Thursday December 6 2012
Juve dig for victory in Donetsk

Seemingly bound for elimination after three games, Juventus went on to top the most challenging of Champions League sections. Scott Fleming lauds the Bianconeri.

“The best is yet to come,” promised Antonio Conte after his Juventus side’s demolition of Chelsea two weeks ago. And how right he was. Last night’s 1-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk at the Donbass Arena was less comprehensive than the 3-0 win over Chelsea at the Juventus Stadium, less stylish, but it was in many ways more impressive. It was more of a statement.

The Bianconeri overcame one of Europe’s form outfits, a side they were comprehensively outplayed by in the previous fixture in Turin. They did so at one of Europe’s most intimidating arenas, the Donbass, where it took Shakhtar two years to suffer their first defeat after making it their new home in 2009.  

They also overcame the scepticism of those who insist upon ascribing Machiavellian motives to every Italian team that steps on to a pitch, with suggestions of a ‘Biscotto’, or agreed draw, rife before the game.

Shakhtar are nicknamed the Miners, but in fact it’s Juventus who have proved more adept at digging theirselves out of a hole.

At the halfway stage in Group E La Vecchia Signora’s long awaited return to the Champions League was beginning to look like a crushing anti-climax, Conte’s men trailing Chelsea and Shakhtar by one and four points respectively after drawing their first three fixtures.

At that point most observers had less confidence in Juve’s chances of qualifying for the last 16 than Conte has in Nicklas Bendtner.

The thrashings of Nordsjaelland and Chelsea boosted hopes, but winning the group? That still seemed a thoroughly outlandish proposition until 11 minutes into the second half last night, when Olexandr Kucher diverted a cross into his own net under pressure from Sebastian Giovinco.

Giovinco has endured plenty of stick since his return to Turin, and whilst he’s netted in big games, they’ve tended to be ‘cherry on the cake’ strikes, scored when the game was already won. Donetsk felt like the first occasion the Atomic Ant had been truly decisive, even if the goal wasn’t his, as Stephan ‘Pinocchio’ Lichtsteiner made sure to point out during the celebrations.

It was a night for unlikely heroes, with Angelo Alessio another of them. The stand-in boss has – perhaps unfairly – had most of the blame for the Serie A defeats to Inter and Milan piled on top of him, but on his last touchline outing before Conte’s return on Sunday, got to oversee one of the most significant victories in the club’s recent history.

“It was difficult to do without Antonio, but the team knows what it has to do and how it must move, so they helped the situation immensely,” stated the unassuming assistant.

“I want Real Madrid in the next round,” announced Leonardo Bonucci, which sounds like bluster but actually makes a modicum of sense. Juve cast the big boys asunder, but toiled against the likes of Bologna and Lecce on their way to the Serie A title last year, and it’s a theme we’ve seen repeated in this Champions League campaign.

This Juventus side performs best on the big occasions, with the odds stacked against them, so getting Lichtsteiner’s wish and drawing Celtic, or a team of that ilk, may not necessarily be a good thing.

The players might not be able to agree on what opponent they want to see pulled out the hat in Nyon later this month, but uniformity of opinion can be found on the other side of the draw. Because after their performance last night, no one wants to face Juve

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Have your say...
What makes Juve's CL campaign so special is that they were drawn with two other tough opponents including Chelsea the defending champions being favourites to top the group. What amazes me is Juve won their last 3 games without conceding a single goal.

Real Madrid may be the only team they would want to avoid, but then again they also wanted to avoid Shakhtar and Chelsea...
on the 6th December, 2012 at 4:09pm
I was so proud of the Bianconeri last night. We played the perfect European away game and Conte proved again just what a tactical master he is. The defence was simply outstanding. There maybe better individual defenders out there, but as a unit Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini are without equal. I would like Arsenal in the last 16, to show once again how overrated the Premier League is. Whoever we play, they better bring their A game or they will be run over by the Juve Juggernaut.
on the 6th December, 2012 at 3:47pm
Fantastic performance by this group who work tirelessly as a may be best to avoid Real but hopefully we can meet them at some point.To return from where calciopoli put us-wrongly in my view-is a great credit to Andrea Agnelli,Antonio Conte and the lads.Isncerely believe t6hat no other Serie A outfit could have bounced back as strongly as us. Forza Juve!
on the 6th December, 2012 at 3:37pm
Magnifico! I'll admit that I had my doubts about qualification after the draw in Denmark but they have proved me wrong & I'll happily eat humble pie.

Topping the group in Europe at home & abroad is significant as it shows Juve are back & mean business. With Conte's return & with the January transfer market around the corner, Juve can really kick on and achieve big things... Drogba or Llorente please Signore Marotta, or maybe a more creative punt on Giuseppe Rossi, Swansea's Michu or Demba Ba.
on the 6th December, 2012 at 3:30pm
So proud of these lads,they've done the shirt and history of the club proud.I still can't stop smiling about this win a day later
on the 6th December, 2012 at 3:12pm
"We know who we are, we know who we are, Champions of -" Oops, wrong team slogan. Having Conte back on the touchline will make all the difference in the next round, whoever we draw. No fear -- "We know who we are..." Lol. We do though.
on the 6th December, 2012 at 3:03pm
Great performance. Conte has got this team well drilled and there are some world class players. They shouldn't fear any team. However, there are couple of obvious areas where the team needs to be strengthened. The centre forward is most obvious- Giovinco missed a good chances yet again and Vucinic didn't score. We should only play one these support strikers, along with a real goal getter. The other area to strengthen is centre back. Chiellini is out for one game with 2 yellow cards.
on the 6th December, 2012 at 2:35pm
Great Article!
there was a great connection between the players and Conte's sub stuff...something even surprising to tell the truth.

Lets hope we will see a big striker (someone who wont change our style or formation) , then we will be able to do much more!
on the 6th December, 2012 at 2:24pm
Hey Z,

Giovinco? Decisive.

Great game!
on the 6th December, 2012 at 2:19pm
I agree - I'd rather Juve face Real Madrid than a team like Celtic where they'll play defensively agaist Juve, and make on the counter hoping to score the one crucial goal, and that's all it can take. Either way, very happy we made it to the next round.
on the 6th December, 2012 at 2:18pm
I was worried that we may miss Marchisio but the boys did well. To keep such an attacking team not only goaless but to be a shadow of a threat they can be especially in their backyard was fantastic. We just have to convert our chances better.
on the 6th December, 2012 at 2:09pm
Juve is the strongest of all. They will win everything this season.
on the 6th December, 2012 at 1:58pm

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