Did you ever have a nightmare where a villain, no matter how hard you have tried, denies you everything you want? But wait...in the same dream an old friend appeared. However, he didn't help you. Instead, he helped the villain. Sorry for the Freudian slip guys, but this is the feeling I've gotten after this match. Sergio Rico was fantastic. he — almost — singlehandedly gave Sevilla their pass to the Europa League.
Juventus already had a place in the Champions League last 16 when they visited the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Tuesday night. Their goal was to clinch first place in Group D and avoid the European heavyweights come next week's Round of 16 draw. They needed to win or get a draw to achieve their objective. Likewise, Manchester City required a triumph against Borussia Monchengladbach and a Juventus defeat to claim the top spot in the group.
Massimiliano Allegri repeated the 3-5-2 formation that he utilized in the last Serie A game against Lazio. Mad Max implemented practically the same starting lineup, however, Álvaro Morata played alongside Paulo Dybala because Mario Mandzukic was ruled out by flu symptoms. Sevilla coach Unai Emery deployed a 4-5-1 pattern using the dangerous trident of Vitolo, Ever Banega and Yevhen Konoplyanka behind the ex-Juventino Fernando Llorente.
This game was a complete shootout from the beginning. Los Rojiblancos started the match applying great pressure all over the field, but it felt that they were playing with fire as Morata and Dybala found plenty of space behind Sevilla's defense.
The match was wide open after 17 minutes, and it was then when both teams began to exchange potential knockout punches. It initiated when Alex Sandro performed one of his trademark crosses and found Stefano Sturaro, and the youngster's header forced Sergio Rico into a superb flying save. One minute later, Sevilla had a clear opportunity when Fernando Llorente made a quick turn in the penalty box and executed a low shot that was brilliantly stopped by Gianluigi Buffon.
At the 25th minute, Leonardo Bonucci cleverly lobbed a pass behind Sevilla's defense; the ball located Dybala who unselfishly served Morata, nonetheless the Spaniard failed to score from point-blank range sending his effort wide of Rico's left post. Sevilla responded six minutes later with a set piece, as Konoplyanka crossed the ball onto Llorente's head, but Buffon completed a wonderful stop. Four minutes before halftime, Paul Pogba won a free kick, La Joya took advantage of it and curled a potent shot over the wall that was saved by Rico.
Juventus commenced the second half with a lot of intensity, three minutes after halftime Pogba sent a missile that burnt Sergio Rico's gloves, it was another acrobatic save by the inspired goalkeeper. However, Buffon responded at the 62nd minute with another brilliant stop, this time he denied a long-range effort by Eder Banega.
At the 65th minute Juventus was haunted by the Ex Effect. Konoplyanka curled a corner to the first post, and Llorente rose over Andrea Barzagli and scored with a nice header that left Buffon without a chance. It was time to check the match in Manchester-at that time Borussia was winning 2-1 over City-.
Juventus was shaken after Llorente's goal. Allegri decided to bring in Juan Cuadrado and switched to a more aggressive approach. Ten minutes before the final whistle, Dybala hit the crossbar with a thundering left footed shot; Sergio Rico was beaten in this one. At the injury time, Cuadrado assisted Morata leaving him one-on-one with Rico; the goalkeeper — who showed unbelievable reflexes — deflected the striker's shot miraculously.
Manchester City's comeback victory sent Juventus to the second position in Group D. The Bianconeri are in the knockout stage but — maybe — a tough task lies ahead.
Buffon 8 Superman once again showed why he's a legend. He kept Sevilla in check until Llorente's score.
Lichtsteiner 6.5 The Swiss Express managed Konoplyanka appropriately.
Barzagli 6 Barza had a solid game but was beaten by Llorente in the scoring play.
Bonucci 6 Leo was good on defense but had some problems with Sevilla's high pressure.
Chellini 6.5 King Kong had an entertaining duel with El Rey Leon. He had a nice game.
Sandro 6.5 He combined well with Pogba but had his hands full with Vitolo.
Sturaro. 6.5 He was tireless as always. He could score early in the game with a header.
Marchisio 7 Il Principino had a monster battle with Banega. He had his usual metronome-like presentation.
Pogba 6.5 Paul tried early and often to break Sevilla's defense. He manufactured a couple of interesting plays.
Dybala 7.5 Another remarkable cameo by La Joya. He easily could have had a goal and an assist in this match.
Morata 5.5 Álvaro was very dynamic in the game; yet he failed two clear scoring chances.
Llorente 8 El Rey Leon...pfft
Cuadrado 6 The Colombian assisted Morata cleverly but failed to produce an impact on the pitch.
Allegri 6 It's really hard to judge Max in this one. His side produced a lot of scoring chances and he didn't have Mandzukic or Zaza in the bench.
Things I think I think
- Del Bosque forget Casillas and De Gea. Sergio Rico must be your new No. 1 goalkeeper.
- Spain, Sergio Rico must be your new king.
- Fernando, it is really hard to hate you!
- Juventus' bench for this match: Cuadrado, Neto, Rugani, Vitale, Pellini and Morselli. Yeah.
- Okay, guys, it's time to dance with the big boys.
- Fino alla fine!