Juventus surprisingly ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday night.
In a repeat of the final in 2015, the Italian champions showed why they are unbeaten in 47 games in all competitions at home with a masterclass in fine defending and clinical finishing.
A first-half double from Paulo Dybala and a Giorgio Chiellini header in the second period ensured the Old Lady head into next week’s return second leg in a commanding position.
Here are five things we learned.
Crucial 76 seconds in first-half decided the match
The turning point in the game came when Juventus were 1-0 up and Lionel Messi sent Andres Iniesta through on goal with a sublime pass, only to be thwarted by Gianluigi Buffon’s fingertip save.
Just 76 seconds later, Juventus went 2-0 to the good with a fine counter-attack that resulted in Mario Mandzukic’s pull-back into the area to Dybala who fired the ball into the bottom corner and out of the reach of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stergen.
It was poor defending from Barcelona, and Javier Mascherano in particular who failed to close the attacker down.
The tie could have been a whole lot different if the Spanish champions had scored an early away goal, but instead they must now rely on a miracle to turn the tie around.
Juventus’ defence won the battle against MSN
The match was particularly intriguing as it pitted Barcelona, who had the best attack in the Champions League this season, against Juventus, who had the best defence.
Juve had only conceded two goals in the competition all campaign and one of the main reasons Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were kept quiet tonight was the man-of-the-match display from Chiellini.
The Italian limited Barcelona to very few chances and capped off a great performance with only his second Champions League goal of his career.
Messi was the one who looked most like breaking through the disciplined defence with some incisive passing and clever touches but MSN ultimately failed to live up to their free-scoring reputation.
Barcelona continue poor away record
Luiz Enrique’s men came into the match on back of a 2-0 league defeat at Malaga and they also recently suffered a shock 2-1 away loss at Valencia to seriously dent their La Liga hopes.
Barcelona have been poor on the road of late, and had to pull off a miracle 6-1 win at home to Paris Saint Germain to avenge their disappointing 4-0 thrashing in the first leg of the quarter-finals.
The Spanish side have now conceded 13 goals in their last 6 away fixtures and they can’t keep relying on their home form in order to progress in the Champions League.
With Juventus’ solid defence commanding such a substantial lead, it looks like this poor day on the road will result in one step too far for Barca.
Buffon still world-class
Juventus goalkeeper and captain Buffon has never won the Champions League but tonight he played like someone desperate to add Europe’s top accolade to his stunning collection of honours that include league titles and a World Cup.
The shot-stopper made a vital save when the score was 1-0 to deny Iniesta, and he also made an important block in the 67th minute from Suarez which he diverted out for a corner.
Buffon is 39-years-old and is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. Despite his age, if tonight’s display is anything to go by, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him continue to excel for a good few years yet.
Barcelona desperately missed Sergio Busquets
It was evident before the game even kicked off that Barca were going to miss defensive-midfielder Busquets, who was suspended for the clash after picking up a yellow card in the PSG match.
The 28-year-old has established himself as one of the best players in his position due to his ability to never lose possession of the ball and his natural skill to sniff out potential dangerous attacks.
Barcelona’s defending tonight was pretty poor and Juventus players were given an awful lot of room in and around the box to inflict damage, most notably evident during both of Dybala’s goals.
Thankfully, the leader in midfield will be back for the return leg as the Spanish side cannot afford to ship any more goals.
The tie could already be over, but Barca have shown, most recently in the PSG clash, that they should never be written off.
Juventus: Buffon 7 – Alves 7, Bonucci 7, Chiellini 8, Sandro 7 – Pjanic 7 (Barzagli 6), Khedira 7 – Cuadrado 8 (Lemina 6), Dybala 8 (Rincon 6), Mandzukic 7 – Higuain 7
Subs not used: Marchisio, Asamoah, Neto, Lichtsteiner
Barcelona: M. ter Stegen 5 – Roberto 5, Pique 4, Umtiti 5, Mathieu 3 (Gomes 5) – Rakitic 5, Mascherano 4, Iniesta 6 – Messi 6, Suarez 5, Neymar 5
Subs not used: Denis Suarez, Cillessen, Alcacer, Alba, Digne, Alena
Referee: Szymon Marciniak
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