Juventus qualified mathematically for the last 16 of the Champions League after beating Zénit 4-2, unable to stop a whirlwind named Paulo Dybala, who eased the penalties of the Italian team this season.
The Argentine player did almost everything well. In the errors chapter, he only added a missed penalty, but he was even lucky, because he had to repeat it and scored. He also scored another goal, the first for Juventus, sent a shot to a post and, above all, was in charge of commanding the entire attack of a team that needed to win yes or yes.
With erratic pace in Serie A, Massimiliano Allegri’s men were presented the fourth day of the group stage of the Champions League as an antidote to alleviate all the ills of a course that will be long in Italy.
Ninth in the league, 16 points behind the leader (Naples) after just eleven games, Juventus needed to hit the table to show that, at least for the continent, it deserved some respect and should be taken into account.
It was not easy. Despite facing a theoretically minor team like Zénit, the slab he had on after losing his fourth game of the season last weekend against Verona (2-1), could affect the Champions League.
Allegri, just in case, revolutionized his midfield with the idea of giving a roll to the irregular image offered by his men in Verona. He took Sandro out of that area and sat Arthur Melo, Adrien Rabiot and Uruguayan Rodrigo Bentancur on the bench.
They entered Federico Chiesa, who recovered from a muscular discomfort, Weston McKennie, Manuel Locatelli and Federico Bernardeschi. With them in the middle, Juventus recovered dynamism, intensity, aggressiveness and originality at the top with the brilliance of Dybala, the most agitator of all.
The Argentine player capitalized almost all the dangerous actions of «La Vecchia Signora». He was in charge of unhinging the Zenit defense, which during the first 25 minutes could only dedicate itself to bailing water.
In the first stage of his opening show, Dybala scored. He did it early, at eleven minutes, after a good shot from the penalty spot and after crashing a shot into a Zenit goal post. Then, almost without giving a respite to his rivals, he slipped into the right wing of two defenders like a snake and his death pass was not taken advantage of by Morata, who sent the ball over the crossbar when he had almost everything done to score.
That was the end of Hurricane Dybala from the first part. And, after a ten-minute truce, Zenit took over and brought to light one of the shortcomings of Juventus, which for two years has lost its defensive vigor.
With doubts behind, every time the Russian team hovered around the Szczesny area, the alarms would go off. Allegri, he needs to regain that lost strength and that Leonardo Bonucci showed with his own goal that tied Zenit.
That result, 1-1, did not take away the mathematical classification of Juventus. But, I needed more. He had to win and convince. Therefore, after passing through the changing rooms, he went for the victory with Dybala plugged in again.
Everything passed through his feet. Or almost everything, because Chiesa also grabbed the spotlight after provoking a penalty after signing a stratospheric control in the corner of the area. Claudinho couldn’t help but knock him down and, although Dybala failed on his first attempt because referee Alejandro Hernández saw two Zenit players step on the area at the moment of the launch, he did not do so on the second.
The 2-1 stretched Zénit, which, in need, advanced its lines in desperation. So, Juventus played very comfortable on the counterattack. In this way, McKennie warned with a ride that ended with a shot to the crossbar and Chiesa sentenced after a good finish inside the area.
The 3-1 liquidated any possible reaction from Zenit and sealed a victory joined by Morata with the fourth, which eased Juventus’ penalties in the League. Sardar Azmoun, on the horn, made up the score for a team that still has a long way to go to qualify.
– Data sheet:
4.- Juventus: Szczesny; Danilo, Bonucci (Rugani, d. 85), De Ligt, Sandro; Chiesa, McKennie, Locatelli (Arthur, m. 80), Bernardeschi (Rabiot, m. 80); Morata and Dybala (Kulusevski, d. 85).
2.- Zénit: Kritsyuk; Karavaev (Malcom, m. 58), Lovren, Chistiakov, Rakitsky (Dzyuba, m. 74); Sutormin, Barrios, Wendel (Kuznetsov, d. 88), Mostovoy (Krugovoy, d. 58); Azmoun and Claudinho (Erokhin, d. 74).
Goals: 1-0, m. 11: Dybala; 1-1, m. 26: Bonucci, own goal; 2-1, m. 58: Dybala, from a penalty; 3-1, m. 74: Chiesa. 4-1, m. 82: Morata; 4-2, m. 92: Azmoun.
Referee: Alejandro Hernández (Spain). He showed yellow cardboard to Locatelli (m. 66) and Kulusevski (m. 85) by Juventus and Lovren (m. 54) by Zénit.
Incidents: match corresponding to the fourth day of group H of the Champions League played at the Juventus Stadium in Turin. EFE (HN)