Juventus had to settle for second place in their Champions League group after falling to a 1-0 reverse in Sevilla on Tuesday evening, Fernando Llorente netting the winner against his former club.
The Bianconeri entered the match knowing that a draw at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan would be sufficient in seeing them reach the knockout stages as Group D leaders.
The Blanquirrojos, meanwhile, needed to win and better Borussia Monchengladbach’s result at Manchester City in order to leapfrog the Germans into third place and qualify for the Europa League.
In a match played at great intensity throughout the 90 minutes, Massimiliano Allegri’s charges posed a constant attacking threat. The two sides mustered an incredible eight and nine shots respectively in a pulsating first period, during which Alvaro Morata, starting his first match in exactly a month, should have put his team in front, but poked wide from what was the best opportunity of the half.
Ex-Bianconero Llorente had forced Buffon into a couple of smart saves before the break, but there was little that Juventus’ captain could do about his goal on 65 minutes, the Spaniard connecting perfectly with Yevhen Konoplyanka’s whipped ball to steer into the top corner.
Allegri’s men searched with vim and vigour for an equaliser and Paulo Dybala very nearly came up with the goods on 82 minutes when his howitzer from range hurtled against Sergio Rico’s crossbar.
The keeper also blocked Morata’s injury-time effort, as the Spaniards held on for the win which sees them qualify for the Europa League, while pushing Juventus down into second place following City’s 4-2 win over Gladbach.
In what was a highly exciting opening to the encounter, Morata was causing Sevilla’s defence all kinds of problems with a couple of powerful runs into the box and a diving header, which sailed just wide of the post.
Morata’s compatriot and former team-mate Llorente was proving to be a menace down the end of the pitch and in the 18th minute his close-range shot on the turn was well blocked by Gigi Buffon.
In between Llorente’s two efforts, the Bianconeri had threatened to open the scoring themselves, firstly through a venomous Dybala drive, which flew whiskers wide, followed by Stefano Sturaro’s header, forcing Sergio Rico into a very smart save.
On 25 minutes, the visitors should have got their noses in front when Leonardo Bonucci picked out Dybala with a perfectly weighted lofted pass and the Argentine nodded generously into the path of Morata, who contrived to tap wide of the upright.
In what was proving to be a thoroughly entertaining, end-to-end encounter, it was Sevilla’s turn to provide a scare when Llorente got his head to Konoplyanka’s free-kick, only for Buffon to dive low to his left and frustrate the ex-Bianconero once more.
Typically, the ball would work its way back down the other end of the park, with Alex Sandro tricking his way past Coke before teeing up Paul Pogba, whose strike was blocked by compatriot and former Milan defender Adil Rami.
Pogba would be behind his team’s first shot of the second period, the Frenchman drilling an effort from distance, but Sergio Rico was at hand to palm clear.
With plenty at stake for both sides, the game rarely ceased to drop in tempo and Buffon had to be alert again to keep out Konoplyanka’s attempt on the hour-mark.
However, there was little that Juventus’ number one could do about Llorente’s very well taken goal on 65 minutes. Following on from a positive showing before the interval, the 30-year-old evaded his markers to flick Konoplyanka’s corner just inside Buffon’s far post.
With news filtering through of Manchester City staging a late comeback to beat Gladbach, the Bianconeri searched vigorously for an all-important equaliser and on 82 minutes, Dybala so nearly found one with a brilliant strike from range which rattled the bar.
With every surge forward, however, the visitors left themselves susceptible to being hit on the counter and Kevin Gameiro might well have doubled his side’s lead when well positioned in front of goal.
In a frantic finale to the encounter, Morata too came close to finding parity for Allegri’s men, but Sergio Rico kept up a fine display between the sticks with another remarkable save, as Emery’s charges closed in on a win which lifted them to six points and above the Foals, thus sealing qualification to the Europa League.
Juventus, meanwhile, drop a place to second and now face the prospect of coming up against one of the continent’s major heavyweights in the round of 16.