Mirko Vucinic came off the bench to snatch a point against Danish minnows Nordsjaelland, as Juventus once again had to fight back for a Champions League draw.
Elsewhere in Group E, Shakhtar Donetsk are top with seven points after beating Chelsea 2-1, meaning Juve are now just one point behind the trophy holders.
The pressure was on the Bianconeri after two stalemates left their chances of qualifying in the balance. Gigi Buffon returned from a thigh injury, joined by Lucio and Mauricio Isla, but Mirko Vucinic was only fit for the bench while Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner were rested. Angelo Alessio made his Champions League touchline debut after the expiration of his ban, though Antonio Conte was still suspended.
Nordsjaelland were in their first ever Champions League group phase participation and had lost both games, but the 4-0 against Chelsea here was an extremely flattering scoreline for Roberto Di Matteo’s men. Ivan Runje and Mikkel Beckmann shook off knocks to start, while Andreas Laudrup is the son of 1983-89 Juve star Michael. They are known as ‘Denmark’s Barcelona’ due to their fondness for keeping possession, but were yet to score in the group phase.
Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo aimed long-range shots just off target in the opening minutes, while Sebastian Giovinco hooked a wonderful Pirlo pass over the top and Jores Okore crucially intervened as he was pulling the trigger from 10 yards.
Nordsjaelland had their first chance after 16 minutes when Kasper Lorentzen burst forward on the counter from a lost ball and stung Buffon’s palms.
Giovinco mistimed his volley to scuff it into the goalkeeper’s hands and Leonardo Bonucci’s glancing header whistled just wide. A Nicolai Stokholm shot was charged down and Juve went on the counter, but Alessandro Matri went down after a shoulder to shoulder with Okore on the edge of the box and the referee waved play on. It was a very risky challenge and could easily have resulted in a red card if the official had read it differently.
Giovinco volleyed straight at the goalkeeper, but there was a massive risk for Juventus on the half-hour mark!
A long ball over the top took the defence by surprise and Joshua John tried to chip it over the on-rushing Buffon, but the goalkeeper beat it away with his chest well outside the penalty area. The officials considered their decision carefully and replays show they were right, as it did not strike his arm.
Moments later Juve should’ve scored when Giovinco sprung the offside trap to go round the ‘keeper, but narrowed the angle too much and could only hit the side-netting of an open goal.
Buffon again timed his intervention perfectly to take the ball off John’s foot from six yards after a fine passing move.
It was a wide open first half and Matri’s header from a corner flashed across the face of goal. The ex-Cagliari striker then nutmegged Michael Parkhurst and rolled across for Giovinco in front of an open goal, but Okore was in the right place to intercept.
Giovinco got away from his marker with some fine footwork and his fierce finish stung Jesper Hansen’s gloves while Matri was unable to turn in the rebound. Claudio Marchisio was crucially blocked by a sliding tackle as he was pulling the trigger, leading to a heavy knock on the ankle.
Within 60 seconds of the restart the Bianconeri went very close on a corner, Matri’s glancing header flapped out from under the bar. Moments later Hansen was again forced to beat away a rising Giovinco strike.
However, it was Nordsjaelland who took the lead. Giorgio Chiellini was booked for barging Laudrup aside on the edge of the box and Beckmann curled the resulting free kick into the near top corner, bending it round the defensive wall and past Buffon’s fingertips.
So far in this Champions League campaign, Juventus have been trailing in all three games. Matri’s strike was charged down in the area and Isla’s volley was just behind Giovinco looking to redirect. Isla tried again when left in acres of space down the right, but Runje threw himself at the shot to block.
It was turning into a siege and Giovinco got a rare header that Hansen had to claw out from under the bar, then the goalkeeper rushed forward five seconds later to parry the Isla follow-up with his legs at the near post.
John had a chance following Lucio’s stumble in the box, but turned the header well over, while Marchisio also had a strike charged down and Vidal’s was deflected wide.
Hansen was having a fantastic night in Copenhagen and palmed a trademark Pirlo free kick round the post, then controlled an Isla snapshot at the second attempt. Juve were increasingly desperate and threw on Bendtner for only his second appearance for the club, replacing defender Lucio.
Vidal and Vucinic exchanged passes in the box with Hansen getting a fingertip to turn the Chilean’s finish inches wide from six yards.
The siege finally paid off with nine minutes left, as an Isla cross from the right found Vucinic to volley in with the inside of his right foot from eight yards, the Montenegrin getting in front of Okore.
Juve’s tails were up and Bonucci’s free header was over from a corner, while Bendtner had the chance to seal it for the Bianconeri in Denmark only for him to nod Paolo De Ceglie’s cross wide. The Old Lady kept pouring forward as Nordsjaelland focused on charging down everything that was thrown at them.
Nordsjaelland 1-1 Juventus
Scorers: Beckmann 50 (N), Vucinic 81 (J)
Nordsjaelland: J Hansen; Parkhurst, Okore, Runje, Mtiliga; Adu, Stokholm; Laudrup (Christensen 70), Lorentzen (Christiansen 88), John; Beckmann (Nordstrand 67)
Juventus: Buffon; Lucio (Bendtner 76), Bonucci, Chiellini; Isla, Vidal (Giaccherini 83), Pirlo, Marchisio, De Ceglie; Matri (Vucinic 68), Giovinco
Ref: Aytekin (GER)