11.04.2017 23:05 - in: Match report S

      Flawless Juve stun Barcelona

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      Advantage Bianconeri as Paulo Dybala and Giorgio Chiellini set up a pulsating 3-0 win over Barcelona at Juventus Stadium

      Two flashes of brilliance from Paulo Dybala, 90 minutes of football of the very highest quality, a record sellout Juventus Stadium crowd, a night that confirmed the Bianconeri’s credentials as Champions League contenders.

      The impeccable home side had the lead within seven, had doubled it within 22 and had taken the game beyond the reach of an off-colour Barcelona within 55. At full-time, players and fans alike were free to reflect on a flawless performance.

      It was the invention and unerring finishing of Dybala that set the Old Lady on course to victory, but it was the focus, concentration and organisation of the 14 black and white shirts to have taken to the field that saw her home.

      The signs were there from the first whistle. Roaring out of the blocks, the Italian champions fed off an electric atmosphere in Turin and immediately took the game to Luis Enrique’s Barca with Gonzalo Higuain, Dybala, Juan Cuadrado and Mario Mandzukic – reunited in the forward positions – wreaking havoc with their energy and movement.

      It wasn’t long before the Blaugrana goal was under threat. Sami Khedira shot over the bar from the edge of the box and Higuain could only direct a header straight at Marc-André ter Stegen from Miralem Pjanic’s curling free-kick inside five minutes.

      Sure enough, with their next attack, Juve took the lead thanks to Dybala’s ingenuity. Receiving the ball from Cuadrado on the right-hand channel in a packed penalty box, the Argentine ducked, weaved and dug the ball out from his feet to curl a fabulous finish into the far corner.

      He was at it again 15 minutes later. Moments after Gianluigi Buffon’s instinctive block had miraculously denied Andrès Iniesta from equalising, the Bianconeri were back on the offensive with the inexhaustible Mandzukic. The Croatian’s drive to the byline and precise cut-back put the ball on a plate for Dybala to sweep home clinically inside the near post.

      The inevitable wave of Blaugrana jerseys flooded black and white territory for the remainder of the half, yet defensive duo Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, both superb throughout, stood firm.

      Juve might have even entered the break with a three-goal advantage, ter Stegen palming away Higuain’s awkward, bouncing volley and Bonucci narrowly missing Khedira’s cross-cum-shot with his head.

      Barca posed a greater scoring threat early in the second period, Lionel Messi sliding a shot wide before a heavy touch from Luis Suarez when played through on goal allowed Buffon to rush from his line to smother, but their spell of influence would not last long.

      Just as they had done in the first half, Massimiliano Allegri’s men chose their moments to move forward to perfection and were soon rewarded with a monumental and richly deserved third goal.

      Goalkeeper ter Stegen, much the busier of the two on the night, did well to keep out a pair of well-struck Higuain efforts on the counter attack, but could do nothing about Chiellini who beat Javier Mascherano for strength, planted his feet and guided a header into the far corner via the upright.

      But the drama was far from finished. A rare piece of link-up play between Messi and Suarez put the Uruguayan one-on-one with Buffon on the angle, only for the skipper to somehow better his first-half intervention, brushing his fingers on the ball to turn it around the post.

      Defensive reinforcements arrived in the form of Mario Lemina, Tomas Rincon and Andrea Barzagli as Barca began to squeeze Juve back into their own territory and the home side could only watch Samuel Umtiti mistime his jump unmarked in the penalty area 10 minutes from time.

      It would prove to be the only lapse in concentration on behalf of the Old Lady with Chiellini, Alex Sandro and Buffon all producing critical defensive interventions in and around the danger zone as the clock slowly ticked towards full time.

      A beautifully managed four minutes of stoppage time came and went to bring an end to a pulsating night of football at Juventus Stadium. A spectacular showing and three massive first-leg goals.

      We do it all again in eight days’ time…

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