Shakhtar draw shakes up Juventus
Published : 03 Oct 2012 14:17:23Rss feed
Italian giants Juventus admit they will have to improve if they are to make the knockout phase of the Champions League on what is their return to Europe's premier club competition.
Juventus' Serie A title triumph in 2012 was their first in nine years, but the potential financial rewards from a place in the latter stages of the Champions League are in danger of slipping away.
Two weeks after battling to a 2-2 draw at Chelsea, Juventus were lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw at home to impressive Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk.
It was their eighth consecutive draw in European competition, and left Antonio Conte's side third in Group E on two points, two behind leaders Chelsea and second-placed Shakhtar.
The Ukrainians opened the scoring with apparent ease when troublesome midfielder Willian provided the assist for fellow Brazilian Alex Teixeira.
After being allowed to shoot from the edge of the area, Willian picked up his own rebound and fed the striker whose angled shot flew past Gianluigi Buffon and into the roof of the net.
Minutes later Juve levelled when Leonardo Bonucci first-timed Andrea Pirlo's low corner into the roof of the net.
Juventus created several chances early in the second half but Shakhtar dominated and came close to taking the lead several times including a last-minute effort from Willian which came off Buffon's upright.
Almost to a man, Juventus's players admitted they had done well to take a share of the points.
"Given the way the match was going we did well to get back on level terms," said Bonucci.
"We started out perhaps a little too relaxed and we allowed them to control the game. We can't afford to let that happen because in this competition you get punished."
Juve's three-man defence had resisted defeat in 45 previous games, but their 46th game without defeat is perhaps another sign that, although dominant in Serie A, Europe is still an unhappy hunting ground.
Juventus' last won in European competition when they beat Sturm Graz 1-0 in a play-off for the Europa League in August 2010.
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu, a former coach of Brescia who helped launch the career of Juventus's iconic midfielder Andrea Pirlo when he was a teenager, said his side can be counted on to upset Juve's plans for the knockout phase.
"We knew they would play aggressively and that with three passes they could get themselves into a scoring position. But we made them run and use up their energy," he said.
"We could have and should have won, we created more scoring chances than they did. But it's a good point for us, and shows that we are strong contenders for the next phase."
Juventus now have two games -- away to Nordsjaelland on October 23 and at home against the Danish newcomers on November 7 -- in which to make amends.
While Juve's caretaker coach Massimo Carrera believes the draw was a "fair reflection" of the game, midfielder Claudio Marchisio says the next two fixtures are crucial.
"These will be the most important two matches for us," he said.
"Although on paper they look easy, we can't afford to lose focus."