Wednesday 21 August 2019

Hart injury adds to Pellegrini's woes as Juve leave City fearing nightmare draw

Juventus 1 Manchester City 0

Joe Hart
Joe Hart

Mark Ogden

Joe Hart was forced to limp out of Manchester City's defeat against Juventus after sustaining a hamstring injury during his latest display of Champions League heroics in Turin.

The England goalkeeper, whose catalogue of saves against Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany in September helped secure a crucial Group D victory, produced another array of vital stops against Italian champions Juve after being helpless to keep out Mario Mandzukic's first-half opener.

But after denying Alvaro Morata in the 79th minute, Hart signalled his discomfort to the bench before being replaced by back-up keeper Willy Caballero two minutes later.

City, having already secured qualification, could have retained top spot had substitute Raheem Sterling done better with a clear-cut chance on 80 minutes.

But with Juventus returning to the top of the group with the victory, City now face the prospect of entering the knock-out stages as one of the unseeded teams and the possibility of a draw against Barcelona or Bayern Munich.

With the 4-1 humiliation at the hands of Liverpool on Saturday still painfully fresh in the memory of his players, City manager Manuel Pellegrini would have needed to waste little time attempting to motivate his team.

Pellegrini made only three changes from the team humbled by Liverpool, with Fernandinho, Nicolas Otamendi and Gael Clichy returning to the starting line-up.

City appeared to be up for the battle in the early stages, with the visitors creating the early opportunities and silencing the raucous Juventus crowd, who dispelled the myth that newly-built stadiums lack atmosphere and hostility.

It was noisy, with the whole stadium belting out the Juve anthem, Storia Di Un Grande Amore, as though this was a do-or-die semi-final second leg. But City blanked out the atmosphere and went close to scoring on four minutes when Fernandinho flashed a shot wide from 20 yards.

Mandzukic wasted a clear chance from Claudio Marchisio's cross three minutes later, when he headed into the ground from ten yards.

That was a rare early scare for City, who should have scored the opener through Fernandinho on 16 minutes.

Kevin De Bruyne's cross had found Yaya Toure on the edge of the six yard box, but Giorgio Chiellini's block denied the City midfielder a shooting chance.

The loose ball dropped to Fernandinho, but the Brazilian somehow blazed his effort over the crossbar from close range.

It was a bad miss, the true cost of which was borne out two minutes later when Mandzukic gave Juve the lead with a classy finish from Alex Sandro's stunning cross.

Sandro's ball, whipped in from the left, was impossible to defend and Mandzukic pulled away from Otamendi after winning a wrestling match with the Argentinian before beating Hart with a cushioned volley.

City had seen their bright start evaporate and were duly punished, but Juventus were only interested in turning the screw rather than easing off.

Paul Pogba began to dominate in midfield with his work-rate and remarkable passing range, while Paulo Dybala gnawed away at City in the No 10 role just off Mandzukic. And at the back, the towering Chiellini and ageless goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon were as formidable as wily old nightclub bouncers.

Buffon, who marked 20 years since his debut earlier this month, emphasised his class and experience on 43 minutes when, after Sergio Aguero had raced onto a poor backpass, he raced out to smother the City forward and run the ball out of the play as though he was chucking out a teenager who had had one alcopop too many.

Buffon then produced a crucial save early in the second half when he stretched out low to his left to push Fernando's close-range header onto the post. With Toure and Martin Demichelis both attempting to convert the rebound, the Juventus keeper bravely threw his body on the ball to deny City a certain equaliser.

Sensing a shift in the balance of the game, Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri withdrew Mandzukic in favour of the more mobile Alvaro Morata, the goalscoring hero of last season's semi-final triumph against Real Madrid, and the change almost brought an instant dividend.

Within a minute of entering the fray, Morata broke clear of the City defence and lobbed the on-rushing Hart, only to see Dybala prod the ball onto the far post.

Hart's stop from Morata was another example of Juventus failing to finish the game off, but Sterling's miss seconds later, when he scuffed De Bruyne's cross wide via the back of Andrea Barzagli was perhaps the one moment which will haunt City the most. (© Daily Telegraph , London)

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