Pogba and Lahm in Champions League

Another week, another enticing round of Champions League matchups. Tuesday gave us two of the most anticipated round of 16 matchups as Arsenal took on Barcelona, and Bayern Munich travelled to take on Juventus. The latter fixture featured the reigning Bundesliga and Serie A champions. Juve and Bayern have both featured in a Champions League final within the last three years with the Italians falling last campaign and Bayern taking the crown in 2013. In this clash of Europe’s best, who could take a valuable advantage from the first leg?

It was the visitors that took the initiative to start the match and they should have been ahead after 12 minutes. Robert Lewandowski did well to find Thomas Müller wide open on the penalty spot, but the German couldn’t control the pass and failed to get enough power on his shot to find the back of an empty net. Bayern continued to press for a vital away goal, and it looked like just a matter of time before they found a way past Gianluigi Buffon.

Just after the half hour mark, the legendary Italian keeper was forced into a tricky diving save from a powerful Juan Bernat volley. Despite the best effort of Juve’s backline, Bayern got their well-deserved opener in the 43rd minute. After snuffing out a counter-attack from the hosts, Pep Guardiola’s side sparked an attack of their own. Douglas Costa knocked a long cross from Arjen Robben back into the danger area, and the ball eventually found its way to Müller, once again wide-open. This time, the German striker made no mistake as he cannoned his shot into the back of the net to send his side into the intermission a goal to the good.

Their German opposition quickly dashed Juventus supporters’ hopes of a strong start to the second half. Another swift counter attack from Bayern saw the ball come to Robben on the right wing. The Dutchman worked his way past Andrea Barzgali near the top of the penalty area and then unleashed a powerful curled effort past a helpless Buffon in net. Robben’s goal doubled Bayern’s lead and gave them a near insurmountable two-goal advantage to take back to the Allianz Arena.

Despite their uninspired start to the match, Juve finally came alive after Robben’s goal. Just after the hour-mark, Mario Mandzuckic neatly put Paulo Dybala through on goal, and the Argentine striker managed to sneak a near-post finish past Manuel Neuer. Maybe the tie wasn’t over just yet.

A powerful run from Mandzuckic just four minutes later nearly put Juve on level terms. After blocking several passing attempts from Germans, the former Bayern striker found himself clean through on the left wing. He managed to spot Juan Cuadrado wide open on the left hand side, but the Colombian’s shot was stopped by a powerful save by Neuer.

Hope wasn’t lost for Juventus just yet, however. The Bianconeri continued to push for an equalizer, and in the 75th minute they finally found it. Paul Pogba started the attack with a headed interception and then he quickly found Mandzuckic on the top of the penalty area. The Croatian striker pulled off a wonderful back heel flick to find Álvaro Morata who headed the ball back across the face of goal. Stefano Sturaro fought past his defender and got the vital touch to Morata’s cross to save the draw for Juve and give them hope for the second leg.

Even after Sturaro’s dramatic equalizer, Bayern still have to be considered the heavy favorite to advance from this matchup. The Germans have been absolutely unstoppable at home winning all three of their previous Champions League matchups at the Allianz by a combined score of 14-1. The two away goals puts Bayern in the driver’s seat and Juventus will need a magical performance if they want to advance into the quarter finals.


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