Juventus rallies to beat Man City 2-1 in Champions League
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Juventus cast aside its domestic woes by coming from behind to beat Manchester City 2-1 in their opening Champions League match, with Alvaro Morata scoring an 81st-minute winner for last season’s runner-up on Tuesday.
Winless in the opening three matches of its title defense in Italy, Juve went behind in its European debut in Group D when defender Giorgio Chiellini — under pressure from Vincent Kompany at a corner — headed into his own net in the 57th minute.
The Italians began the fightback in the 70th when Mario Mandzukic glanced home a whipped cross from Paul Pogba. Morata curled in the winner from outside the penalty area after a long ball forward was deflected into his path.
Juventus lost 3-1 to Barcelona in the 2015 final in June and saw three key players depart over the summer — Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo — in an overhaul. That perhaps explained its poor start to the Serie A season, which has seen the champions lose two games and draw the other.
“I will leave the negative results behind us,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said through an interpreter. “Perhaps we have been anxious, hasty. But tonight’s win puts us in a good position.”
With Italy midfielder Claudio Marchisio also missing at Etihad Stadium because of injury, Juve was widely tipped to struggle against a team that had begun the Premier League in rampant fashion with five wins from five games.
However, City couldn’t transfer its domestic form to the Champions League. That’s nothing new for the Blues, who haven’t progressed past the last 16 in four seasons on Europe’s biggest stage.
“I don’t think we need to learn from other years,” Pellegrini said. “The last two seasons we started by losing the first (group) game and qualified for the next stage. We are just starting.”
It could have been so different had Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon not produced a sensational double-save to deny Raheem Sterling and then David Silva on the rebound, just after City had taken the lead.
Allegri described the saves from the 37-year-old Italy international as “miraculous.”
“I’m not sure I can find the right adjective: extraordinary, the best, perhaps even the best goalkeeper ever in the history of football,” Allegri said. “He never ceases to amaze us.”
A disappointing night for City was capped by the sight of Kompany, the captain, coming off in the 75th minute with what Pellegrini said was a calf injury.
City had the better chances in the first half, with Sterling denied by the legs of Buffon inside two minutes and Wilfried Bony — starting in place of Sergio Aguero — shooting wildly wide after creating space for himself on the edge of the area.
City stayed on the attack in the second half, but got its reward in fortunate circumstances.
When Silva swung in a cross, Kompany grappled with Chiellini as the pair competed for the ball. Chiellini hardly got off the ground and the ball struck him on the head before ricocheting into the bottom corner.
The defender pleaded with Slovenian referee Damir Skomina that he had been fouled, but the protests were dismissed.
Buffon kept Juventus in the game with his terrific double-save, before Mandzukic drew the visitors level. Pogba whipped in a cross from the left and the Croatia striker stretched to divert in a finish off the post from close range. It was the first goal City had conceded in six matches this season.
It got worse for City when a long ball forward hit the shoulder of left back Aleksandar Kolarov and rebounded toward the area, wrong-footing center backs Eliaquim Mangala and Kompany’s replacement, Nicolas Otamendi. Morata reacted quickest, and curled a first-time shot with his left foot beyond goalkeeper Joe Hart and in off the far post.