22.10.2014 23:19 - in: UCL S

      Juve edged out in Athens

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      Pajtim Kasami’s 36th minute strike and Roberto’s goalkeeping masterclass see the Bianconeri leave Greece empty-handed

      Pajtim Kasami’s first-half strike and Roberto’s second-half goalkeeping masterclass ensured Juventus came away from Greece empty-handed as Olympiacos emerged victorious from tonight’s Group A clash by a 1-0 scoreline.

      If the opening 45 minutes belonged to Michel’s men, the reverse can be applied to the second period after the Bianconeri laid siege to the hosts’ goal in their attempts to claim what would have been a fully deserved share of the spoils.

      The reigning champions of Greece enjoyed the better of the chances in the first-half and capitalised nine minutes ahead of the interval when Kasami steered a low shot into the bottom corner after being slipped in by Kostas Mitroglou.

      But Juventus improved significantly after the break and could have drawn level on numerous occasions, with Paul Pogba, Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata all left ruing their luck after being denied by Olympiacos’ inspired Spanish shotstopper.

      In front of a packed out Karaiskakis Stadium crowd, the hosts made a forceful start to proceedings and carved out two decent opportunities to go ahead inside the opening six minutes.

      Following a forceful burst from deep by Arthur Masuaku, Mitroglou prodded into the side netting, while Alejandro Dominguez, a threat pinpointed by Massimiliano Allegri in yesterday’s press conference, saw his cleanly dispatched free-kick plucked away from the top corner by Gigi Buffon.

      With that early storm weathered, Juventus, featuring three changes from Saturday’s draw with Sassuolo, began to see more of the ball and, utilising the pace of Morata, aimed to get in behind the Olympiacos rearguard when venturing forward on the counter.

      But it was the hosts who remained the most threatening in attacking areas, in particular down the left flank, where the aforementioned trio of Masuaku, Dominguez and Mitroglou frequently combined to good effect.

      With less than ten minutes remaining of the first-half, this particular avenue produced Olympiacos’ opener. Set free by Dominguez, Mitroglou edged towards the left-hand side of the area and pulled back for an untracked Kasami to slot calmly past Buffon on 36 minutes.

      The Bianconeri saw in the second period with greater purpose but the disciplined hosts, fortified by their advantage, allowed themselves to sit deep and soak up the pressure before breaking forward.

      Yet Olympiacos still continued to press and another attack from the left-hand side of the area almost came to fruition when Kasami connected with Dominguez’s cutback, only to see his finish roll inches wide of the far post.

      With Claudio Marchisio on in place of Andrea Pirlo, Juventus upped the tempo and would have levelled matters had Roberto not produced a miraculous stop after Morata wriggled free to shoot from point-blank range on 65 minutes.

      And the Spanish Under-21 forward, making his first start for the Bianconeri, was at it again five minutes later, this time rising above his marker to head Arturo Vidal’s cross over the bar.

      As the clock entered the final 15 minutes, Juventus began to bombard a goal guarded by a seemingly impenetrable Roberto. After keeping out Pogba’s cross-cum shot that veered menacingly towards the target and thwarting Tevez’s rocket from close range, the Spaniard saved his best for last, turning fellow countryman Morata’s thunderbolt on to the crossbar when the odds seemed firmly stacked against him.

      And there were yet more heroics to come from the goalkeeper as Tevez was denied by a one-handed stop with four minutes remaining after being teed up by Morata.

      Following four frantic minutes of stoppage time, Juventus’ fate was sealed, with tonight’s result placing them third in the group on three points following Atletico’s goal-laden triumph over Malmo in Madrid.

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