31.10.2017 23:12 - in: Match report S

      Pipita pounces late to earn crucial point in Lisbon

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      Gonzalo Higuain keeps his cool to score the equaliser in Juventus’ 1-1 draw with Sporting CP in Champions League Group D

      Juventus boosted their bid to reach the Champions League last 16 with a hard-fought draw on Tuesday night that sees them stay three points clear of Sporting CP with two Group D games left.

      The Bianconeri were staring a tough defeat in the face for the majority of the match, when Bruno Cesar put the hosts ahead midway through the first half, but a spirited response by the visitors after the break ultimately culminated in Gonzalo Higuain’s all-important strike on 79 minutes to seal a share of the spoils.

      The result ensures that Massimiliano Allegri’s men maintain some healthy breathing room between themselves and Sporting, who had seriously threatened to draw level on points with Juve in the group after leading for so long on the night.


      This was a real battle of a match for the Bianconeri, who were forced on to the back foot from the first whistle.

      Sporting started the first half the stronger with Bruno Cesar firing over the bar from just outside the box in the 11th minute and this proved to be a useful sighter for the Brazilian midfielder, who opened the scoring nine minutes later, finishing on the rebound after Gelson Martins’ shot had been blocked.

      Juve looked to equalise straight away and nearly did so when Sami Khedira’s header fell narrowly wide of the mark.

      Higuain’s blocked effort following a marauding run into the box was as close as the Bianconeri came to pulling a goal back for the remainder of the half, as the hosts’ dogged approach prevented Allegri’s men from gaining a proper foothold in the game.


      The start of the second half, however, sparked new life into the visitors, who were beginning to enjoy themselves especially down the right wing with Juan Cuadrado beating his marker on several occasions.

      Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic managed to get away shots – albeit off target – within the first 10 minutes of the restart, before Mattia De Sciglio forced Rui Patricio into a smart save on the hour-mark.

      Juve were getting closer to a leveller, but at the same time – as in their first meeting at Allianz Stadium – Sporting were a regular threat on the counter-attack: Bruno Cesar fired wide after one such foray forward.

      Then, Bas Dost came inches away from connecting with a cross that flashed across the six-yard box and, thankfully for Juve, raced away from the clutches of the Dutch forward.

      In the 68th minute, the Bianconeri had their best chance of the match so far: Mandzukic played a close-range cross to Dybala, who in turn nodded the ball on to Higuain, whose bullet header was met by the gloves of Rui Patricio.


      Without reward after another extended spell of pressure on Sporting’s box, it looked as though this would not be Juve’s night.

      Higuain had other ideas however: as the clock ticked to 79 minutes, Pipita gathered a perfectly-weighted through ball from Cuadrado before chipping delightfully past Patricio, this the Argentine forward’s third strike in as many days after netting that brilliant brace in Milan at the weekend.

      Juve were now level and deservedly so, with time on the board to inflict more damage too: Douglas Costa sent a piledriver just past the post to have Sporting hearts in mouths, while the hosts too pushed forwards at the other end of the field, driven on by a vociferous home crowd at the Jose Alvalade, to no avail.

      No doubt, this was a point gained for Allegri and company, who will host first-placed Barcelona at the Allianz Stadium on Champions League Matchday Five in three weeks’ time.

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