Manchester City 1 Juventus 2: Juventus may be struggling in the unfamiliar surrounds of Serie A’s lower reaches, but they accomplished what no English club has managed so far this season, namely stopping the juggernaut that is Manchester City, and with some ease, at that.
That they did so by recovering from shipping an own goal from Giorgio Chiellini early in the second half to end the hosts’ 11-game winning streak with goals in the final 20 minutes from Mario Mandzukic and Alvaro Morata only added to the achievement.
Such has been their dominance so far in their perfect start to their domestic challenge, a failure to steam-roller Italian champions without several of the high-profile players who made them such formidable opposition last season as they progressed to the Champions League final, represented something of a shock at a distinctly subdued Etihad Stadium.
Juve may have surrendered much of their swagger when they finished 17 points ahead of their nearest rivals in Serie A while running Barcelona close in European football’s showpiece event, but they’ve lost none of their stubborn side. In their last 10 matches against Premier League sides, they’ve lost just once.
Morata completed the comeback with nine minutes left, curling a delicate finish past Joe Hart to find the net off the post after City failed to deal with a routine ball pumped forward from halfway.
Morata’s forward partner Mandzukic utilised the other upright 11 minutes earlier to level, the Croatian expertly losing his marker Eliaquim Mangala to guide Paul Pogba’s perfect cross beyond Hart on the England goalkeeper’s 50th European appearance for his club.
“We were unlucky tonight, I don’t think we played too badly,” Yaya Toure, the City midfielder, reflected after his side’s latest European no-show.
Had Raheem Sterling put the hosts in front inside two minutes, as the England international should have done when his close range shot was kept out by the feet of Gianluigi Buffon after Fernandinho had dispossessed Stefano Sturaro, the Old Lady would have had to come out of her shell somewhat more and the contest would have unfolded in a distinctly different manner.
David Silva narrowly failed to convert the rebound, the opening was gone and Juventus still had something tangible to defend, and defend it they did.
Indeed, had Morata, offside and interfering with play, not waved his leg at a Juan Cuadrado cross converted at the far post by a sliding Pogba, the visitors could have been reflecting on an even more convincing victory.
Without Sergio Aguero, a surprising inclusion on the bench before his late introduction given the prognosis in the wake of his clattering by Scott Dann in Saturday’s victory at Crystal Palace, Wilfried Bony struggled to fill the considerable void left by the Argentinian.
Making only a fifth start since his arrival from Swansea in January, the Ivory Coast striker sliced a shot horribly wide when for once getting the better of his nagging shadow Chiellini after Silva pounced on an error from Patrick Evra.
Fernandinho regularly rose above the lethargy displayed by the majority of his team-mates. After setting up Sterling’s costly early miss, the Brazilian was equally swift to halt Pogba’s midfield trickery with a strong challenge before advancing to send a curling long-range effort narrowly over.
There was also from the South American an enterprising volley which drifted just wide of Buffon’s left-hand post to momentarily raise the far from full house from its evening-long stupor, but too few of the midfielder’s team-mates followed his amiable example.
City went ahead in fortunate circumstances 12 minutes after the restart, aided by the non-intervention of a behind the goal official as Chiellini headed Silva’s corner into his own goal with Vincent Kompany climbing all over the international defender
The hosts failed to capitalise on that slice of fortune, Sterling capping an ineffectual display before his substitution by failing to beat Buffon when given another clear sight on goal, Juve’s 37-year-old goalkeeper embellishing his save by blocking Silva’s follow-up.
They were made to pay, Kompany’s withdrawal with a calf problem keenly felt as City were left without a win in all five of their opening Champions League group games. Oasis’ ‘Roll With It’ blazed out from the PA system at the final whistle. It’s advice City fans have clearly learned to live over the years.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1):
Hart 6; Sagna 6, Kompany 7 (Otamendi 75, 4), Mangala 5, Kolarov 6; Toure 6, Fernandinho 8; Nasri 5 (Aguero 84, 5), Silva 6, Sterling 5 (De Bruyne 71, 6), Bony 4.
Buffon 9; Lichtsteiner 8, Bonucci 8, Chiellini 7, Evra 7; Cuadrado 7, Pogba 7, Sturaro 7; Hernanes 7; Morata 7 (Barzagli 85, 6), Mandzukic 8 (Dybala 78, 5).
Damir Skomina (Slovenia) 6
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