Mandzukic strikes to send Juve through

Mandzukic strikes to send Juve through
Mandzukic strikes to send Juve through
Mandzukic strikes to send Juve through

Mission accomplished. The Bianconeri secured the all-important win over Valencia on Tuesday night to ensure passage to the next stage of the Champions League. Massimiliano Allegri’s team know that a win at Young Boys in the final group game will ensure they take top spot in the group. The win over the Spanish side was secured by a solitary goal, scored by Mario Mandzukic and created by Cristiano Ronaldo. The Bianconeri produced a dominant display, with the only regret being their failure to win by a more convincing margin.


The Bianconeri’s desire to secure qualification was instantly clear to see, as the team played at a high tempo and pressed high up the pitch from the first whistle. Ronaldo had two attempts on goal in the opening three minutes; with just 40 seconds played he fired wide from the left-hand corner of the box before shooting straight at Neto from more or less the same position two minutes later. Valencia for their part adopted a far more prudent approach, despite their quality on the ball and ability to find space between the lines, searching for the right opportunity to hit Juve on the break, though without any great joy.


It was one-way traffic for the majority of the first half, but of Juventus’ nine attempts on goal during the period, only one truly tested Neto in the Valencia goal. Ronaldo was unlucky not to hit the target after 22 minutes, having done well to meet Alex Sandro’s low cross into the box, while Joao Cancelo fired wide with the outside of his boot after combining well with Mandzukic and Leonardo Bonucci. Despite Juve’s clear superiority, it was the visitors who went closest to taking a first-half advantage. Wojciech Szczesny, who had been a spectator since the start of the game, made a truly outstanding save to deny Mouctar Diakhaby’s thunderous header on the stroke of half time.


Juventus continued to push their opponents back during the second period, winning the ball high up the pitch and testing the Valencia rear-guard with cross after cross. The Spanish side held out admirably for the first portion of the second half and it required a sublime piece of skill to ultimately break the deadlock. Just before the hour mark, Ronaldo dazzled Gabriel with some rapid footwork in the penalty box, beating his man from a standing start before firing across the face of goal, giving Mandzukic the easiest of finishes.


The goal was the very least Juventus deserved but for a moment it appeared Valencia had managed to draw themselves level. Diakhaby was in the thick of the action again and found the back of the net before seeing an effort chalked off – and rightly so – for a handball. Down at the other end Paulo Dybala went close to doubling Juve’s lead, striking a curling left-foot shot from outside the box that Neto was forced to tip over the bar. The Valencia keeper was also needed to block a goal-bound header from Ronaldo, who rose to meet Dybala’s out-swinging corner. Having been punished for not adding to their 1-0 lead in their last Champions League outing, against Manchester United, Juve appeared to have learned their lesson, keeping a steady hand on the tiller and taking no risks. The home side saw the game out to secure three points that ensure they will be involved in the last-16 draw. Manchester United’s win over Young Boys means that Allegri’s side still need a win to be sure they finish as group winners.


SCORERS: Mandzukic 59.


Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro (Cuadrado 46); Bentancur, Pjanic, Matuidi; Dybala (Douglas Costa 79), Ronaldo, Mandzukic. Subs not used: Perin, Benatia, Barzagli, Rugani, Kean. Coach: Allegri.


Neto; Wass, Gabriel Paulista, Diakhaby, Gayà; Coquelin, Parejo, Kondogbia (Soler 72), Guedes; Rodrigo (Gameiro 46), Santi Mina (Batshuayi 67). Subs not used: Doménech, Murillo, Lato, Piccini. Coach: Marcelino. REFEREE: Collum (SCO). ASSISTANTS: McGeachie (SCO), Stewart (SCO). FOURTH OFFICIAL: Connor (SCO). VAR: Dallas (SCO), Walsh (SCO).

YELLOW CARDS: Bentancur 13, Gayà 31, Kondogbia 43, Cuadrado 60, Diakhaby 62, Guedes 69, Batshuayi 74, Matuidi 83.


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