Goals either side of the interval from Dani Osvaldo and Paul Pogba handed the Bianconeri the advantage in their quest for a place in the Europa League last 16 in this evening’s 2-0 triumph over Trabzonspor at Juventus Stadium.
Pouncing on a fortuitous deflection into his path, the Azzurri frontman, making his first start in the black and white stripes, kept his cool to advance and slot the ball beyond Onur Kivrak with 15 minutes on the clock.
Further chances fell in the hosts’ favour during an end-to-end affair, but it appeared they would have to settle for just one as the clock ticked into the fourth of five added minutes.
However, Pogba found himself in the right place at the right time to thump Carlos Tevez’s delicious cut-back into the top corner and guarantee Juventus a little extra breathing space when approaching next Thursday’s decisive return leg in Trabzon.
It took the hosts a few minutes to ease into their rhythm following an aggressive start by the Turks, who looked to catch their opponents unawares with spells of heavy pressing during the opening exchanges.
Once order had been restored from a scrappy opening, the first to try his luck was Tevez, who found himself perfectly placed to test Kivrak from just inside the area, only to see his first-time strike pass over the top after receiving a perfectly-weighted square ball from Mauricio Isla on five minutes.
Better luck was to fall in the favour of strike partner Osvaldo ten minutes later when an attempted Tevez pass out wide to Pogba ricocheted perfectly into his path. Trabzonspor’s misfortune proved to be Juve’s gain, with the January arrival scampering through to gleefully pick out the bottom corner on his full debut.
As promised by coach Hami Mandirali in yesterday’s pre-match news conference, Trabzonspor refused to sit back and opt for damage limitation. Instead, they moved forward with intent when in possession and might feel they should have done better from a break which culminated in top scorer Emre Gural directing his low shot into the grateful arms of Buffon on 28 minutes.
Back came Juventus, led by an inspired Tevez. First, he turned provider for fellow South American Isla to draw a save from Kivrak at his near post, before letting fly with a peach of his own that curled inches past the upright.
The chances kept on coming as the Bianconeri burst out of the blocks for the start of the second half. Pogba unleashed a 25-yard effort that whistled fractionally past the far post with Kivrak at full stretch, while Osvaldo went close to goal number two, stinging the palms of the Trabzonspor shotstopper after being played into the area by Tevez.
With 66 minutes on the clock, Antonio Conte opted to introduce fresh legs in the form of Arturo Vidal and Fernando Llorente, with Isla and Osvaldo making way for the Bianconeri duo.
There was a heart stopping moment for the hosts just minutes later when Paulo’s Henrique’s chip over Buffon was cut back from the byline by Yusuf Erdogan for Olcan Adin to stab into an unguarded net, but the linesman’s flag was raised after seeing the ball move out of play.
Now operating with a flat back four, Juventus brought Sebastian Giovinco off the bench as their third and final substitute to support Tevez and Llorente in attack.
The former Parma frontman went close to providing a perfect assist for Tevez as the clock ticked down towards a frantic finale, only for the Argentine to see his strike blocked when pulling the trigger from point-blank range.
Despite Juventus dominating for large spells of the encounter, Trabzonspor’s never-say-die attitude made it a nervy end, Adin’s free-kick drawing a routine save by Buffon before Gustavo Colman lashed wide.
A glorious opportunity to extend the lead fell to the feet of Pogba with one minute remaining, with only the post denying him the goal his efforts deserved.
However, it was only to be a brief respite for the Trabzonspor rearguard, as the French midfielder popped up in the fourth minute of stoppage time to strengthen the Bianconeri’s grip on the tie.