Mandzukic-inspired Juventus sink Man City in Champions League
Holly Thackeray | November 25, 2015
Juventus 1-0 Man City
- Mario Mandzukic struck in the 18th minute to put Juventus ahead
- Despite plenty of possession, Man City proved toothless up top
- Joe Hart injured ahead of weekend scuffle with Southampton
- Juventus now temporarily top Group D, with City second
Juventus steal Group D top spot
Manchester City may have qualified from Champions League Group D, but the Sky Blues return from their trip to Turin pointless, having squandered the chance to head into the final matchweek on top of their pool.
Marksman Mario Mandzukic won it early for Juventus, with a close-range strike, before the Italian giants closed up shop, with City making themselves easy to defend against despite a late scramble.
After defeat to Liverpool in the Premier League last time out, which saw the Sky Blues knocked off the domestic summit, this missed Champions League chance is a significant blow ahead of a tough weekend tussle with Southampton.
Menacing Mandzukic draws first blood
Though the Citizens had an early chance through midfield shield Fernandinho, with the Brazilian blazing over after Kevin De Bruyne’s deft set-up, it was Juve that got off the mark first through former Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid man Mandzukic.
The Croatian frontman benefited after fine work from an impressive and powerful Paul Pogba, who broke from midfield on the counter, spraying the ball wide to Alex Sandro and probably simultaneously raising his price tag for watching Premier League clubs.
Mandzukic met the flying fullback’s delivery with a deadly efficiency, dispatching with the side of his foot past Joe Hart after out-muscling and out-maneuvering Nicolas Otamendi, to put Juventus in the driving seat.
Fearsome pair Pogba and Mandzukic were both soon bulling City again, and only some last-ditch defending prevented the French midfield dynamo’s ball from the byline reaching the Old Lady’s attack. While, Mandzukic pounced on a smart knock-down from Stephan Lichtsteiner, but a flexible Hart palmed the striker’s volley expertly around the posts, saving City’s skin.
Switzerland international Lichtsteiner soon stretched Man City’s defence himself, though his ambitious chip was never going to trouble the net, never mind Hart, and the visitors escaped again.
City so close but far in first-half
Aside from Fernandinho’s first wayward attempt, aggressive Yaya Toure tried his hand at a two trademark long-range finishes into both top right and left corners, with the latter agonisingly just inches wide.
While, Sergio Aguero sparked into life just before the break, scrambling onto a loose pass from Claudio Marchisio, but impenetrable Gianluigi Buffon was equal to the Argentine’s attempt to beat him from close quarters, leaving the Sky Blues frustrated heading into half-time.
Morata almost makes immediate impact in absorbing Turin tussle
In a move almost identical to the opening goal, precise Pogba released swashbuckling Sandro down the left flank once again, but the South American’s low ball was cut out cleverly by Otamendi on this occasion, who swept the danger away from loitering Mandzukic, somewhat making amends for his earlier error.
Straight down the other end, dangerous De Bruyne did his best to stop Juventus (25/1 with Coral to win the Champions League) tightening their grip on the game, as the Belgian’s probing corner curved towards the right hand post, though Buffon repelled Fernando Rege’s stooping header and just latched on to the loose ball before Toure could nip in and net the rebound.
Substitute Alavaro Morata arrived to replace goal scorer Mandzukic, who looked to be limping, and within minutes the Spanish sharpshooter almost struck gold with his first touch. An attempted chip on Hart went awry but pinged back off the post problematically into the path of an onrushing Stefano Sturaro, though the youngster couldn’t turn his chance in either.
Defence the difference for Juve, Sterling fluffs script
De Bruyne proved to be the guests’ most effective threat, once again piercing an otherwise staunch Juventus defence with a delightful ball over the top for Aguero, with only the alert Giorgio Chiellini’s interception denying the Argentina international’s attempt at a volley.
Having been thwarted and somewhat isolated all evening, Aguero was then hauled off by Manuel Pellegrini, who reshuffled his pack by bringing on the raw pace and trickery of Raheem Sterling.
Though the English attacker foiled some brilliant work from De Bruyne and City’s best chance by far to equalise, as the Belgian playmaker danced into the Old Lady’s box, laying the ball on a plate for Sterling after deceiving Buffon. The winger inexplicably fluffed the shot, sending it wide, along with the Mancunian club’s chances of a last-gasp winner, leaving one to wonder what Aguero would have made of the opportunity.
In a final blow for the Premier League big-guns, heroic Hart, who denied Juve a host of game-changing chances to finish the match, was taken off amid injury concerns in the 81st minute, with cult hero Willy Caballero drafted in to see out the remainder. A frenzied final few moments followed for both sides, with the Turin team holding out to triumph.
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