shot from distance 15 minutes in, but goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez managed to deflect the ball over the bar for a corner-kick.
Five minutes later, Pogba dribbled his way in right through the middle of the pitch and was brought down just outside the box. It looked to be the perfect spot for another Andrea Pirlo masterpiece and the bearded master didn’t disappoint. He curled the free-kick brilliantly over the wall, placing it into the top corner, giving Juventus the lead.
However, the hosts’ celebrations were cut off quickly as the equalizer came just three minutes later. Buffon conceded a cheap corner when the ball slipped off his hands following a cross that was posing no real danger. Olympiacos made the most of it as Alberto Botia broke free from Giorgio Chiellini’s marking to head the ball at the far corner past a helpless Buffon, after a good delivery from Alejandro Dominguez.
One minute later, Leonardo Bonucci almost put Juventus back in front when, after a great cross from Pirlo, he found himself in an ideal position, unmarked in the 6-yard-box but the defender guided his header over the bar.
Shortly afterwards, Morata was played through by Tévez and found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper but he couldn’t find the target, his shot going narrowly wide of Rodrigo’s goal.
With three minutes to go until half-time, Kwadwo Asamoah played a perfect cross in but Marchisio unbelievably failed to tap the ball into the open net from no more than two yards out. Morata was also waiting behind the midfielder, but the deflected ball went agonizingly past him.
Ten minutes into the second half Tévez opened Arturo Vidal on the right with a neat ball but instead of shooting, the Chilean hesitated and tried to pass it back in the centre of the box for Tévez, only for the ball to be cleared away by Olympiakos’ defence. Allegri decided to bring in some fresh legs for the attack and substituted Morata with Fernando Llorente, who would later prove to be decisive.
Totally against the run of play, Olympiacos managed to take the lead in the 61st minute after another poor defended set piece from Juventus. The initial cross was cleared away by Bonucci but then the defender lost the man he was marking, Ndinga, who headed the ball past Buffon from close range.
Three minutes later, however, Juventus equalised. Pirlo found Llorente in the box with another pin-point cross and the ball headed by the Spaniard bounced from the post into the legs of the goalkeeper, then past the line, in the net.
The play had just been resumed for a few seconds when Pogba put Juventus in front again. The Frenchman received a pass just outside the area from Llorente and after trying a pass for Tévez, the ball bounced back at him and Pogba hit it first time giving the goalkeeper no chance.
Olympiacos came close to their third in the 77th minute when Omar Elabdellaoui dribbled past Asamoah, entered the box but his shot from angle went just wide of Buffon’s far post. Juvenuts missed another great chance with five minutes to go when neither Llorente nor Tévez managed a clear shot at goal after a neat delivery from Stephan Lichtsteiner.
The Old Lady protected the result in the final minutes and won a penalty when Tévez was brought down in the box by Botia. Vidal stepped-up to take it but Rodrigo made a fantastic one-handed save to push the ball into the crossbar and referee blew the whistle for full time as the scoreline was showing Juventus 3-2 Olympiacos.
Buffon: 6 You could argue with the way he conceded the corner-kick from which Olympiacos scored, but had nothing to do to prevent the goals
Lichtsteiner: 6 Never stopped running on the right flank but wasn’t influential enough in attack
Bonucci: 6 Was steady at the back, although allowed Ndinga a bit too much space to head in Olympiacos’ second
Chiellini: 5.5 Had a below-par game, losing his man at the first goal
Asamoah: 6.5 Was involved more in attacking play than in his recent games, but had a questionable defensive game
Marchisio: 6.5 Did pretty much all the dirty work in midfield, providing good cover for the defence. Missed a glorious chance before half time
Pirlo: 7.5 Looked to be back to his usual best, spreading balls around with ease. Scored a brilliant free-kick to open the scoring
Pogba: 8 Great display from the Frenchman putting in a spirited performance throughout and scoring the winning goal
Vidal: 6.5 Lively presence in midfield, pressing the opposition for the entire game but should have done better in attack and also convert his penalty
Morata: 6 Wasn’t as involved in the game as expected, missing a great chance in the first half. Replaced just before the hour mark
Tévez: 6.5 Average performance from the Argentine, who couldn’t really make his mark in attack, as he didn’t have to drop deep for the ball anymore
Llorente: 7.5 Made a great impact after coming in, pretty much creating the first goal. Was very lively afterwards and could have get a second in the final minutes
Padoin: 6.5 Replaced Marchisio with 20 minutes to go, brining some fresh legs to midfield
Pereyra: N/A Came in for Asamoah with little time left to play
Allegri: 7 Made the right decsision with his formation and starting XI and was also very inspired to take Morata off relatively early in the game. Credit for showing great character and having the necesary reaction after Juventus went 2-1 down, driving the playeres forward
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