Wednesday, 10 December 2008

La Vecchia Signora On Top Group H, Altough Get Draw

Juventus had long since qualified for the last 16, but they still required a point in order to finish above Real Madrid at the top of Group H. The Bianconeri still had a crippling injury list, with Andrade, Zebina, Trezeguet, Buffon, Salihamidzic, Knezevic, Poulsen, and Tiago all sidelined. However, Cristiano Zanetti finally returned to the team after a long layoff, while Sebastian Giovinco continued up-front alongside Amauri, following his super display at the weekend.

Juve Top Group H Despite Bate Draw
Rock-bottom BATE had absolutely nothing to play for, but pride, as they could neither qualify for the next round, nor the UEFA Cup. Coach Viktor Goncharenko was hoping for a similar performance to the one his troops offered in the reverse fixture in Minsk, when BATE held Juve to a 2-2 draw, having been two-up at one stage.

First Half

Juventus attacked right from the start, and within the opening couple of minutes Amauri headed wide from Giovinco's right wing corner. Giovinco then raced away from two men, and went down under pressure inside the area, but the referee waved away the ambitious penalty appeals.

BATE had their first attempt of the game on 16 minutes, as Igor Stasevich headed harmlessly wide from a left-field cross.

Amauri appeared to have the beating of his marker in the air, and he rose highest at another Giovinco corner, but couldn't direct his header.

Juventus threatened for the first time midway through the half, as Giovinco almost caught goalkeeper Sergey Veremko by surprise with a beautiful free kick, which finished just inches past the far post. Down the other end, Mikhail Sivakov tested Alex Manninger with another set-piece.

Amauri did brilliantly down the left, and cut back for Giovinco, whose shot was blocked by a defender. The Brazilian was then denied himself by a Belarussian as he attempted to turn home Pavel Nedved's cross.

The ball would just not fall for Amauri, and it was a similar story just past the half hour mark following a brilliant rampage down the left by Cristian Molinaro. Meanwhile, Giovinco lashed a long range free kick over the bar.

The 21-year-old did excellently just before the break, as he left his man for dead, before lashing the ball just wide.

Second Half

Juventus came racing out of the traps in the second half, and were centimetres away from taking the lead on 51 minutes as Amauri crossed for Marchionni, whose header crashed off the inside of the post and into the arms of the grateful Veremko.

Minutes later Juve squandered an even better chance to take the lead, as they were awarded a penalty for a handball by Sivakov. However, Giovinco skied the penalty over the bar.

The youngster tried to make up for his error by embarking on a wonderful solo run, before teeing up Nedved, who shot straight at Veremko. Soon after Alessandro Del Piero was introduced for Amauri.

Juventus continued to come forward looking for the opener, and Nedved tested Veremko again on 69 minutes with a powerful volley from 20 yards.

Zanetti was the next Bianconero to try his luck, with a dangerous swerving effort from outside the area, but again Veremko was equal.

BATE had barely had a shot all night, but with just 12 minutes remaining they missed a glorious chance to take a shock lead, as Bliznyuk twisted past his man, but with just Manninger to beat, he sidefooted the ball wide.

This stirred Juve back into life, and they missed an excellent chance of their own a few minutes later, as Marchionni crossed for Del Piero, but his header from close range was brilliantly saved by Veremko. The two players combined again soon after, but this time Del Piero headed off target.

There was a special moment on 87 minutes as youngster Simone Esposito was introduced for his Juventus debut, in place of Giovinco.

The rest of the match played out without much incident. Juventus failed to get the win, but they still finished top of Group H with 12 points, above Real Madrid on head-to-head. BATE exit Europe all together, despite holding Juve home-and-away.


Juventus: Manninger, Grygera, Legrottaglie, Mellberg, Molinaro, Marchionni, Nedved (Castiglia 91), Zanetti, De Ceglie, Giovinco (Esposito 87), Amauri (Del Piero 56)

BATE: Veremko, Khagush, Sosnovsky, Kazantev, Yurevic, Likhtarovic (Volodko 56), Sivakov, Stasevich (Nekhaychik 60), Bliznyuk, Kryvets (Ermakovich 89), Rodionov

Anthony Sormani

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