Tuesday 21 November 2017

Juve dare to dream after Dybala double

Juventus 3 Barcelona 0

Juventus players celebrate their 3-0 win. Photo: AP Photo/Antonio Calanni
Juventus players celebrate their 3-0 win. Photo: AP Photo/Antonio Calanni

Sam Wallace

In any other era, against any other team, three goals without reply in the first leg of a European quarter-final would be enough to win a tie but a club as serious as Juventus will know that at the Nou Camp strange and marvellous things have happened, and they could happen again.

After all, Paris Saint-Germain scored four in Paris in the previous round and that turned out to be insufficient to eliminate this great late-Lionel Messi era Barcelona. This was a masterful win for Juventus, expertly engineered by Massimo Allegri, but that is what they said about PSG in Paris in February and Barcelona took them apart piece by piece three weeks later.

On this night there were two fine goals by the young Argentinian Paulo Dybala, another from the old warhorse Giorgio Chiellini and plenty of the hard yards from a Juventus team who had their opposition swirling around the battlements for most of the evening.

This was not a bad Barcelona performance by the standards of their catastrophe in Paris, it was just they could not find a way through.

They will need three goals in the second leg next Wednesday at least to have a chance of a Champions League semi-final place in Luis Enrique's final season and while it is hard to see them pulling off another escape, it is not impossible. For all the frustrations he might have felt, there were still some moments of remarkable quality from Messi, although precious little from Luis Suarez and Neymar.

Sharp

Juventus' Sami Khedira and Alex Sandro in action with Barcelona's Sergi Roberto. Photo: Giorgio Perottino/Reuters
Juventus' Sami Khedira and Alex Sandro in action with Barcelona's Sergi Roberto. Photo: Giorgio Perottino/Reuters

Juventus were two up after just 22 minutes, after two goals through the quick feet and sharp mind of Dybala.

What strikes you about the 23-year-old Argentinian of Polish and Italian heritage is the economy of movement and swiftness of execution for his chances around goal. His first goal required two touches and his second just the one to sweep the ball left-footed past Marc-Andre ter Stegen from the edge of the area and give Juventus control of the tie at half-time.

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How much control, you can never say, not with the second leg at the Nou Camp looming. Even so, this was a fine first half from Juventus, who spent much of the end of it drawing backwards ever deeper as the ball was whipped around them on the Barcelona passing matrix, although rarely through the Italian side.

Juventus' Alex Sandro in action with Barcelona's Sergi Roberto. Photo: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters
Juventus' Alex Sandro in action with Barcelona's Sergi Roberto. Photo: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

They had to survive on a couple of occasions, the first when Messi robbed Sami Khedira, exchanged passes with Luis Suarez and then darted past Gianluigi Buffon to roll the ball past the goalkeeper. That goal was disallowed for an offside against Suarez, and it was one of a couple of moments of Messi magic in the first half.

The other was Messi's pass to Andres Iniesta, straight through the heart of Juventus', a miraculous ball that took out five opponents and scarcely had an angle on it. Iniesta opened his body up and aimed for the far corner but Buffon read it and palmed the ball wide.

The hard centre of Juventus' midfield, Khedira and Miralem Pjanic was augmented by periods of full press from their team-mates, interspersed with other times when they withdraw into a compact shape to soak up the pressure. When they broke they did so quickly and switched wings freely, as was the case for Dybala's first goal.

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The ball, on that occasion, went right to Juan Cuadrado and he played it into the area to Dybala who switched it from right foot to left and stroked it beyond ter Stegen into the far corner of the Barcelona goal. The second, 20 minutes later, he met first time with his left foot from a cutback from the left, whipping a shot around Gerard Pique and just inside the right post of ter Stegen's goal.

Javier Mascherano was moved back to centre-half at the break by Enrique and the Argentinian looked like he was fouled for the third goal which Chiellini headed in over him from a corner.

Juventus had taken their chances and although they spent much of the second half defending, they did so with a growing momentum - Suarez was again played in by Messi but the Uruguayan's shot was pushed away by Buffon.

It was a taste of the intensity that Juventus will experience next week, and they ended with a five-man defence, including the substitute Andrea Barzagli and decisive tackles being celebrated like goals. The final scoreline amounted to a big defeat by Barcelona's standards but, knowing what we do about this team, flawed but still brilliant, it only felt like the end of the beginning as far as this tie is concerned. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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