A Paulo Dybala effort that bore more resemblance to a magic trick than a well-hit free-kick proved to be the difference as Juventus beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 in Turin and secure top spot in Group D of the Champions League.
Cristiano Ronaldo returned from injury to line-up against his old foes, but it was Dybala who provided the star power and scored the decisive goal at the end of the first half with a sumptuous free-kick.
Here are the talking points…
The very mention of Atletico Madrid must prompt Ronaldo to salivate. No other side has been victimised by his wrath more than Los Rojiblancos.
Indeed, his record against them going into this fixture them read – 32 games, 25 goals, eight assists and four hat-tricks.
In last season’s Champions League round of 16 tie, the Spanish outfit led 2-0 after the first leg but a stunning Ronaldo hat-trick in Turin denied them a quarter-final berth.
Though returning from injury, Atleti would’ve been concerned by the news Ronaldo was rested over the weekend when Juventus took on Atalanta so he would be fresh for their European clash.
However, the Ronaldo they so dread was not waiting for them at the Juventus Stadium. He clearly wasn’t at a hundred per cent and was largely ineffective. He just didn’t looked like his dominant, imposing self – and an ill-advised hairband did him no favours.
Fortunately for Juventus, they have another jewel in their crown who was decidedly more stylish on the night.
THE JEWEL DAZZLES
🇦🇷 This angle of Paulo Dybala's unreal free-kick against Jan Oblak is orgasmic. What an absolutely ridiculous hit, so beautiful to watch. 💥 pic.twitter.com/WEk37R3Hx2— FutbolBible (@FutbolBible) November 26, 2019
Maurizio Sarri insists that only two of Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Dybala can play at a time. On this occasion, it was Dybala who started alongside the Portuguese star and proceeded to steal the show.
Right from the off, the Argentine looked like he was in the mood, moving about the pitch with a distinct swagger and briefly illuminating the final third with little sparks of magic.
His incredible first touch to pluck a high ball out of the air and bring it under his spell was one such instance. His marker, Kieran Trippier, was a mere – and privileged – spectator to such wizardry and Dybala nearly played Aaron Ramsey in on goal as a result.
There was another delicious flick on the opposite flank which led to a booking for Mario Hermoso who had no option but to haul the diminutive forward to the ground.
But Dybala’s masterpiece was delivered on the stroke of half-time. Standing over a free-kick from a position that gave him no right whatsoever to go for goal, he swung his wand of a left foot with a flourish and the ball was past Jan Oblak before he could blink.
With the amount of pace and whip he generated, his effort was always destined for goal. To beat one of the best keepers in the world with such aplomb made it all the more extraordinary.
ATLETI UP THE ANTE
No Diego Simeone side will ever take a defeat lying down and Atletico ensured Juventus were made to work for this victory.
There was no switch of system to speak of at the break but an unmistakable change in approach was in effect. The visitors pressed higher up the pitch and with greater intensity.
A couple of substitutions facilitated an elevated tempo with Joao Felix and Angel Correa giving the attack some much-needed zip.
However, they came up against a Juventus side far more integrated in Sarri’s style than they were when the two teams met at the Mestalla. Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt in particular were superb in the closing stages, ensuring there was no way through.
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