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Paulo Duarte/Associated Press

Gianni VerschuerenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2017

Juventus have one foot in the quarter-finals of the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League after beating FC Porto 2-0 at the Estadio do Dragao during Wednesday’s first leg.

The Bianconeri dominated during the first half and were aided by former Inter Milan defender Alex Telles, who was sent off for two bookable offences in the span of less than two minutes.

Juventus struggled to break through Porto’s tough defence, but substitute Marko Pjaca gave his side the lead with his first-ever goal for the club. Dani Alves made it 2-0 shortly after, giving the Bianconeri two away goals to work with in the second leg on March 14.

As shared by the Old Lady’s official Twitter account, star defender Leonardo Bonucci was dropped from the squad after his outburst against Palermo during the weekend:


Per Bleacher Report’s Adam Digby, manager Massimiliano Allegri confirmed Bonucci’s suspension earlier this week:


Porto swarmed Juventus to start the match, putting the Italian champions under all kinds of pressure. Yacine Brahimi had an early chance to give the hosts the lead, missing the target with a free-kick from a promising position.

The early storm didn’t last long, however, and after a couple of hectic minutes, Juventus settled into a pattern of domination. Midfielders Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic put in fantastic shifts, and Porto barely ventured near Gianluigi Buffon.

Paulo Duarte/Associated Press

Ivan Marcano only just managed to steal a ball away from Gonzalo Higuain, who would have been through on goal if the defender hadn’t. Iker Casillas quickly came off his line to deny Mario Mandzukic, and Paulo Dybala fired a ball over the bar.

Full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner caused all kinds of trouble, and the Swiss international played a big role in Telles’ dismissal. The former Inter man could have been sent off for his challenge on Juan Cuadrado, but instead of taking a more cautious approach, he clattered into Lichtsteiner just 74 seconds later, giving the official no choice.

Sports writer David Amoyal had to reference Telles’ past with the Nerazzurri:


Porto―who were already under tremendous pressure at this point―sacrificed forward Andre Silva for Miguel Layun, and the star striker burst into tears on the bench.

Khedira almost took advantage of the numerical advantage straight away, sending a header wide after great work from Alex Sandro. Casillas produced a great save on Higuain, with Juventus prodding for an opener before half-time.

Paulo Duarte/Associated Press

Dybala went closest, smashing a shot off the post from 25 yards out. And there was even more late drama as Maxi Pereira produced a horror tackle on Mandzukic that was somehow only punished with a yellow card.

Per Football Italia’s David Swan, the visitors needed to increase the pace in the second half:


That tactic seemed to work early in the second half as Pjanic sent a beautiful ball over the top, with Mandzukic bursting through the defence. Rather than take the chance himself, the Croat left the ball for Dybala, who was in an apparent offside position.

Replays showed he was nowhere near offside, however, per Vince Van Genechten of Het Nieuwsblad:


Out of nowhere, the hosts went very close to taking the lead, with Hector Herrera heading a ball just wide after good work from Layun.

But most of the chances fell to the Bianconeri. Dybala tried his luck again from range, firing the ball straight at Casillas, and Khedira almost scored a wonder goal, blasting a volley just wide.

Porto did not sit back and absorb the pressure, and when Ruben Neves was taken off for Jesus Corona, it was clear the hosts planned on attacking themselves. This opened up space for Juventus, however, and Higuain went very close after 65 minutes, missing the target by inches.

Juventus' Argentinian forward Gonzalo Higuain (C) reacts after missing a chance to score a goal next to Porto's midfielder Danilo Pereira (L) and Spanish defender Ivan Marcano (R) during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match FC P

MIGUEL RIOPA/Getty Images

Juventus needed some kind of spark, and Allegri opted to introduce Pjaca for an uninspiring Cuadrado. The youngster had been on the pitch for just five minutes when he finally opened the scoring with his first-ever goal for Juventus, blasting home a great finish.

More from Amoyal:


And another Allegri substitution worked to perfection just two minutes later. Alves had barely touched the ball after making his way on to the pitch when he beautifully chested down a lofted pass before slotting home.

Even the club’s Twitter account got in on the fun:


Fatigue finally set in for Porto, but rather than hunt for more goals, Juventus decreased the pace and played the possession game, hoping to preserve the clean sheet. 

Khedira nearly made it 3-0 in the final minutes, chasing after a ball and prodding wide ahead of Casillas. The German was arguably the man of the match, and he would have deserved that goal. 

After the match, Pjaca told Mediaset Premium (h/t Football Italia) he took more satisfaction from winning than from scoring: “I am very happy for the goal, but above all for the victory, as it is very important for us.”

Porto manager Nuno Espirito Santo isn’t ready to give up just yet:


Juventus’ next outing will be against Empoli, while Porto play Boavista.



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