Miralem Pjanic scored one goal and created another as Juventus eased to a 4-0 victory over Group H rivals Dinamo Zagreb in Champions League action on Tuesday.
Midfielder Pjanic only played 45 minutes, yet still played an influential role in helping Massimiliano Allegri’s side end a run of four games without a win in the competition that stretched back to November 2015.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina international opened the scoring with a delicate volley in the 24th minute before setting up the second for Gonzalo Higuain, who was afforded far too much space by the Zagreb defence.
Paulo Dybala broke his duck for the season with a left-footed strike in the 57th minute, while a miserable night for the hosts was rounded out by goalkeeper Adrian Semper knocking Dani Alves’ deflected free-kick into his own net.
The result was the perfect response for Juventus after a 0-0 draw with Sevilla in their opening European game, particularly with a trip to Lyon up next.
Dinamo’s 2016/17 Champions League campaign had begun with a 3-0 loss at Lyon, a result that – along with poor form in domestic action – cost manager Zlatko Kranjcar his job.
Caretaker boss Zeljko Sopic had overseen an upturn in results at home since taking charge, but facing Juventus was easily the toughest fixture of his brief tenure.
Higuain hooked a Alves cross over the bar in the opening minutes as the visitors dominated from the outset, although they needed help from their opponents to break the deadlock.
Leonardo Bonucci’s forward pass from the halfway line caused confusion at the heart of the Dinamo defence, resulting in Leonardo Sigali inadvertently heading the ball the wrong way to set up Pjanic’s deft finish beyond Semper.
Dinamo came close to getting back on terms immediately, with their first effort at goal seeing defender Gordon Schildenfeld plant a header from a free-kick against the bar.
The disappointment at being denied by the woodwork at one end was compounded by Juventus doubling their lead before the interval.
Having scored the first, Pjanic set up the second with a long pass over the top to Higuain, who controlled the ball on his chest before steering a left-footed volley into the corner of the net.
Although injury cut short Pjanic’s match, with Juan Cuadrado replacing him before the second half, Juventus didn’t struggle in the absence of the former Roma player.
Any slim hopes of a Dinamo comeback disappeared when Dybala was allowed time and space to take aim from distance, the forward lashing a shot home from outside the area to finally get off the mark.
Marko Pjaca and Mario Mandzukic came off the bench to face their former club but it was a current Dinamo player who was credited with the last goal, teenager Semper failing to keep out an Alves set-piece that had ballooned up off the wall.
Key Opta Stats
– Miralem Pjanic’s previous Champions League goal had come in Roma’s 3-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen in November 2015.
– Juventus found the back of the net with each of their first three shots on target of the game.
– Gonzalo Higuain has scored five goals in as many games started this season in all competitions.
– Paulo Dybala found the net after going 7 goalless games (all competitions) – his longest goalless run since December 2013.
– Juve’s 4-0 win is their largest in European competitions since November 2012 vs Nordsjaelland.
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