Well, that was intense, wasn't it?
Borussia Dortmund were pretty much what we expected — quick, skillful, aggressive (a little too aggressive for my liking) and at times defensively shaky. For Juventus, Max Allegri took an unfamiliar approach — but not unexpected — by mainly ceding possession to Dortmund, giving them little space and trying to hit them on quick counter attacks. This was the first time in this season's Champions League that we've had less possession than our opponents.
"We prepared this tactic, to invite Borussia forward, clog the midfield and therefore create spaces behind them. At this level you can't try to dominate your opponents, so we aimed to make the most of their defensive weaknesses" said Allegri after the game. It worked pretty well, as apart from the goal — which came as a result of an unforced error — Dortmund did not have many dangerous opportunities. This was in part helped by Jürgen Klopp's strange decision to play their in-form striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out wide on the right; it's fair to say that Ciro Immobile was much less of a threat up front.
Two complaints I have from this game. Firstly, Juve again wasted too many chances to get a third or even fourth goal. The most upsetting of these was Roberto Pereyra's in the 85th minute. Great pass first by Claudio Marchisio to Man of the Match Álvaro Morata, who then played the Vidal wannabe through, only for him to scuff his shot (despite Dortmund keeper Roman Wiedenfeller being poorly positioned). When, oh when, are we going to improve in this area?
Secondly, why were Juve trying to play the ball out from defence and midfield so often, given how aggressively Dortmund were pressing us? Juventus gave the ball away too many times like that. As even Michael Cox (of Zonalmarking.net) noted, Allegri's men were much more effective when either quickly playing out of or bypassing the midfield all together - as was the case on both of our goals.
One other thing; While the game was not dirty by any means, I did feel like the referee let Dortmund get away with a lot of their aggressive play at times. Juve definitely should have had more fouls.
I hope the Juventus players have learned from the few mistakes they made Tuesday night, and work towards not repeating these. The second leg is going to be extremely difficult, and Signal Iduna will give Dortmund a big lift. I'm still only 50 percent confident that Juve can knock out Dortmund (as there's more to winning than just having great players). But in the first leg, Juve showed that they can step it up against the top teams in Europe. In two weeks, they'll have the opportunity to show that they belong on this stage by knocking one of them out.
Dortmund made a bright start to this game, with some quick passes in midfield leading to Immobile shooting over from just outside the box. Dortmund had the best of the early exchanges, but Juventus took the lead in the 13th minute with a great counter attack. Morata and Carlos Tévez exchanged passes on the half-line before the young Spaniard sprinted down the left on Dortmund's goal, cut back and had what seemed a weak shot/cross. However, Wiedenfeller spilled this right into the path of Tevez for El Apache to tap into an open net. A brilliant start for Juve!
Alas, our dream start soon turned sour. Under no pressure, Chiellini goes to control a ball and inexplicably slips and presents Marco Reus with a one-on-one opportunity and the German international coolly sent Buffon the wrong way to equalize for Dortmund. It was the all-important away goal that we desperately wanted to avoid conceding, and it was extremely disappointing to concede via an unforced error.
Dortmund continued to press and were definitely on top after this and Juve looked to be struggling to contain them, but they still had their chances. On 21 minutes, Juve created a half chance with Tévez hooking a cross back from the goal line for Morata, who headed wide from around the penalty spot. A few minutes later, Juve had another chance, this time from an Andrea Pirlo free kick which met Leonardo Bonucci at the far post for him to head high and wide. A late challenge on Dortmund right back Lukasz Piszczek by Paul Pogba resulted in the former being substituted for Matthias Ginter.
Five minutes later, Juventus were forced into a change of their own, with Pirlo having to come off with a calf injury. Pereyra was his replacement. This did not turn out to be a detrimental loss, as a further five minutes after that, Juve retook the lead. A long pass from the back by Bonucci found Tevez, who spread the ball out wide for Pogba, who in turn played a one-time pass into the middle for the wide open Morata to side foot into the bottom corner. A goal and an assist for Juve's most in-form player at the moment.
