There is no end to Juventus’ Champions League woes. Once again, the most titled Italian club crashed out of the top continental competition earlier that they would have reasonably hoped for. Once again, without knowing exactly how.
Juventus won 3-2 over Porto on Tuesday night but bowed out of the tournament on away goals. Their 1-2 to loss in Portugal from two weeks ago proved fatal, but Andrea Pirlo and Juventus will have a lot of soul searching to do as they elaborate how could they fail to overcome a Porto side who was on its knees tonight after going down 1-2 and having one of their men sent off.
Full credit to the Dragoes, who managed to resist until extra time despite the numerical disadvantage, and then shocked the Bianconeri with a deadly Sergio Oliveira shot – but the home side has much to be forgiven for.
Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus may be different in many aspects from its predecessors, but their Champions League limits seem to be never-changing and endemic by now: Throwing away the first leg, not making the best of their chances, conceding a late goal that frustrates their efforts. And the list could go on.
Still, Juventus’ approach tonight seemed to be the right one. Right after the start, Alvaro Morata called Agustìn Marchesìn to action with a tricky header which Porto’s goalie somehow managed to defuse.
But it was a short-lasting illusion. Porto showed that they didn’t come to Turin just to park the bus as first Moussa Marega hit the crossbar, and then Mehdi Taremi earned a penalty kick as Merih Demiral fouled him in the box.
From the spot, Sergio Oliveira made no mistake – making things terribly complicated for the Bianconeri, who now needed at least two goals to remain in contention.
Pirlo’s plan to build the pressure gradually had to suddenly change, but the coach didn’t find much support from his two expected stars – Federico Chiesa and Cristiano Ronaldo. But while the young Italian would redeem himself into the second half, CR7’s contribution tonight was below the average.
Oddly enough – since Ronaldo joined Juventus, the Bianconeri have never gone past the UCL Quarter Finals. That’s a meager tally for the man who was brought to Turin with the exact goal of bringing Juventus back at the top of Europe.
Andrea Pirlo kept his trust in the starting XI and made no changes after the restart. He would soon be rewarded, as Juventus found their equalizer seven minutes into the second half.
The Bianconeri‘s savior was once again Federico Chiesa, who scored his second goal in the double confrontation sending a beautiful curl into the far post from a Cristiano Ronaldo service in the box.
A few moments of suspense ensued as the VAR checked CR7’s alleged offside position as he received a Leonardo Bonucci pass but, after a quick investigation, the goal stood.
Then Juventus received some unexpected help from Porto striker Mehdi Taremi, who committed an athletic suicide by collecting two yellow cards in the space of four minutes.
With already one under his belt, the Iranian player kicked the ball away in frustration after he was caught offside. According to the rules, the referee had no option but waving a second yellow at him and showing him his marching orders.
Juventus smelled blood and started to charge furiously at the Dragoes‘ goal. Federico Chiesa was unstoppable. On 57 minutes, he received an Adrien Rabiot pass in the box and cleverly dribbled past the goalkeeper but failed to slot the ball home as Pepe’s desperate slide tackle somehow made him lost his timing.
It was just a matter of a few minutes, however. On 63 minutes, a wonderful Juan Cuadrado cross was easy prey for the former Fiorentina jewel, who slotted the ball home with a perfectly-timed header to level the aggregate score.
With one man less and a one-goal deficit, Porto had no option but switching to full defense mode. After Ronaldo made a mistake unworthy of his fame, Chiesa went again one-on-one with the Porto custodian, but this time Augustìn Marchesìn’s fine goalkeeping saved the day.
Moussa Marega scared the Bianconeri with a tricky snapshot that hit the side netting but the last stages of the regular times turned into a siege to the Dragoes‘ goal. Alvaro Morata should have made it to the scoresheet but his clinical effort was promptly disallowed due to offside.
Juan Cuadrado’s last-gasp stunner from the edge of the box crashed into the woodwork and so the white-and-blues managed to drag the game to extra time.
At that point, you would have expected Juventus to continue piling up the pressure but actually the clearest chance in the first extra time was for Porto. A Tecatito cross from the left side found Marega’s header but the Malian’s conversion attempt was weak and central.
Perhaps it was a sinister omen for the Bianconeri, who had the worst coming after the second restart. The hero of the night for Porto was once again Sergio Oliveira, who put a damper on Juve’s qualification chances with a free-kick shot from sidereal distance on which Wojciech Szczesny should have done better.
Juve’s reaction was fierce but it was too late. From a corner kick, Adrien Rabiot jumped higher that anybody and headed the ball into the top right corner of Marchesìn’s goal to keep a feeble hope alive for Andrea Pirlo.
There were still three minutes to play but the momentum was in Porto’s favor by now and it wouldn’t change anymore, despite a chaotic white-and-black assault.
March 9, 2021 – Champions League 2020-2021 Round of 16
JUVENTUS-PORTO 3-2 (Porto advance on away goals)
SCORER: 19′ Sergio Oliveira (P, pen.), 49′ Chiesa (J), 63′ Chiesa (P), 115′ Sergio Oliveira (P), 117′ Rabiot (J)
|JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci (75′ De Ligt), Demiral, Alex Sandro; Ramsey (75′ McKennie), Arthur (102′ Kulusevski), Rabiot, Chiesa (102′ Bernardeschi); Morata, Cristiano Ronaldo (Pinsoglio, Buffon, Chiellini, Di Pardo, Dragusin, Frabotta, Fagioli) Coach: Pirlo
|PORTO (4-4-2): Marchesin; Manafà, Mbemba, Pepe, Zaidu (71′ Luis Diaz); Corona (123′ Diogo Leite), Sergio Oliveira (123′ Loum), Uribe (90′ Grujic), Otavio (61′ Sarr); Marega (106′ Toni Martinez), Taremi (Diogo Costa, Anderson, Evanilson, Nanu, Fabio Vieira, F. Conceição) Coach: Sergio Conceicao
REFEREE: Kuipers (Netherlands)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Chiesa, Cuadrado, Bernardeschi (J), Sergio Oliveira (P); Red Card: Taremi (P); Extra Time: 1st Half 4′, 2nd Half ‘ 5, 1st Extra Half 2′, 2nd Extra Half 3’