If the point gained at Chelsea in the opening Champions League fixture can be considered as good a draw can be, this was the opposite. The black to Juve’s white in London. The Bianconeri drew 1-1 with Shakhtar Donetsk to leave qualification evenly poised, even if the group stage is just two games old.
The performance was subdued and matched the atmosphere at the Juventus Stadium. Fans were put off by high ticket prices and those who did attend protested the fact with silence. They were not helped by what was produced on the pitch, nor gave the players a lift. The roar from the faithful which has aided Juve over the past year was absent. Whatever the issue, this outing runs close the Fiorentina contest a week ago for worst showing thus far in 2012-13. Juventus at times rode their luck in the face of Ukranian ascendancy.
“We went on to the pitch a little too timid and allowed them to control the tempo. We cannot afford that, as nobody gives you an inch in the Champions League,” said goalscorer Leonardo Bonucci. “Juve must always control the game from the first to the last minute. When we attacked them, we put Shakhtar under a lot of pressure.”
Stephan Lichtsteiner was fortunate not to concede an early penalty, while Willian struck the crossbar with virtually the last kick of the game. In between, the side from Ukraine’s east created the better chances. They were especially dangerous on the counter-attack, with their attacking quartet leading the charge. Henrikh Mkhitaryan did not have his shooting boots on, whilst Alex Teixeira caused the Old Lady constant headaches.
There was an immediate response from Juve after conceding, pleasing Massimo Carrera. Teixeira netted after 23 minutes, but, in a move straight from the training ground, Andrea Pirlo drilled a low corner across for the backpedalling Bonucci to curl superbly into the top corner three minutes later. A tried and tested set-piece, it has yielded goals for Juve in the past. Last season against Genoa and Fiorentina they managed a similar trick.
For the final 20 minutes of the first half and for 20 minutes after the interval Juve were the better side. Yet they were unable to capitalise, with Mirko Vucinic, Claudio Marchisio and most glaringly Alessandro Matri, all missing opportunities. As Shakhtar recovered a foothold on proceedings Juve looked out of sorts. The long balls pinged in the direction of Sebastian Giovinco highlighted that things were not going according to plan.
Two points from two matches sees Juve trail group leaders Chelsea and Shakhtar. Carrera noted afterwards: “We know our group is tough and we will fight it out to the end with another two teams. Every opponent is strong in the Champions League, so we must do our best to go as far as possible in this competition.”
The upcoming dual meetings with Danish champions Nordsjaelland take on added significance for Antonio Conte’s men. They must claim six points. Should that occur then Juve will set up a mouth-watering finish to Group E. They will likely need to gain at least four points from the final two matches – at home to Chelsea and in Donetsk – to advance. The Old Lady has been given a European wake-up call by the Ukranians, now it is up to Juventus to show their mettle and pedigree in the competition.