20 October 2021
Juventus continued their perfect run in Europe, this time defeating their UEFA Champions League Group Stage opponents Zenit St Petersburg 1-0 away from home to take command of the group and make it three wins from three.
NO WAY THROUGH
It was a tight contest from the onset, Zenit pressing high up the pitch to keep the visitors on their toes, yet the Juventus players were able to maintain possession in their half and fend off their aggressive counterparts.
Both sides refused to give an inch, keeping compact and playing a patient game. It took until the 18th minute for the first real chance of the game to be created: a Federico Bernardeschi slip gave possession back to the hosts, as Claudinho unleashed a swerving shot that Wojciech Szczesny had to be alert to, with Matthijs De Ligt on hand to clear the parried ball away.
Birthday boy Mattia De Sciglio, with a consecutive start on the right, was again impressing, keeping calm under pressure and making vital interceptions in the defensive half while also getting involved on the opposite end of the field, his teasing ball punched clear as the Bianconeri searched for a way to break down the Zenit wall.
CHIESA GETS CLOSE
Dangerman Federico Chiesa was being kept under close watch, the home side's defense not allowing the Italian livewire any space. When he did manage to wriggle past a handful of defenders, another was waiting to block his attempt on goal. He then tried his luck from range, without reward, yet moments later, after finding space on the left, he could only watch in anguish as his curled effort sailed wide.
Szczesny was on hand to quell any potential danger from a late first-half Zenit corner, while at the other end of the pitch, the Juventus players were still unable to truly test opposition keeper Stanislav Kritsyuk, who was kept well-protected by his defense.
In the 50th minute, a golden opportunity for the Bianconeri went begging as Alvaro Morata's inch-perfect pass split the Zenit defense to pick out an onrushing Weston McKennie, yet the American unable to get his effort past an outstretched Stanislav Kritsyuk.
The Juventus backline were then given another Claudinho scare, the Brazilian slipping his way through before firing a shot narrowly wide.
A triple change on the hour mark saw Arthur, Juan Cuadrado and Dejan Kulusevski brought on to add fresh legs, the Brazilian's searching ball finding his fellow Colombian substitute whose side-footed effort couldn't find a teammate as the danger was averted.
A flurry of Zenit attacks then arrived, yet the Bianconeri backline stood firm, resisting each wave to preserve the clean sheet, but never backing down in their own attempts to find a match-winner.
Morata's deft touch allowed him to strike from distance, yet his rifled effort flew over the cross bar, before McKennie again came close to finding the opener, his glancing header from De Sciglio's cross drifting just wide.
In the end, it was the Swedish substitute who would have the desired impact: patient Bianconeri build-up play resulted in a raking cross-field ball from Leonardo Bonucci who found De Sciglio down the left, his perfect ball into the box met by Kulusevski who nodded the ball home to give the visitors the advantage with just four minutes to go.
In the ascendency, the Bianconeri looked to close the game on a high, Chiesa still doing his utmost to bundle his way through, the Zenit defense forcing him to strike wide from a difficult angle.
Buoyed on by the home crowd, Zenit tried their best to find a leveller in the closing stages, yet the Bianconeri hung on to claim a hard-fought 1-0 and, more importantly, three valuable points, putting them firmly in command of the group and a step closer to the next round of the competition.
ZENIT ST PETERSBURG 0–1 JUVENTUS (HT 0-0)
SCORER: 86 Kulusevski
Line-up: Szczesny, De Sciglio, de Ligt, Alex Sandro (Cuadrado 58'), Bonucci, McKennie, Bernardeschi (Kulusevski 58'), Locatelli (Arthur 58'), Bentancur (Ramsey 84'), Chiesa, Morata (Kean 76').
Subs not used: Pinsoglio, Perin, Chiellini, Danilo, Rugani.
Line-up: Kritsyuk, Lovren, Chsitiakov, Rakitskyy, Douglas Santos, Karavaev (Azmoun 61'), Barrios, Wendel, Malcom (Kuzyaev, 69'), Dzubya (Sutormin 61'), Claudinho.
Subs not used: Kerzhakov, Byazrov, Krugovoi, Azmoun, Mostovoy, Erokhin, Kravtsov, Kuznetsov, Khotulev.