Juventus 2 Sporting CP 1: Late Mandzukic intervention saves wasteful Bianconeri

Juventus missed a number of chances in a one-sided affair and were grateful to a late goal from their Croatian striker for all three points.

Mario Mandzukic scored a late header to hand Juventus a precious 2-1 win over Sporting CP in a hard-fought Champions League clash at the Allianz Stadium.

The hosts squandered a number of excellent opportunities in a dominant opening half, but Croatian striker Mandzukic stepped up in the 84th minute to ensure that the Bianconeri were not made to pay for their profligacy.

Sporting had taken an early lead as the unfortunate Alex Sandro put through his own net, but Juve responded brightly.

Paulo Dybala, Sami Khedira and Mandzukic all missed chances to score before Miralem Pjanic did finally pull them level with a superb free-kick in the 29th minute.

There was little to get excited about in a dire second half until Mandzukic’s late intervention secured the Serie A champions first win in three matches.

The two sides meet again in Portugal in a fortnight with Massimiliano Allegri’s side knowing a win could guarantee them a spot in the last 16.

Though the hosts would end the game strongest, Sporting started in composed fashion and got their reward in slapstick style after just 12 minutes.

Gelson Martins’ low effort was thwarted by Gianluigi Buffon, but the ball bounced off the onrushing Alex Sandro and rolled almost apologetically into the net to hand the visitors a surprise lead.

The goal sparked the hosts into life and Khedira was denied a leveller soon after as Rui Patricio got down well to keep out his half-volley from the edge of the penalty area, before a stretching Jeremy Mathieu kept Mandzukic’s prodded effort out.

Moments after Dybala struck wide, Juventus scored the equaliser their relentless pressure deserved.

The outcome never looked in doubt as Pjanic stood over the ball 20 yards out and the Bosnian duly clipped a wonderful free-kick over the wall and into Patricio’s right-hand corner.

Mandzukic came agonisingly close to scoring a second just a minute later, but was once again denied by some resolute Sporting defending – Cristiano Piccini this time getting enough of his body in the way to divert the Croatian’s low effort agonisingly past the post.

Gonzalo Higuain’s fierce strike was tipped onto the post by Patricio shortly before the break, as Allegri’s side finished the half in dominant fashion.

The high pressing that was a feature of Juve’s first-half display was absent in the early stages of the second period as Sporting found a way to combat their rampant attack. 

Mandzukic saw a downward header kept out by Patricio in the 70th minute, but the powerful forward was to have his moment in the spotlight as hope began to run out. 

Substitute Douglas Costa’s teasing cross was met by the 31-year-old at the back post, where he thumped a header home to hand Juve their second Champions League win of the campaign.

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Pjanic set for injury lay-off after suffering thigh strain

Miralem Pjanic has revealed he ‘will surely miss’ Juventus’ next game after suffering a thigh strain ahead of their Champions League win over Olympiacos.

The 27-year-old was named in the starting XI by Massimilano Allegri, but Juve were forced into a late change with Rodrigo Bentancur coming in to partner Blaise Matuidi in midfield.

Gonzalo Higuain came off the bench to score and Mario Mandzukic added a second as Juventus recorded a hard-fought win. Pjanic underwent initial medical checks to assess the severity of his thigh injury, but faces further tests to find out how long he will be sidelined for.

“I could feel better honestly but I am happy because of Juventus’ win yesterday”, Pjanic told reporters after the game.

“We’ll see how I feel next week, I hope I’ll recover quickly but I don’t know the recovery time. Doctors have not given me any concrete news so I will surely miss the next game, than I don’t know.

“My teammates played very well against Olympiacos. They [Olympiacos] were very well organised and tried to hurt us with counter-attacks. We managed to win thanks to Higuain. Everyone celebrated with him because we know how important for us he is.”

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Pjanic set to miss a month and World Cup qualifiers with thigh injury

Juventus star Miralem Pjanic has been ruled out of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers due to a thigh injury as he prepares for a month-long stint on the sidelines.

A torn muscle will force midfielder Pjanic to miss fixtures against Belgium and Estonia, the Football Association of Bosnia-Herzegovina announced.

Juventus 5/1 to win CL Group D

Pjanic sustained the injury in the warm-up before Juve’s 2-0 win over Olympiacos in the Champions League on Wednesday.

“We spoke to the Juventus doctor. Pjanic has a 2cm muscle tear above his knee and will have to rest for 3-4 weeks,” said Bosnian doctor Reuf Karabeg.

With 75 international caps to his name, Pjanic added: “I am sorry to be injured at this important moment, ahead of the Belgium match.

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“I will support Bosnia with all my heart and hope this situation can be another motive for my Bosnian team-mates.”

Bosnia host Group H leaders Belgium – who have already qualified for the World Cup – on October 7 and travel to Estonia three days later, with their hopes of reaching Russia next year still in the balance.

Pjanic and his team-mates are second in the table but cannot qualify directly, though they can still book their spot in the showpiece tournament via the play-offs.

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Juventus 4 Torino 0: Dybala stars again in rampant derby victory

Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic starred for Juventus as the Serie A holders cruised to a rampant Derby della Mole victory over Torino.

Paulo Dybala continued his scintillating form as his double helped Juventus thrash 10-man rivals Torino 4-0 in the first Derby della Mole of the Serie A season.

Juve’s mercurial number 10 got his first 16 minutes into Saturday’s encounter at the Allianz Stadium, guiding home the opener in typically composed fashion.

