Second-half goals from Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez enabled Juventus to keep their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages alive with this evening’s deserved 2-0 success over Malmo in Sweden.
In spite of a heavy playing surface hampering their traditional passing game, Massimiliano Allegri’s men dug in to depart the Swedbank Stadion as worthy winners, countering the hosts’ early exuberance with an accomplished second-half display.
A tightly-contested opening 45 minutes, in which Claudio Marchisio went close on two separate occasions, gave way to a more free-flowing second period that produced the breakthrough when Llorente rounded Robin Olsen before tapping home four minutes after the restart.
A typical poacher’s finish from Tevez wrapped up the win with two minutes to play, meaning the Bianconeri only require a point from December’s final Group A clash against Atletico Madrid to secure their safe passage through to the competition’s last 16.
Warned of Malmo’s aggression on home soil by Allegri on the eve of the game, Juventus were forced to be patient during a combative opening to the game in which the hosts, spurred on by a passionate faithful, made their presence felt with some strong challenges in the middle of the park.
Having weathered a spell of early pressure from Age Hareide’s troops, the visitors began to see more of the ball and, pushed forward by the effervescent Stephan Lichtsteiner on the right flank, carved out their first opportunity to open the scoring on 14 minutes, Arturo Vidal stinging the fingertips of Olsen after connecting with the Swiss international’s cutback on the edge of the area.
Another neat combination, this time between Andrea Pirlo and Marchisio, produced the Bianconeri’s second opportunity on 28 minutes but Marchisio was unable to steer his shot beyond Olsen after being picked out by a delicately threaded through ball from his club and international team-mate.
The midfielder’s timely bursts into the box from deep were becoming a preferred source of Bianconeri attacks and seven minutes later he renewed his personal duel with Olsen, who pulled off another decent save to prevent him from volleying Vidal’s majestic pass into the back of the net.
The start of the second half saw the visitors emerge with all guns blazing and after Marchisio was once again denied by Olsen inside the opening 60 seconds of the restart, a classic smash and grab on the counter enabled Llorente, set free by the midfielder’s raking pass from deep, to round the goalkeeper before rolling the ball over the line on 49 minutes.
Now playing with a real spring in their step, Juventus fashioned further chances for Marchisio, Tevez and Llorente - all saved by Olsen – as they aimed to tighten their grip on the three points.
The introduction of Alvaro Morata in place of fellow countryman Llorente gave the Malmo rearguard a different prospect to contend with and the striker will be disappointed not to have found the target after rattling the woodwork from a matter of yards following Tevez’s cutback.
But there was little time to rue that missed opportunity, with Tevez making no mistake when sent through on goal by Pogba moments later, steering the ball into the far corner for his third Champions League goal of the current campaign.
The final score, coupled with Olympiacos’ defeat to Atletico in Madrid, means Juventus need a point from the Spaniards’ visit to Turin on Tuesday 9 December to prolong their journey in Europe’s elite competition.
In the meantime, the Bianconeri will swiftly divert their attentions to Serie A matters, with Torino making the short journey to Juventus Stadium on Sunday evening for a mouthwatering Derby della Mole encounter.