An Arturo Vidal hat-trick enabled Juventus to regain control of their European destiny with this evening’s 3-1 Champions League Group B victory over FC Copenhagen in Turin.
The Chilean put the hosts in the lead just shy of the half-hour mark, slamming home confidently from the spot after Lars Jacobsen was penalised for handling in the area.
He then restored the Bianconeri’s advantage on 61 minutes, responding to former Juve defender Olof Mellberg’s momentary equaliser moments earlier, before completing his treble with a sumptuous header from Paul Pogba’s center.
The victory, coupled with Real Madrid’s triumph over Galatasaray, sends Antonio Conte’s men into second spot knowing a point in Istanbul would rubber stamp a place in the last 16.
A strong start to proceedings saw the Bianconeri produce their first chance after five minutes of play. Pogba drifted into a pocket of space on the edge of the box and gathered Leonardo Bonucci’s raking pass but failed to get neither the required power nor accuracy behind his shot to trouble Johan Wiland.
Six minutes later, Juventus again worked themselves into a promising position. This time it was Kwadwo Asamoah who provided a teasing delivery towards the near post, only for Carlos Tevez to turn his attempt wide of the target from six yards after ghosting in front of his marker.
Prolonged spells of the opening 25 minutes of the encounter were spent camped deep inside FC Copenhagen’s half, yet the Danes remained disciplined and frustrated the hosts through two well-organised banks of four that worked hard to squeeze any available space in midfield.
A golden opportunity to take the lead did fall in the Bianconeri’s favour shortly before the half-hour mark. An Andrea Pirlo cross, coupled with Pogba’s movement at the back post, caught FC Copenhagen captain Jacobsen in two minds and his handball was instantly spotted by Jonas Eriksson, who had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Swedish shotstopper Wiland was Juventus’ nemesis in September’s first meeting of the sides following a string of fine saves at Parken Stadium, but there was precious little he could do about Vidal’s spot kick which fizzed past him into the bottom corner.
Now with the bit firmly between their teeth, the hosts pushed to increase their advantage ahead of the break. Two Pirlo free-kicks flashed over and straight at Wiland, Vidal’s left-footed drive was comfortably gathered by the Swede and Pogba had certain sections of Juventus Stadium on their feet when his curling effort landed in the side netting.
The visitors emerged from the interval with increased purpose and almost created problems early on when a goalmouth scramble from a throw-in forced Pogba into clearing under pressure.
And minutes later, Juventus were made to pay the price for failing to adequately deal with another aerial missile launched in from the right-hand touchline, with Mellberg pouncing on defensive uncertainty to hook the ball past Gigi Buffon for the equaliser, the visitors’ first effort on target.
But the FC Copenhagen hero was soon to turn villain as a searching ball set Fernando Llorente galloping into the box, resulting in a cynical challenge from behind which gave Eriksson no option but to award his second penalty of the game, converted with aplomb by Vidal on 61 minutes.
Sensing the goal had shattered the Danes’ early second-half resolve, Juventus rampaged forward and extended their lead just two minutes later when Vidal towered majestically at the back post to guide Pogba’s deep cross beyond Wiland for his third of the night.
Second-half substitutions saw Claudio Marchisio and Mirko Vucinic enter the fray, but the night belonged to Vidal, who earned his fully deserved standing ovation when replaced by Angelo Ogbonna with seven minutes remaining.