The first chance of the second half fell to Dortmund and Immobile; after Juve failed to clear their lines, the ex-Juve man spun but fired straight at Buffon. On 61 minutes, quick passing and movement up front by Juve led to a Lichtsteiner cross for Morata to flick on, which eventually fell for Tevez who lashed over from 12 yards out.
While Dortmund had the majority of the possession, Juve were still creating chances. Pogba played in Marchisio, who layed off to Tevez, who then somehow wriggled free amidst a sea of Dortmund legs to get a shot on goal which was deflected wide for a corner. Tevez then took advantage of a slip by Ginter in the Dortmund defence to unleash a strike on goal, which Wiedenfeller pushed out for a corner. Chiellini headed over on the corner. On 80 minutes, Juve failed to clear a Dortmund free kick, and Blaszczkowski whipped in a cross from the right which Hummels headed over.
The last chance of the game fell to Juve. On 86 minutes, Marchisio played in Morata who controlled and then slid a pass through to the onrushing Pereyra who got into a great position in the box but then scuffed his shot wide. It was a great chance and would have given us that much desired two goal cushion going into the second leg.
Buffon: 6.5 Another solid performance by old reliable. An assured performance deserved of a clean sheet.
Lichtsteiner: 6 Performed admirably against one of the best players in Europe, with Reus overall being menacing rather than outright dangerous. Got forward well when the opportunity arose.
Bonucci: 6.5 Was back to his solid self as he has been for most of the season so far. Started the play which led to Juve's second goal, and late in the game made a key interception when Aubameyang would have been clean through.
Chiellini: 5 Still can't get over that slip. Yes, I know, these things happen, but why did it have to happen tonight? Sigh. He did very well subsequent to that however, but being solely at fault for Dortmund's goal can't get him above a 5. Hopefully he makes up for it by getting the winning goal in the second leg.
Evra: 6 Solid performance by the veteran Frenchman, who is now looking like the player who was a stalwart for Man United for so many years. Was caught out of position on a few occasions, but nothing particularly noteworthy.
Marchisio: 6.5 Our best midfielder on the night. Made some key interceptions to win back possession and was involved in most of our chances created in the second half.
Pirlo: 5 Unfortunate that our maestro went off after 35 minutes. He played some good passes out of midfield to help alleviate pressure, but he also lost the ball a few times. Thankfully we did not miss him.
Pogba: 6 Assisted on Morata's goal and showed some flashy touches, but was not as effective as we would have liked.
Vidal: 5.5 An aggressive performance by Vidal, which resulted in a yellow card. Could maybe have had a penalty when tripped in the box late on, otherwise did not do much offensively. Lost the ball in midfield a few times as well when trying to play out from midfield.
Morata: 7 A goal and an assist, another man of the match performance by Morata. Would have had two assists if Pereyra had finished his great chance — again, how could he not score there?
Tevez: 6.5 Performed the way we would expect from Tevez. Notched up his 4th goal in this season's Champions League and was also involved in our second goal. Since Conte took over, Juve's forwards have always had chemistry. But the Tevez-Morata partnership seems to be the best we've had since then to now, as they are both so quick and tricky. Long may it continue!
Pereyra: 5 Did a lot of running and was generally busy, but missed the best chance to give Juve that two goal cushion we desperately hoped for by scuffing his shot wide.
Padoin: N/A Came on for Vidal late on and made no real impression.
Coman: N/A Came on to give Tevez a much needed break. Gave up a chance to Dortmund by taking too long on the ball, but thankfully nothing came of it.
Allegri: 6.5 Set up the team pretty much as expected, and in my opinion, took the right approach. Can't be blame for the goal conceded which we know he really wanted to avoid. He will have his work cut out in the second leg, however.
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