25.11.2015 23:10 - in: Match report S

      Table-topping Juve reach UCL last 16

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      The Bianconeri beat Manchester City 1-0 on Wednesday evening at Juventus Stadium to rubber-stamp their passage to the Champions league last 16 and go top of Group D with one match remaining

      Juventus booked their place for the Champions League knockout stages and moved top of Group D with a hard-fought home win over Manchester City on Wednesday night courtesy of Mario Mandzukic’s 18th minute strike.

      The visitors entered the encounter knowing that three points would confirm first place for themselves and they came very close to taking the lead after 16 minutes, when Fernandinho failed to convert from close-range with the goal at his mercy.

      Just two minutes later Manuel Pellegrini’s men found themselves trailing, Mandzukic making no mistake from ten yards out, as he profited from Alex Sandro’s pinpoint cross to net his second against the Citizens this season, having scored the opener in September’s first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

      Another fine display from Gigi Buffon snuffed out chances for both Sergio Aguero and Fernando either side of the interval, while, down the other end, the 55th minute introduction of Alvaro Morata saw the hosts very nearly double their lead, Stefano Sturaro knocking the Spaniard’s chip onto the post.

      When Raheem Sterling spurned City’s clearest-cut chance of the evening on 80 minutes, Massimiliano Allegri’s men did well in closing down the contest to make sure of the win that puts them two points ahead of their English opponents in Group D with one game remaining.

      A tense opening period saw half chances fall to both sides as first Fernandinho’s low drive sailed past Buffon’s upright, then a cleverly clipped ball by Claudio Marchisio found Mandzukic in the penalty box, but the former Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid man was unable to direct his header on target.

      City were passing the ball around neatly, controlling two-thirds of possession in the first quarter of an hour and they created a gilt-edged opportunity when Kevin De Bruyne’s cross bounced off Yaya Toure in the box and fell into the path of Fernandinho, but the Brazilian blazed over the bar from close-range.

      It was a chance the visitors would immediately regret not taking as just two minutes later Juventus got their noses in front.

      Fresh from his assist for Paulo Dybala’s match-winner against Milan at the weekend, Alex Sandro whipped in another brilliant ball from the left and Mandzukic managed to lose his marker before steering home to register his fifth goal for the club since joining in the summer.

      The Bianconeri were now the team with their tails up and exactly ten minutes later Mandzukic brought a brilliant save out of Joe Hart with an instinctive shot on the spin that was destined for the bottom corner.

      Eager to bring themselves back on level terms, City were pouncing at any opportunity to break forward and were not holding back from a shot or two, Toure twice seeing his attempts sail off target.

      Then, just moments before the interval, another golden opportunity fell the way of the visitors, as Aguero latched onto Marchisio’s loose ball inside the box, but the Argentine was swiftly stopped in his tracks by Buffon to the relief of all wearing black and white.

      More heroics would be in the offing from Juventus’ number one shortly after half-time, as the club captain somehow kept out Fernando’s menacing header and protected the ball from Toure who was lurking close by.

      Juventus’ first substitution of the evening would follow seconds afterwards, Mandzukic replaced in the 55th minute by Morata, who immediately found himself in the heart of the action. Receiving the ball in space on the right, the Spaniard chipped Hart and an onrushing Sturaro almost arrived in time to poke home but his shot rebounded agonisingly off the post and away from danger.

      A series of changes to both line-ups led to a dip in tempo that would last until the 79th minute when, once again, Morata nearly managed to double his side’s advantage. The 23-year-old’s sublime footwork saw him elude the challenges of both Nicolas Otamendi and Martin Demichelis before firing straight at Hart.

      No more than a minute later, however, City could and probably should have found the equaliser when second-half substitute Sterling slid the ball beyond the far post with the goal beckoning.

      Entering the final ten minutes of the match, Juventus dug deep to defend their lead up until the fourth and final minute of injury time, successfully countering their opponents’ increased urgency to get back on level pegging.

      As the stadium erupted to the tune of Felix Brych’s whistle, news filtering in from Germany confirmed that Borussia Monchengladbach had beaten Sevilla 4-2, thus rubber-stamping the Bianconeri’s progress to the knockout stages.

      The scenario is simple. If the Bianconeri better Manchester City’s result on Matchday Six, they finish top of Group D, something that Allegri and company will undoubtedly be eager to achieve, given the opportunity to avoid a European superpower in the round of 16.


      Buffon, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Lichtsteiner, Sturaro, Marchisio, Pogba, Alex Sandro (Evra 77), Mandzukic (Morata 55), Dybala (Cuadrado 82)

      Unused substitutes: Neto, Rugani, Lemina, Zaza

      Coach: Allegri



      Hart (Caballero 81), Sagna, Demichelis, Otamendi, Clichy, Fernando, Toure, Fernandinho (Delph 60), Navas, De Bruyne, Aguero (Sterling 68)

      Unused substitutes: Maffeo, Adarabioyo, Kolarov, Celina

      Coach: Pellegrini

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