It was rather interesting to see the ball flowing nicely in Juventus’ possession and the team creating good scoring opportunities against arguably the most in-form team in the Premier League, Manchester City — especially considering Juan Cuadrado and Alvaro Morata were on the bench again, where they also started in the victory against AC Milan on Sunday.
Victory. AC Milan. Sunday. Key words highlighting what seems to be the revival of the team. Juventus are playing solid, mature football again. Funnily enough, last weekend was the first time this season when Bianconeri registered two consecutive wins in Serie A; and things look even better as they continued the good form in Europe as well, securing progress from the group stages with a game still left to play, a feat that hasn’t occurred since 2008. Max Allegri — who not very long ago was being sacked by juventini –— is slowly ordering the chaos, re-establishing the strong personality of Juventus that was so absent recently.
As a result, Manchester City were sterile. At least that’s how Juventus made them look like. If the BBC defence trio let anything slip past them, Gianluigi Buffon almost effortlessly did his goalkeeping duties at which he is so good at: first clearing up Claudio Marchisio’s mess by denying Sergio Aguero with his foot and then imperiously diving to his left to parry Fernandinho’s header. A joy to watch the captain leading by example. Although it is hard to admit it, Buffon’s counterpart, Joe Hart, didn’t have a bad game either. If it wasn’t for his quick reactions, the scoreline would have been less merciful towards the Citizens.
Trips to Palermo, Lazio and Sevilla are next in the cards for the Old Lady, before Fiorentina visit Juventus Stadium in mid December. The Champions League matter can be relatively put aside until February; building on with positive results (i.e. wins) from this current very favourable situation is primordial for Juventus’ push to get back to the top of the Serie A table. It’s not too much of a hard task, really. Just let Paulo Dybala and co work their magic.
Paulo Dybala was presented with an early chance early in the game after a good long ball played in by Paul Pogba but the Argentine’s first time shot went way off target. City responded three minutes later through Fernandinho but his low shot from outside the area missed the target.
The same Fernandinho missed the first big chance of the game in the 15th minute when Giorgio Chiellini failed to effectively clear away a ball and the Brazilian midfielder skyed his effort from close range. A big let off for the Bianconeri.
Just two minutes later, Mario Mandzukic opened the scoring for Juventus. Paul Pogba started the action in the centre of the park playing Alex Sandro on the left wing. The former Porto defender delivered an inch-perfect cross in the area and Mandzukic beat Nicolas Otamendi to the ball before finding the net with a fine volley.
Joe Hart pulled off a great save just inside the half hour mark to deny Mandzukic a second goal. After a good long ball from Claudio Marchisio, Stephan Lichtsteiner headed it down inside the box for the Croatian marksman whose first-time strike was parried behind for a corner kick.
There was little goal action for the remaining of the half, with the bulk of the actions developing on Juventus’ left flank where Alex Sandro had a brilliant display. Lichtsteiner broke free one-on-one with Hart two minutes before the break but the goalkeeper was quick off his line and the Swiss defender couldn’t get a shot on target.
Marchisio seemed to have lost his focus for a moment in the 45th minute as his back pass went straight to Sergio Aguero who was lurking outside Juventus’ area. Buffon managed to block the Argentine striker, making sure the Bianconeri head towards the locker rooms with the one-goal advantage.
Juventus’ protective angel Buffon was at the heart of the first important action in the second half as he pulled off another astonishing save for what seems to be the hundredth time this season, denying Fernandinho’s close-range header.
Having just replaced Mandzukic a minute before, Morata almost doubled Juventus’ lead in the 56th minute. His chipped shot was heading just off target and Stefano Sturaro could only deflect the ball against the left-hand post with an acrobatic effort.
In the 67th minute, Chiellini was very well positioned inside the area to block a shot from Aguero, which was bound to cause trouble for Juventus’ goalkeeper. The ball went behind for a corner kick, effectively defended by the Bianconeri.
Morata missed a great opportunity with ten minutes left to play. After a great first touch and turn in the centre of the pitch, the Spaniard beat two more defender before pulling the trigger but his shot was eventually blocked by Hart.
Juventus were lucky to survive another scare just a minute afterwards. Kevin de Bruyne played a ball across the area and Raheem Sterling beat Leonardo Bonucci to the ball but his shot from five yards was slightly deflected and went off target.
The Bianconeri opted to defend the result deep in their own half in the final minutes, creating problems in a couple of occasions on counter attacks. The referee Felix Brych put an end to the game after five minutes of injury time.
Buffon: 7.5 Little to do in the first half before a magnificent block against Aguero. Doubled that one up with another brilliant save in the second half
Barzagli: 6.5 Solid defending from The Wall – worked well with Lichtsteiner on the right flank
Bonucci: 6 Careful at the back but ineffective in the early build-up play
Chiellini: 7 Good defensive presence. Won most of his duels and cleared away quite a few balls
Lichtsteiner: 6.5 Surged forward very effectively a couple of times and was spot on at the back
Sturaro: 6.5 Great all-round performance, winning possession and holding the midfield. Unlucky not to score
Marchisio: 6 Decent ball distribution, but a couple of mistakes almost proved costly
Pogba: 6.5 Excellent first-half display, but was a bit quieter in the second part,
Alex Sandro: 7.5 Brilliant defending and very incisive in attack, delivering a perfect assist
Dybala: 6.5 Very active upfront, showing great close control, dropping inside his own half to see more of the ball and create chances
Mandzukic: 7.5 Found the target again against the Citizens and worked his socks off. Substituted off in the 55th minute after picking up an injury
Morata: 6.5 Almost made an instant impact after replacing Mandzukic before the hour mark and was very dangerous whenever he had the ball.
Evra: 6 Came in for Alex Sandro with 15 minutes left to play and was very involved in the game
Cuadrado: s/v Replaced Dybala in the 83rd minute
Allegri: 7.5 Got his tactics and line-up spot on. A very mature performance from his players, especially defensively, as Juventus managed to contain City’s attacks and, despite not having a superior possession, made better use of the ball.