Juventus brushed off talk of a crisis by crushing Nordsjaelland 4-0, but remain third in Group E after Chelsea's last-gasp 3-2 win over Shakhtar Donetsk.
The pressure was on the Bianconeri after nine consecutive European stalemates and on Saturday their 49-match unbeaten run in Serie A was ended by a 3-1 defeat here to Inter. Mirko Vucinic bruised his calf in that game and was therefore ruled out along with Simone Pepe, but Stephan Lichtsteiner was dropped to the stands. Alessandro Matri partnered Sebastian Giovinco, while Mauricio Isla and Kwadwo Asamoah took the wide roles. Nordsjaelland earned their first ever Champions League point with a 1-1 draw when these sides met in Denmark and kept the same starting XI.
As Juve had drawn all three games so far in Group E, they had to win tonight or leave themselves a mountain to climb for qualification – namely having to beat Chelsea at home and Shakhtar in Donetsk. Once again, the Juventus Stadium was not full for the Champions League despite packing out Serie A games regularly.
Giovinco forced a save out of the goalkeeper when falling, but the linesman had correctly flagged him offside. It was an early warning that Nordjsaelland did not heed, as Juve broke the deadlock moments later.
Andrea Pirlo spread the play to the right for Isla to flash a ball across the face of goal and Claudio Marchisio was ready to tap in from seven yards.
Jesper Hansen had to sprint out of his box to clear from Matri when the striker sprung the offside trap in midfield. Giovinco had penalty appeals for a handling offence as he went to hook the long ball, but the referee waved play on, while Nordsjaelland desperately cleared in the six-yard box as Asamoah pulled back from the by-line.
Marchisio threatened a second goal on 17 minutes when getting in front of his marker to run on to a ball over the top, but the goalkeeper parried from point-blank range with his knee.
Arturo Vidal fired over from a Giovinco assist, while a crucial Enoch Adu tackle stopped the Atomic Ant short as he was about to pull the trigger.
Juventus did double their lead with Vidal acting as a real goal poacher. Isla put the loose ball back into the middle and Vidal’s shot was charged down by Kasper Lorentzen, but the defender wasn’t alert enough and Vidal snuck back in at full stretch to prod it in at the near post from six yards.
Isla charged into the area to sting Hansen’s palms, then from a Pirlo corner the looping Matri header cracked against the crossbar on 26 minutes, as it was absolute domination from the Italians.
A corner was cleared to outside the box, where Marchisio unleashed a blockbuster that Hansen palmed round the upright with great difficulty.
Giovinco broke his Champions League drought after numerous attempts in this first half. He gathered from Pirlo down the right and took advantage of Ivan Runje backing off slightly to smash an angled drive across Hansen towards the far corner.
Asamoah’s volley turned into an assist for Matri, but his first touch on the turn let him down. Nordsjaelland were being steamrollered, so they made a double substitution at half-time, introducing Anders Christiansen and Soren Christensen for a 4-3-3 system.
Matri held up the long Pirlo pass for Vidal’s half-volley, well smothered by Hansen, and Paul Pogba replaced a limping Vidal to cheers from the Turin crowd.
Gigi Buffon finally had something to do on 63 minutes by beating away a long-range Patrick Mtiliga strike, but seconds later Fabio Quagliarella sent Matri clear on goal and the striker hesitated when one-on-one with the goalkeeper, allowing Jores Okore to recover.
Matri and Quagliarella had shots charged down in the same move, then the former Cagliari striker just failed to make contact with Pirlo’s pass at full stretch.
Quagliarella added a fourth goal from a set play. Pirlo’s corner was flicked on by Matri at the near post for Quagliagol to nod under the bar from five yards. It was his second Champions League goal after the one scored at Stamford Bridge.
Juventus 4-0 Nordjsaelland
Scorers: Marchisio 6 (J), Vidal 23 (J), Giovinco 37 (J), Quagliarella 75 (J)
Juventus: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini (Lucio 69); Isla, Vidal (Pogba 53), Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Matri, Giovinco (Quagliarella 60)
Nordsjaelland: J Hansen; Parkhurst, Okore, Runje, Mtiliga; Adu (Christensen 46), Stokholm; Laudrup (A Christiansen 46), Lorentzen, John; Beckmann (Nordstrand 73)
Ref: Stavrev (MKD)