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10 Apr 2013

Juve bow out with heads held high

A determined Bianconeri display proves in vain as Bayern pounce with two second-half goals to secure a Champions League semi-final spot

Juventus bowed out of the Champions League with their heads held high following tonight’s 2-0 reverse at the hands of Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

Second-half goals from Mario Mandzukic and Claudio Pizzarro booked the visitors’ place in the last four of the competition and ended the Bianconeri’s European dream at the quarter-final stages.

Juventus displayed their intent right from the very off and pinned Bayern back inside their own half with a number of aggressive forays into enemy territory.

Mirko Vucinic had the hosts’ first effort on goal inside the opening two minutes but failed to generate enough power in his shot to trouble Manuel Neuer.

Minutes later it was Claudio Marchisio’s turn to try his luck with a left-footed speculative drive from range that passed comfortably over the upright.

But Bayern rallied and succeeded in taking the sting out of Juventus’ frantic start to proceedings by regaining their grip on the midfield battle and settling into their traditional possession game.  

A decent opportunity, however, presented itself when the Bianconeri won a direct free-kick on the edge of the box with 22 minutes played. Andrea Pirlo strode up and drilled a menacing free-kick towards the top corner, only for Neuer to prove equal to his precise attempt by fisting the ball away from danger.  

Sensing the opportunity to pounce while Bayern were on the ropes, Juventus continued to commit bodies forward and deserved better luck when Paul Pogba’s inviting cutback across the face of goal failed to pick out a black and white shirt with the target gaping.

Quagliarella became the next Bianconeri to attempt to make inroads into the two-goal deficit, unleashing a right-footed blockbuster from range which drifted wide of the upright.

Having survived an intense period of pressure, Bayern responded in kind and tested the reflexes of Gigi Buffon through David Alaba’s well-struck attempt from the edge of the area on 39 minutes.

Bolstered by Conte’s motivational rallying cry at the interval, Juventus began the second half brightly and were presented with a promising set-piece opportunity after Vucinic’s mazy run was brought to a halt by Dante’s ill-timed challenge from behind.

The responsibility again rested on Pirlo’s shoulders, but the midfielder’s free-kick clipped off the Bayern wall before trickling through to the hands of Neuer.  

With the temperature rising inside a boisterous Juventus Stadium, Quagliarella went a whisker away from gaining a foothold in the tie with a venomous strike that fizzed inches wide of Neuer’s right-hand post.

Down the other end, Dutch winger Arjen Robben had Bianconeri hearts fluttering when his curling left-footed effort on 56 minutes bounced back off the frame of the goal with Buffon beaten.   

But those hopeful Bianconeri hearts were to be broken nine minutes later as Mandzukic headed home from close range to put the visitors a significant step closer to the semi-finals.

Juve, however, refused to lie down and went in search of the goal their efforts merited. Pogba led the charge with a rasping 20-yard attempt that stung the fingertips of Neuer.

Yet Bayern would eventually have the final say as Pizzarro came off the bench to put the outcome beyond any doubt by slotting home in the first minute of injury time.   

When the dust has settled following the initial disappointment of tonight’s exit, Conte and his backroom staff will sit down and reflect on their remarkable achievements over the past 18 months.

And they will do so with plenty of pride. From two seventh-placed finishes to last year’s thrilling invincible run which culminated in Scudetto glory. From domestic football to reclaiming the club’s rightful place amongst Europe’s elite.

The resounding 3-0 win over reigning European champions Chelsea, the defiant display in Donetsk to top Group E, the clinical finishing in the cauldron of Celtic Park … all images that will linger long in the memories of legions of Bianconeri followers around the world.

One thing’s for certain. Conte’s men will be back in Europe next year. And they’ll be hungrier than ever to build on this season’s extraordinary journey.


GOALS: Mandzukic 63, Pizarro 90+1

Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Padoin (Isla 69), Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio (Giaccherini 79), Asamoah; Vucinic, Quagliarella (Matri 66).
Substitutes not used: Storari, Peluso, Caceres, De Ceglie.
Manager: Conte

Neuer; Lahm, Van Buyten (Boateng 35), Dante, Alaba; Martinez, Schweinsteiger;  Robben, Muller, Ribery (Luiz Gustavo 80); Mandzukic (Pizarro 83).
Substitutes not used: Starke, Rafinha, Shaqiri, Gomez.
Manager: Heynckes

REFEREE: Carballo (ESP)
ASSISTANTS: Alonso (ESP), Yuste (ESP)
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Pérez del Palomar (ESP)

BOOKINGS: Mandzukic 7, Bonucci 13