Mandzukic scores vs. City

One of the biggest clashes of Wednesday’s Champions League fixtures was Manchester City’s trip to Turin. The Cityzens had already secured a spot in the knockout rounds, but Juventus needed to get at least a point to join their English opponents. Over the weekend, Manuel Pellegrini’s men got demolished 4-1 by Liverpool in the league, and had failed to win in their previous two domestic fixtures. Juventus, on the other hand, were in the midst of a four-game unbeaten run. Could the Italians use this impressive form to top City?

Early in the match, it looked like City were set to spoil Juventus’ party. The English club was setting the tempo of the match, and imposing their style of play on Juve. Fernandinho should have given the visitors the lead in the 16th minute after Yaya Touré’s inadvertent knockdown on the edge of the six-yard box, but the Brazilian cannoned his shot over a near wide open net. This wasted chance early on would end up defining a disappointing day for City.

Just two minutes after Fernandinho’s miss, Juventus took the lead. Poor play from Touré on the edge of Juve’s penalty area saw former Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba dribble the ball almost the entire distance of the field before finding Alex Sandro on the wing. Sandro whipped in a lovely cross to Mario Mandzukic who muscled past Nicolas Otamendi and then knocked his shot in past Joe Hart. This was the Croatian’s second goal in as many games against the Cityzens. Mandzukic nearly doubled Juve’s lead minutes later, but his powerful volley from the top of the box was denied by an impressive save from Hart.

On the half hour mark, it looked like Touré was just inches away from scoring an absolute wonder goal from outside of the box, but further replays showed the Gigi Buffon’s net was never really in danger. Just before the end of the first half, Sergio Agüero had an amazing chance to equalize. An errant back pass from the Juventus backline put the Argentine through one-on-one against Buffon, but the Italian keeper expertly marshaled the striker too far wide of the net, and easily saved the ensuing shot. When the halftime whistle blew, Mandzukic’s goal was the only thing separating the two sides.

Less than ten minutes into the second half, City came within inches of finding that long-awaited equalizer. Fernando got his head to a Kevin De Bruyne corner, but Buffon got just enough on it to push it onto the post. The ensuing goalmouth scramble saw Touré nearly push it over the line, but Buffon stood strong and held onto the rebound. Almost immediately after City’s close call, Álvaro Morata found himself on a two-one break for Juve. The former Real Madrid striker chipped an onrushing Joe Hart, and Stefano Stuaro’s redirection just wasn’t enough as the ball hit the outside of the post.

With ten minutes left in the match, Hart was again called on to deny Morata as the Spaniard danced past two City defenders in the penalty area. It looked like a guaranteed goal for Juve, but a beautiful kick save by the English keeper kept City’s deficit to one goal. Raheem Sterling had the visitor’s last real chance to find an equalizer in the closing stages of the match, but he was unable to provide the finishing touches to a wonderfully driven cross from De Bruyne just six yards from net. Sterling’s miss summarized City’s trip to Italy as they walked away with a demoralizing 1-0 defeat.

The result pushes Juve to the top of Group D, two points ahead of Man City. Going into the final round of fixtures, both of these clubs have the chance to claim top spot in the group. Next up for the Italians is a trip to Spain to take on Sevilla, needing just a draw to secure top spot. City, on the other hand, will host Borussia Mochengladbach and will need to win, in addition to Juventus losing, if they want to win the group.


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