Brilliant late strikes from Leonardo Bonucci and Mario Mandzukic secured injury-hit Juventus’ passage to the Champions League knockout phase with a dramatic 3-1 win at 10-man Sevilla on Tuesday.
Sevilla could have secured top spot in Group H for themselves with three points, but their indiscipline counted against them as the persistent Italians clinched the win in the final 10 minutes thanks to Bonucci and Mandzukic.
Jorge Sampaoli’s men began with great intensity and looked set to give Juve a torrid time after Nico Pareja’s coolly taken early opener, but things soon turned sour.
Creator-in-chief Franco Vazquez picked up two needless yellow cards to earn his dismissal nine minutes before the break and then Claudio Marchisio struck from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time – the first time Sevilla had conceded in this season’s competition.
Sevilla’s situation forced them to adopt a more defensive approach after the break and they had generally equipped themselves well, despite the visitors becoming the dominant force in possession.
But Juve ensured their efforts did not go to waste, as Bonucci struck with six minutes to go and Mandzukic wrapped things up at the death to see Massimiliano Allegri’s men through, while Sevilla still need to finish the job in the final match against Lyon.
After playing for a 0-0 draw in Turin in September, Sampaoli warned Juve before the match that his side were going to be far more menacing in attack this time around and the players certainly seemed to be on a similar wave length early on.
It took just nine minutes for the hosts to break the deadlock, as Juve cleared Vazquez’s corner as far as Pareja on the edge of the box and the Argentinian centre-back found the bottom-left corner with a fine volley.
But the visitors then received the boost they needed late in the first half, as Vazquez first clattered Juan Cuadrado for not putting the ball out of play when Sergio Escudero was injured, before then catching Sami Khedira to pick up a second booking in six minutes.
And Juve ultimately levelled on the stroke of half-time – Marchisio squeezing a penalty under the left hand of Sergio Rico after Gabriel Mercado dragged Bonucci to the ground.
Sevilla’s numerical disadvantage resulted in them sitting back more after the break and looking to catch Juve on the counter.
Such a scenario presented itself early in the half, but Vitolo was starved of support following Luciano Vietto’s half-time withdrawal and had to settle for a corner after Bonucci forced him out wide.
Things got no easier for Sevilla as Sampaoli was sent to the stands for protesting just before the hour mark.
And just when the home side looked destined to hold on to the point that would see them through to the knockout phase, Juve struck the hammer blow.
Cuadrado’s right-wing cross was cleared to the edge of the box and Bonucci latched on to it, sending a rasping first-time drive past the helpless Rico and into the bottom-right corner.
Mandzukic then ended Sevilla’s hopes of a late equaliser with a cool finish across Rico into the bottom-right from 16 yards, leaving the hosts sweating on their chances of qualification with one match to go away to a Lyon side chasing second spot.
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