Juventus
    Juventus
      06.12.2016 10:20 - in: Champions League S

      Five down…one to go

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      With the Bianconeri set to conclude their Group H campaign against Dinamo Zagreb, Juventus.com retells the key episodes in their route to the last 16
      1. FIRST-HALF SHOW IN ZAGREB

      After an opening day goalless draw with Sevilla at Juventus Stadium, the Bianconeri headed east to Croatia in late September in search of a first European victory of the season and a decisive first step towards qualification from Group H.

      To do so, they would need to start the game well at the Stadion Maksimir and silence a vociferous home crowd from the off. In the first of three impressive away UCL victories, that is exactly what Massimiliano Allegri’s men managed to do, netting two first-half goals to all but end the match as a contest.

      Both strikes would bear the mark of Miralem Pjanic, the Bosnian pouncing on a defensive mistake to deftly prod home Leonardo Bonucci’s deflected through pass before floating a sumptuous ball over the top of the home defence for Gonzalo Higuain to classily finish on the volley.

      The best effort of the night however was still yet to come…

      2. dybala off the mark

      Paulo Dybala does not really do simple goals so when the time came for the Argentine to get off the mark for the season in Zagreb – his second career UCL strike -  it was inevitable that he would do it in style.

      Picking up the ball from at least 25 yards out, Dybala needed no invitation to scurry forward, take the briefest of glances at Dinamo goalkeeper Adrian Semper and unleash an unstoppable left-footed shot into the corner of the net.

      Paulo’s wonderstrike would mark the beginning of a personal purple patch in the Autumn, making it four goals in three games in all competitions in the following two outings away at Empoli and at home to Udinese.

      Will we see our number 21 return with a bang on Wednesday night against the same opposition? 

      3. Buffon Brilliance

      Three weeks later it was time to take on Lyon and, as it turned out, for Superman to reveal his true identity.  

      @gianluigibuffon: Hero. Today, tomorrow, forever. #NumeroUno #G1G1 #FinoAllaFine #ForzaJuve

      A photo posted by Juventus Football Club (@juventus) on

      Words failed many of us when trying to describe the performance of Gianluigi Buffon that night at the Parc-OL as the Bianconeri skipper produced two minor miracles in keeping the scores level as his team braved a French onslaught either side of the break.

      If his first-half penalty save from Alexandre Lacazette was already an excellent stop under immense pressure, his second block on Nabil Fekir’s deflected shot belonged to the realm of supernaturalism. How he could read in that split-second the change in direction of the ball as it glanced off Andrea Barzagli’s body, only he can know.

       

      And Gigi wasn’t finished there: his two-footed block on Corentin Tolisso’s bullet header from point-blank range was another heart-stopping demonstration of skill and unwavering determination that his net would not be breached.

      As Buffon proved to be increasingly invincible at one end, you just got the feeling that there was going to be only one conclusion at the other…

      4. Juan's winner

      Some players just have a knack of scoring when it matters most and Juan Cuadrado is one of them.

      Cuadrado needed just seven minutes from coming off the bench to snatch an unlikely three points for the Old Lady, by then already down to ten men after the dismissal of Mario Lemina.

      In every sense of the expression, Juan’s magnificent winning goal was a real bolt from the blue. There seemed few other alternatives for the Colombian as he collected the ball from Mario Mandzukic wide on the Juve right with the Lyon defence well set to manage any crosses or threaded passes into the box.

      As for what happened next, well, don’t let us be the ones to relive it for you: how about we pass over to the man himself to talk you through it?

      5. Sealing it in Sevilla

      A 1-1 draw with Lyon in Turin in the return fixture however meant that Juventus still had it all to do at Sevilla’s Estadio Sanchez-Pizjuan as the top two teams in Group H did battle in a thrilling, high stakes and end-to-end encounter on 23 November.

      The importance of Juan’s late decider in France should not be undervalued but it was in Spain that Allegri’s men truly delivered the hammer blow that secured their place in the competition’s last 16 and overthrew Sevilla from the top of the standings.

      Dani Parejo’s volley from the edge of the area within five minutes of kick-off threatened the worst in Andalusia before the Bianconeri fought back to weather the storm of frenetic home attacking to restabilise and claw their way back into contention.

      Fate would have it that the returning Claudio Marchisio would be the man to draw his team level moments before the interval, coolly slotting in from the penalty spot after a foul on Leonardo Bonucci.

      With the tightly-contested tie seemingly heading for a draw as Juve struggled to break down a combative and passionate ten-man Sevilla, fellow history-maker and big-game player Bonucci made his own mark on the scoresheet, drilling superbly into the corner from distance to put his side ahead for the first time on the night.

      The hardy Bianconeri fans to have made the journey to Seville were soon celebrating a clinical third strike from Mandzukic, which put the victory beyond any doubt.

      With that, qualification was finalised but only a win on Wednesday against Dinamo will guarantee top spot for certain. The final installment of a rollercoaster group phase awaits at Juventus Stadium…

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