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

18 Oktober 2017 22:52

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.

 

KEY OPTA STATS

- Juventus are unbeaten in their last 21 Champions League home games (W14 D7), their longest streak in the competition.
- Mario Mandzukic has scored in each of his last four Champions League appearances, his best streak in this competition.
- The last time Juventus were behind in a Champions League home game was in February 2016, against Bayern Munchen.
- Miralem Pjanic has scored his 10th goal for Juventus in all competitions – four of which were free-kicks.

- Since his Champions League debut in February 2009, Pjanic has scored three free-kick goals: fewer only than Cristiano Ronaldo and Willian over this period.

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