Juventus 2-1 Borussia Dortmund
Scorers: Tevez 13 (J), Reus 19 (B), Morata 43 (J)
Champions League – Last 16 – First Leg [Tuesday, 24th February – 19:45 GMT] – Juventus Stadium
What a game! That was everything you want from the Champions League, two evenly matched teams, two good coaches, and 90 minutes of back and forth fighting. Best of all, Juventus won 2-1. Of course, we still have the return leg in Dortmund, so anything can happen. That said it was a fine win for Juventus and even more so, a big step forward for the project. While Juventus dominate in Italy, our stature in Europe has still not recovered from Calciopoli – and now, from the weak state of Serie A sides in Europe in general.
The game actually started rather slow. Borussia Dortmund were pressing relentlessly, as they would all game, but neither side wanted to risk exposing themselves in order to score. At least, not at first. Ciro Immobile caused a scary moment when he forced Gianluigi Buffon to clear the ball early on, but Buffon was quick to get that ball out of play. Similarly, Immobile received a pass and caught Giorgio Chiellini out of position at the start of Juve’s half. Patrice Evra made a risky but perfectly timed tackle to stop it.
Juve would make a statement quickly, though. Alvaro Morata, in the 12th minute, found himself with some space in Dortmund’s half. He made a run towards the leftside edge of Dortmund’s area, and took a shot from a questionable angle. Despite the angle Morata’s shot was forceful enough to force a save from Roman Weidenfeller, and Carlos Tevez was right there to tap in the rebound. Who else?
It was a great moment, and Juventus Stadium erupted in celebration. Juventus were ahead of Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. Sadly, five minutes later it all changed. It was a pedestrian play, really. Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci were a bit too close together, awaiting an aerial ball coming down. Marco Reus was facing them a few yards away. Chiellini slipped as he took his first touch, and Marco Reus was able to easily get the ball and a one on one with Buffon.
As great as Buffon is, it’s tough in general to stop an attacker with such space. Much less Reus, who had his pick of any shot. Predictably, Reus slid one past Buffon, and the game was level. Even worse, Dortmund had scored a crucial away goal. As upsetting as the sequence was, Juventini can perhaps take solace in the fact that Dortmund only scored via a freak accident.
Juventus were quick to respond. Leonardo Bonucci, who had a fine game in defense, sent forth an aerial long ball to Carlos Tevez. Bonucci, who had been instructed by Allegri previously this season to keep his passes on the ground, was given free reign today with his passing, and Juve benefited. This time, he found Tevez, who hooked the ball back for Morata. Morata was about 15 yards out and took a strong header, but he was just too far from the goal and Weidenfeller easily saved the chance.
Bonucci himself would get a chance to score soon after. Mats Hummels fouled Arturo Vidal by the corner flag, though he had seemingly contained Vidal and was about to win a throw-in. A free kick was awarded, and Andrea Pirlo found Bonucci in the box, but his header went over the goal by a decent amount.
Pirlo would come off minutes later during a setpiece. It was rather sudden, he didn’t collapse on the field and get carried off. Rather, as the teams set up for the next whistle, Pirlo came off for Roberto Pereyra. It seemed like a bad omen for Juventus, but Pereyra would end up having a fine game.
When Pirlo left, Claudio Marchisio moved back into the regista role. Roberto Pereyra actually took over Vidal’s spot as a “trequartista” – though this is a misnomer as either Vidal or Pereyra in that position always helps defends, and thus isn’t really a trequartista – and Vidal moved to central midfield alongside Pogba. It was a smart move by Max, as each man really excelled in their given spot. Even Vidal, who has struggled at times this season.
But it was Pogba, not Vidal, who would have hand in Juve’s second goal. Tevez passed to Pogba out left, who fed Morata a ball into the box, which was tapped in for Juve’ go ahead goal. It was right before half time, and in a way it took the sails out of Jurgen Klopp’s side.
During the second half, it seemed Dortmund were almost content with the result. At least, they were happy to lay back and try to hit Juve on the counter. Certainly, they continued to press Juve’s players nonstop. However, especially in midfield, the Juventus men quickly adapted to the pressing and responded with quick passing, deft touches, and smart movement.
Juve did have a few chances to score during the second half. Carlos Tevez forced a save that led to a corner in the 65th minute, and Roberto Pereyra had a painfully close effort that went across the face of goal and just wide. The Pereyra effort would have been assisted by Morata, by the way. He was basically like a perfect hybrid of Llorente and Tevez, both a reference point and a tenacious player who helped create in attack and close down in defense.
Dortmund’s most dangerous moments in the second half came near the end of the match, when they had two chances in two minutes around the 90th minute. However, both times they were only able to penetrate Juve’s area, and not actually execute in the box. At other times, Juve foiled their attacks. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, for example, was fed a dangerous long ball, but Bonucci cleared it with a bicycle kick before it could reach its destination.
While Dortmund may have weakened a bit in the second half, they will stand strong in the second leg. Juventus, who will be the away side, will really need an away goal to secure a win. Still, they showed today that they can take on Dortmund’s best side and handle them. In 3 weeks we will see if a change of scenery can affect the two sides.
Man of the Match: Alvaro Morata
Flop of the Match: Giorgio Chiellini
Pass Accuracy: 80%
Shots on Target: 3
Total Shots: 10
Ball Possession: 47%
Juventus: Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Marchisio, Pirlo (Pereyra 37), Pogba; Vidal (Padoin 86); Tevez (Coman 88), Morata
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller; Piszczek (Ginter 32), Papasthatopoulos (Kirch 46), Hummels, Schmelzer; Gündogan, Sahin; Mkhitaryan, Reus, Aubameyang; Immobile (Blaszczykowski 76)
Ref: Lahoz (ESP)