13 August 2016
Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala hit the target as Juventus fought back twice from behind to secure a share of the spoils in Saturday night’s entertaining 2-2 draw with Espanyol at Modena’s Stadio Alberto Braglia.
Despite a first half full of Bianconeri domination, it was in fact the Spaniards who shot themselves in front with 36 minutes played, Leo Baptistao converting inside the box after turning Andrea Barzagli.
Bolstered by four changes at the break, Massimiliano Allegri’s men upped the tempo and got their reward when Mandzukic found himself in the right place at the right time to tap Kwadwo Asamoah’s cross over the line nine minutes after the restart.
The pendulum appeared to have swung in the Bianconeri’s favour when Espanyol’s Victor Sanchez was shown his marching orders in the closing stages of the contest, only for Gerard Moreno to silence a strong black and white crowd by restoring the visitors’ lead on 84 minutes.
But it was Dybala who had the final say with a show-stopping strike on the stroke of 90 minutes, concluding the reigning champions’ penultimate pre-season workout in real style.
Lining up in a 3-5-2 formation with Miralem Pjanic operating at the base of central midfield, Juventus began the match brightly, probing and pressing for a way through the Espanyol rearguard. The first occasion of note fell on eight minutes to the feet of Roberto Pereyra, who was unable to bend the ball beyond his namesake Roberto following a spirited burst towards the edge of the area.
Espanyol, under the tutelage of new boss Quique Sanchez Flores for the 2016/17 campaign, maintained their composure during heavy spells of Juventus possession and got their reward against the run of play, Baptistao turning Barzagli inside the area before casually rolling the ball home on 36 minutes.
The second half saw the Juventus take to the field with a greater attacking edge and after Mandzukic, deployed alongside substitute Dybala and Higuain in an attacking trident, had seen his header hit the post on 47 minutes, the Croat made amends just seven minutes later, converting Asamoah’s cross at the back post.
Espanyol saw their hopes of regaining the lead suffer a severe blow when Sanchez was shown a second yellow card for his foul on Dybala, leaving the Barcelona-based outfit down to 10 men for the closing stages of the contest.
This setback failed to rattle the Spaniards, who shot themselves in front when Neto’s fine save from Jose Jurado’s strike fell only as far as the feet of Moreno, prompting the frontman to gleefully tap home from a matter of yards.
The last word, however, remained with Dybala, whose trademark left-footed gem into the top corner secured a thoroughly deserved share of the spoils for the Bianconeri.
Allegri’s men will have their final pre-season run-out when they line up against Juventus B in the club’s traditional friendly at Villar Perosa on Wednesday night. This precedes the official start of the 2016/17 Serie A campaign on Saturday evening, when Fiorentina travel to Juventus Stadium to lock horns with the reigning champions.