Miralem Pjanic’s trademark free kick and late Mario Mandzukic header gave uninspired Juventus a crucial 2-1 win over Sporting after Alex Sandro’s own goal.
These two sides went into the game locked together in second place on three points, so it was a must-win head-to-head. Miralem Pjanic returned after almost a month out with a thigh problem, but Claudio Marchisio, Mattia De Sciglio, Marko Pjaca, Benedikt Howedes and ineligible Stephan Lichtsteiner missed out.
The deadlock was broken in bizarre fashion, as Alex Sandro didn’t intercept a long Bruno Fernandes pass for Gelson Martins, then accidentally bundled the rebound into his own net from Gigi Buffon’s save.
Jeremy Mathieu crucially got a toe to the Paulo Dybala assist, preventing Mario Mandzukic from tapping in at the near post from six yards.
Pjanic proved just how much he has been missed by getting the equaliser, curling a trademark free kick into the near top corner from the edge of the box.
Giorgio Chiellini knocked down a corner for Higuain, whose shot was beaten away at the near post by Rui Patricio.
Andrea Barzagli replaced Medhi Benatia for the second half, as he had a knock to the ankle, but Dybala should’ve tried to take the finish with his weaker right foot, instead turning wide with his left on an Alex Sandro assist.
Stefano Sturaro’s poor back-pass almost got Gigi Buffon into trouble, but Cristiano Piccini anticipated Mandzukic and the Croatian then nodded straight at Rui Patricio.
The Sporting goalkeeper struggled to deal with an Alex Sandro cross-shot, but Juve only took the lead thanks to a moment of inspiration from Max Allegri.
Douglas Costa had been on the pitch for all of 13 seconds when he whipped in the cross for Mario Mandzukic to hold off Jonathan Silva and steer it in with a low header at the back post. The Croatia international has now scored in each of his last four Champions League appearances.
Juventus 2-1 Sporting
Alex Sandro og 12 (S), Pjanic 29 (J), Mandzukic 84 (J)
Juventus: Buffon; Sturaro (Douglas Costa 84), Benatia (Barzagli 46), Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic; Cuadrado, Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuain
Sporting: Rui Patricio; Piccini, Coates, Mathieu, Coentrao (Silva 77); Battaglia, Carvalho; Martins (Palhinha 76), Bruno Fernandes, Acuna; Dost (Doumbia 87)
Ref: Oliver (ENG)