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Shakhtar Donetsk 0-1 Juventus
Juventus is through to the Champions League knockout stage as Group E winners after a 1-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk at the Donbass Arena on Wednesday.
The only goal of the came arrived in the 56th minute when Mirko Vucinic played the ball to the flank to Stephan Lichtsteiner, who appeared to be offside. He fired in a cross to Sebastian Giovinco which was knocked into the goal by Shakhtar center back Oleksandr Kucher. The error led to Juve extending their undefeated streak in Europe to 12 games, including their third win in a row.
The early stages of the game were dull and listless. Both sides cancelled each other out by getting men behind the ball quickly and preventing one another from countering. In their first meeting in Turin, Juventus tried to take the game to Shakhtar, but they were torn apart and were lucky to only concede once and escape with a draw. This time they were smarter. Juve countered, like their opponents, when in attack. This allowed the wingbacks and midfielders to drop back faster meaning Shakhtar had to slow down when going forward and they became far less threatening as the match went on.
After the half hour mark, the game picked up. Both teams started to take more chances, though it appeared that Juventus was more content to sit back and absorb the pressure. The pace continued to increase going into the second half and after the goal there was no change. What was surprising was how Juve played when Shakhtar started to mount more shots at Gianluigi Buffon. Despite the Ukrainians’ efforts, Juventus still stuck to their game plan of sitting deep and c0untering, which isn’t what a lot of teams would’ve done away from home in a hostile atmosphere after nicking a goal.
One of the big keys to the match was Shakhtar’s striker situation. Without Luiz Adriano, who started all five previous Champions League games, Mircea Lucescu started Eduardo in his place. After 45 lackluster minutes, he was taken off for Marko Devic, who was just as poor. Granted they didn’t have the greatest service since Juventus’ defence was impenetrable all night. Without Adriano’s contribution (he had three goals in the competition), the Shakhtar attack had no focal point.
The other big storyline of the match was the Bianconeri defence. Leonardo Bonucci, who attracted plenty of criticism last season and at Chelsea, was immense. His performance went unnoticed compared to Giorgio Chiellini, who was also tremendous. The team looks so much different when he’s on the pitch, it was clear that the squad missed him and appear more confident when he’s back there knocking bodies around. The back three was a major factor in Juve’s three game winning streak, they didn’t concede a single goal in that run.
The knockout draw goes December 20th. Juventus will play one of Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Valencia, Celtic, or Galatasaray. Shakhtar will face either PSG, Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, or Manchester United. This will result in some very tasty affairs starting in February.