With Torino’s misery compounded by Daniele Baselli’s dismissal midway through the first half, Massimiliano Allegri’s men were soon hitting their stride – Miralem Pjanic’s exquisite strike doubling their tally prior to the interval.

Alex Sandro was the next to get in on the act with a powerful header early in the second half, before Dybala made it 10 goals in six league matches this season with a stoppage-time strike that put the icing on the cake.

Salvatore Sirigu had tried to keep the scoreline respectable with a string of quality saves, though it was merely a matter of damage limitation as the defending champions continued their 100 per cent start in the league.

It is a win that keeps Juve level with pace-setters Napoli at the top of Serie A and Allegri’s focus will now switch to getting his side’s Champions League campaign back on track against Olympiacos on Wednesday.

Juve wasted no time in getting on the front foot, as Mario Mandzukic – replacing the out-of-form Gonzalo Higuain up front – was denied by Lyanco’s last-ditch tackle inside 30 seconds.

The visitors’ centre-back was in the thick of the action again moments later with a slack back-pass that almost caught out Sirigu, before Juan Cuadrado went close at the culmination of a driving run from the right.

Torino threatened when a desperate block from Giorgio Chiellini prevented Iago Falque’s strike reaching its target, but parity did not last much longer as the hosts took the lead.

Pjanic nipped in to rob Baselli of possession – Dybala latching onto the loose ball and proceeding to drill a low finish into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the area.

Matters went from bad to worse for Baselli and Torino just eight minutes later, the midfielder picking up his second yellow card for a ridiculous lunge on Pjanic, having earlier been booked for tugging back Dybala.

Juve did not let up, and after Lycano’s goal-line clearance denied Cuadrado, the hosts had their second five minutes before the break – Pjanic curling in a sublime 20-yard strike that gave Sirigu no chance after being teed up by the Colombia international.

Pjanic turned provider for the second time 12 minutes after the restart, whipping in a wonderful corner that Alex Sandro turned home with a thumping header.

Medhi Benatia should have added a fourth as Juve teased Sinisa Mihajlovic’s deflated side, but Sirigu pulled off a superb stop to deny the defender from close range.

Sirigu had to be at his best again with Juve bombarding his goal, managing to keep out a flurry of attempts from substitute Federico Bernadeschi, Mandzukic and Douglas Costa.

But Torino’s goalkeeper would be beaten four a fourth time in the first minute of stoppage time, Dybala lofting in a delicate finish after connecting with a flick from Higuain, who had come off the bench, as Juve added further gloss to an emphatic victory.

Key Opta Stats:

– For the first time in Serie A history, two sides – Juventus and Napoli – have won each of their opening six fixtures.
– Since 1994-95, Paulo Dybala is the first player who has managed to score 10 goals in the first six games of a Serie A season.
– Juventus have won each of their opening six Serie A games for the eighth time – in the previous seven occasions they ended the season top of the table (including season 2005-06, when the title was then revoked).
– Juventus’ last home defeat against Torino in Serie A came in April 1995 – since then, they have won nine times and drawn three.
– The last time Juventus won a derby in Serie A by a four-goal margin was in November 2002.
– Miralem Pjanic ended a 23-game scoring drought in Serie A: his previous goal also came against Torino, in December 2016.
– In fact, Torino are Pjanic’s favourite opponent in Serie A (four goals scored).
– There have been four red cards in the last five Turin derbies in all competitions – three of these were for Torino players. This was Daniele Baselli’s first red card in Serie A.

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Pjanic believes Juventus will only improve after perfect start

Miralem Pjanic sounded a warning to Juventus’ Serie A title rivals that the best is yet to come from Massimiliano Allegri’s side after they thrashed Torino 4-0.

The champions made it six wins from six in the top flight on Saturday, with Paulo Dybala drilling them ahead against their Turin rivals before Daniele Baselli saw red for the visitors.

Verona 5/1 to beat Lazio

Pjanic, who teed up Dybala’s opener, then got in on the act himself with an excellent strike, before setting up Alex Sandro for a third.

Dybala completed the rout late on and Pjanic has no doubt that Juve will continue to build on their hugely impressive start.

“It was a good performance, providing both quality and quantity. Torino usually cause problems for their opponents, but we were never under threat,” he said.

“I’m glad with the team performance and we should continue like this. There’s a lot of quality in this squad and the new arrivals are settling in really well, so we can only improve.

“The season has just begun, so we will continue with this tempo, we’re in good shape, the team is gaining confidence and keeping clean sheets.”

Allegri, meanwhile, was delighted with the display, though believes that his players need to be smarter with some of their decisions.

“The lads had a really good game, including the opening 20 minutes, then once Torino went down to 10 men we controlled the match,” said the Juve coach, whose team face Olympiacos next.

“Even then, we allowed a couple of situations that could’ve been avoided. We slowed the tempo a bit too much after the break, but still created a great deal.

“It wasn’t easy, as this Torino side is tough to beat, but it was the best way to prepare for Wednesday’s Champions League game.

“When we’re in control, we must try to avoid injuries. For example, Paulo Dybala kept the ball for too long in the second half and drew the foul, when he should’ve passed or shot immediately.

“Napoli are playing very good football and getting results, which after all is what really matters. People only remember those who finish first, not second or third when playing well.”

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Baselli’s dismissal midway through the first half all but ended any hopes of a Torino comeback and the midfielder took to social media to apologise for his indiscipline.

“I made a mistake. I apologise to my teammates, our fans, to society,” Baselli’s tweet read.

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