Winning Zenit 4-2 in the fourth round of Group H on the night of 2 November, Juventus reached an absolute 12 points and won tickets to the knockout stages twice at the start of the Champions League.
Juventus did not win last three Serie A games, drew with Inter 1-1 and then lost to Sassuolo and Verona by the same score 1-2. They thus drop to eighth in Serie A, 16 points behind top two sides Milan and Napoli. But in the Champions League, the “Old Lady” shows a completely different face. Max Allegri’s men won all three games, not even conceding a single goal against Malmo (3-0), Chelsea (1-0) and Zenit (1-0).
That attitude was immediately promoted when they accepted Zenit. The home team pressed and came back in the 11th minute. Midfielder Yaroslav Rakitskiy’s cross accidentally set up an assist for Paulo Dybala to volley home with one touch and send the ball into the far corner.
However, Zenit also confused the hosts at times, and suddenly found the equalizer in the 26th minute. Vyacheslav Karavaev dribbled past Danilo and sent it into the box. In an attempt to save, Leonardo Bonucci accidentally headed the ball into a high angle so that goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was held back.
Bonucci’s own goal was Juventus’ first goal in the Champions League this season. And it seemed that it had a negative impact on the mentality of the Juventus players, causing them to lose their cool for the remainder of the first half.
The difference only occurs at the start of the second half. Federico Chiesa receives the ball on the right, bursts into the box and is cut out by Claudinho. At the 11m mark, Dybala hit the net. But referee Jose Hernandez gave Juventus a replay as Zenit’s players went into the box before Dybala touched the ball. The Juventus striker still fired into the right corner of the goal. This time, however, the ball went right, and went against keeper Kritsyuk.
The Argentine striker has contributed nine goals in ten games in all competitions this season, including six goals and three assists, surpassing last season’s record (five goals and three assists in 26 games). His goal also helped Juventus ease the pressure, kept the pressure on the away team and created plenty of chances. In the 73rd minute, receiving the ball from Bernardeschi, Chiesa penetrated the box, made a move to clear captain Zenit Lovren and then fired from a corner to knock out Kritsyuk. The Italian winger became the first Juventus player to score in four consecutive home games in the Champions League, after former striker David Trezeguet in November 2001.
Nine minutes later, Dybala provided an assist for Alvaro Morata who was brushed aside to make it 4-1. A further effort by Zenit only helped them find one more goal after Iran striker Sardar Azmoun’s corner in the first minute of injury time.
Crushing Zenit 4-2, Juventus entered the knockout stages of the Champions League two games early. They top the table with 12 points, three ahead of Chelsea and nine ahead of Zenit. It is also the first time Juventus have won the first four Champions League group stages since the 2004-2005 season. That season, the “Old Lady” was knocked out of the quarter-finals by Liverpool – the team went on to win the championship.
Juventus: Szczesny; Danilo, Bonucci (Rugani 85), De Ligt, Alex Sandro; Chiesa, McKennie, Locatelli (Arthur 80), Bernardeschi (Rabiot 80); Dybala (Kulusevski 85), Morata.
Zenith: Kritsyuk; Chistiakov, Lovren, Rakitskiy (Dzyuba 74); Sutormin, Barrios, Wendel (Kuznetsov 88), Karavaev (Malcom 58); Mostovoy (Krugovoy 58), Claudinho (Yerokhin 74), Azmoun.