Welcome back, Signora, we really miss you.
Juventus traveled to Manchester looking for their true identity, grinta and personality. After 90 minutes of an intense battle at Etihad Stadium, I believe they found all three of those things.
Max Allegri refused to give us a hint of his starting lineup at Monday's pre-match press conference and now we know why. Everybody was expecting a 3-5-2 formation with a very cautious approach; however Allegri displayed an aggressive 4-3-3 formation with the attacking trident of Álvaro Morata, Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado.
The Citizens presented their classic 4-5-1/4-2-3-1 formation, however, they were without Sergio Aguero, who was injured and began the match in the bench.
The game started red-hot, when Manchester City's summer signing Raheem Starling had a golden opportunity denied exceptionally by Gianluigi Buffon. Juventus responded quickly with a beautiful cross by Juan Cuadrado that found Paul Pogba at the second post, the Frenchman's header met the back of the net but the play didn't count because Álvaro Morata was offside. Then, Hernanes was close to score with a long-range free kick. Both teams exchanged a series of opportunities that could break the partial tie; nevertheless the first half finished 0-0.
The Citizens broke the deadlock in a polemic way early in the second half. In the 57th minute David Silva curled a corner kick to the far post; Vincent Kompany raised and committed a flagrant foul over Giorgio Chellini. The Belgian held down Chellini, who couldn´t jump and was forced to connect the ball into his own goal.
Juventus was shaken and Manchester City had taken the advantage. In a furious counterattack David Silva assisted Raheem Starling who forced a great save by Buffon; the ball ricocheted to Silva but the Juventus captain scrambled and made a second save.
In the 70th minute, 10 minutes after Buffon's miracle save, Mario Mandzukic scored the equalizer. Paul Pogba fed the Croatian with a lovely cross from the left wing, as Mandzukic then redirected the ball to Joe Hart´s left post.
Eleven minutes later, Álvaro Morata put Juventus ahead with a marvelous goal. The Spaniard took advantage of a rebound just outside The Citizens' penalty area and curled a thundering left footed shot that left Joe Hart without a chance.
Manchester City had one last chance. Yaya Touré tested Buffon with a long-range effort, but The Italian legend made another spectacular save, diving to his left to keep out a shot destined for the top corner of the goal.
Buffon 8 Sorry guys, San Gigi can't be the man of the match because he's a demigod. His double save should be one of the UEFA's plays of the year. He kept Juventus in the game and showed once again why he's the best in the business.
Litchsteiner 6 It was a hard game for the Swiss express. He barely attacked and had problems with Starling.
Bonucci 6.5 A Solid effort by Leo. Outside one play he erased Bony and led the defense with poise.
Chellini 6.5 The own goal wasn't his fault. He was an enforcer and won a pair of great duels against Yaya Touré
Evra 6.5 He owned the left flank, however had some troubles with his final touch.
Sturaro 5.5 He had problems to understand the match. That said, in the second half he was a Pit Bull and won a lot of balls.
Hernanes 6.5 I really liked "the prophet" in this match. The middle of the park was really crowded but he played a smart game and was always well positioned.
Pogba 6.5 He assisted Mandzukic delightfully and played a solid game. Still, he needs to step up.
Cuadrado 6.5 The Colombian wanted to show his worth in this match and succeed. However, he need to be calm in some stages of the game- almost gave Max a stroke-.
Mandzukic 6.5 Made his best David Trezeguet impression. Almost invisible in the game but fought hard against Manchester City's central defenders and scored in a really beautiful play.
Morata 7 Mr. Champions League did it again. Scored a late screamer to seal the game and also helped a lot on defense.
Dybala s/v Made little impact. Celebrated Morata's goal wonderfully.
Barzagli s/v Entered in the final minutes of the match to lock down the win.
Allegri 7 Max really knows how to prepared this kind of matches. He surprised Mauricio Pellegrini with an aggressive formation and gave his men the motivation to execute it.
Things I Think I Think
- Juventus broke my fearless predictions and I couldn't be happier.
- Let's hope this is the turning point we're expecting. The bianconeri won against a heavyweight at Etihad stadium without Vidal, Tevez and Pirlo. Yes, Juventus can win without them.
- Gianluigi Buffon: The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be.
- Juventus is back. Fino alla fine!