Manchester City began the UEFA Champions League group stage with a 2-1 loss at home to Juventus on Tuesday night at the Etihad Stadium.
The hosts took the lead on a Giorgio Chiellini own goal in the 57th minute, but Juventus equalized via Mario Mandzukic 13 minutes later. Alvaro Morata won it with a superb curler nine minutes from time.
“I think the Italian team defended well and I think they were lucky today,” City midfielder Yaya Toure told BT Sport (h/t BBC Sport). “We just have to be strong and try to bounce back in the next game. We missed a lot of chances today. We have to learn from it and try to do better.”
Up next for City in the Champions League is a trip to Borussia Monchengladbach on Sept. 30. Juventus will host Sevilla the same day in Group D.
Here, B/R selects winners and losers from Tuesday’s game.
Juventus had started the season poorly, claiming only one point from the first nine available in Serie A. Losses to Udinese and Roma, and a draw with Chievo Verona, left the four-time defending champions hovering narrowly above the relegation zone.
Winning at Manchester City will obviously raise spirits around the club. But it’s not just the result. The Bianconeri defended resolutely, took their chances ruthlessly and frustrated Manchester City for most of the 90 minutes. Manager Massimiliano Allegri set his team up to contain City, and the plan worked almost flawlessly.
“Allegri once again proving where he is an upgrade to Conte,” tweeted Football Radar’s Jack Rathborn, referring to Allegri’s predecessor at Juve, Antonio Conte. “tactically astute, Juve well-prepared tonight, excellent game plan.”
The plan resulted in three big points away from home, three points that will set up Juventus for success in Group D. Up next is a home match against Sevilla, a strong tournament team that won the Europa League each of the last two seasons.
Sevilla’s recent record is impressive, but Juventus will expect to win on home soil. Doing so would give Allegri’s side the maximum six points before back-to-back winnable games against a struggling Borussia Monchengladbach side.
For all of Juve’s struggles early in the season, Tuesday night’s win in the Champions League must have left everyone at the club smiling.
Wilfried Bony started at center-forward for Manchester City after Sergio Aguero suffered a thigh injury against Crystal Palace over the weekend. Starts are rare for the Ivorian, and in the bluntest of terms, Bony didn’t do enough to convince his manager he belongs.
The big forward was nearly anonymous for most of the match, though at the end of the first half he did create a moment of danger with a clever nutmeg on a Juventus defender. But after reaching the box, Bony blasted his shot way off target, wasting a decent opening.
Early in the second half, Squawka noted that the Ivorian had completed just 25 percent of his passes, an appalling rate for any player.
Bony lasted the full 90 minutes, but at full time he hadn’t made much of an impact on the game. Juventus’ center-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci rarely let him out of their sight, and Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to rush back Aguero late in the second half was telling.
Bony doesn’t get too many chances to impress. He simply can’t let an opportunity like this pass.
Alvaro Morata will earn plaudits for his winner, and rightly so. But Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon deserves credit as well for a sparkling display. The veteran shot-stopper kept Juventus in the game with outstanding saves in each half.
In just the second minute, the 37-year-old kicked away Raheem Sterling’s low shot as City sought an early goal. Then, in the 59th minute, Buffon pulled off a double save to deny Sterling and David Silva.
After Juventus took the lead, Buffon preserved the result with another top stop, tipping over Yaya Toure’s long-distance curler two minutes from time.
Without Buffon’s saves, Juventus might not have been in position to pull off their impressive comeback.
When Mario Mandzukic prodded home Paul Pogba’s beautiful, curling cross in the 70th minute, it marked the first time in 635 minutes that Manchester City had conceded a goal in any competition (h/t Opta).
That was an impressive streak, but unfortunately for City, there was more to come. In the 81st minute, after the hosts were unable to clear a simple pass lofted into their defensive third, Juventus’ Alvaro Morata latched on to the ball and curled in a sweet winner.
Allowing such a goal at such a time must have been worrying for manager Manuel Pellegrini, whose side had held a second-half lead against the Italian champions. Center-back and captain Vincent Kompany left the match in the 75th minute with what appeared to be a calf injury, and it’s hard to imagine that kind of a breakdown happening if the Belgian had been on the pitch.
But it did happen, and City now face another uphill fight in the Champions League after last season’s miraculous escape. If Pellegrini’s men are to overcome Juventus for top spot in Group D, defensive improvement will be necessary.
The Sky Blues have started the Premier League season so well, but their Champions League opener had a familiar feeling of disappointment to it.
What more to say about Alvaro Morata’s winner? In short, it was a brilliant strike that combined power, finesse and technique. Morata hit the ball perfectly from the edge of the box, curling the ball around Joe Hart and into the net off the inside of the far post.
Hart was powerless to stop it, as any goalkeeper would have been.
Morata didn’t impress throughout the game, and in fact he struggled through long stretches after being deployed on the wing. But in that moment, he was practically perfect, and that moment won the game for Juventus.
Paul Pogba is a genuine talent, as the No. 10 on the back of his shirt would suggest. At the tender age of 22, the Frenchman already ranks among Europe’s best, most creative midfielders, and he demonstrated his credentials once again Tuesday night.
In the 70th minute, with Juventus trailing 1-0, Pogba curled an inch-perfect cross to the back post to pick out the run of Mario Mandzukic. Owing to the ideal weight placed on the ball, and the precise placement of the pass, Mandzukic only had to stick out a leg to redirect into the net.
Only a fool would doubt Pogba’s precocious talents.