Morata, Zaza on target as Juve beat listless Sevilla
Alvaro Morata opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time and Simone Zaza hit his maiden Champions League goal at the death as Juventus dominated a listless Sevilla 2-0 to go top of group D on Wednesday.
Juventus, last season’s beaten finalists, welcomed Unai Emery’s Europa League champions to Turin looking to prove that the poor domestic form that has seen them slump to 15th in Serie A is simply a blip.
By the end of a completely one-sided encounter, it became apparent that Sevilla’s own domestic woes are likely to pose a much bigger threat for them this season.
Emery tried to put a positive spin on his side’s horror show.
“Juventus were last season’s beaten finalists and a side with top quality players, so we expected this to be a tough encounter,” said Emery.
“We still have to work on a lot of things but I regard tonight’s performance as positive given the amount of players I had out injured.”
Bizarrely, Juventus, 2-1 winners at Manchester City, are now top of the group with more points from two Champions League games than they have earned in six Serie A outings.
“The big difference is we have six points from the Champions League and five from Serie A,” joked Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri when asked to explained his side’s ability to rise to the occasion in Europe.
After applauding his side’s “great game”, Allegri praised Sami Khedira’s impressive display after the German World Cup winner returned to action after two months on the sidelines.
“He’s a world class player, tonight (Wednesday) he did well, showed his qualities and his skills. I’m very happy for him,” added Allegri.
After just 30 seconds Paul Pogba spurned a great chance for the hosts when he mis-hit Morata’s chip over a thankful Sergio Rico’s crossbar.
If fans thought it was a flash in the pan, they would be soon mistaken.
Juventus settled quickly and were in complete command, annulling the threat of the listless Spaniards as they went about laying the foundations for Morata’s opener four minutes from the interval.
Brazilian Hernanes and Paulo Dybala, with a great curling effort, came close early on while Khedira, making his first appearance since hobbling off 25 minutes into a pre-match friendly with Marseille, was making a great impression on the 32,908 spectators.
The German was given rousing applause when he deftly chested down a long ball at the left byeline to set up Dybala, but the Argentinian wasted the opportunity in front of goal.
– Morata strikes again –
Juventus finally broke the deadlock on 41 minutes when Morata rose above the Sevilla defence to meet Juan Cuadrado’s delivery from the right byeline and beat Rico down low at his far post. It was Morata’s second goal in the competition this season after his late winner at Manchester City.
“I’m happy for my goal, but more happy about our win,” said the Spaniard.
Juve resumed where they had left off after the interval and created two quick chances immediately after the restart although Dybala’s deflected toe poke was blocked by Rico’s legs and Pogba fired a bicycle kick effort well over the crossbar from the edge of the area.
Cuadrado’s movement and pace was too much for French left-back Benoit Tremoulinas, and on 64 minutes the on-loan Chelsea forward skipped by two players to set up Patrice Evra deep on the left but the Frenchman’s low delivery for Dybala yards from goal was deflected out.
Emery made two quick substitutions, Ciro Immobile replacing Gameiro and Vicente Iborra coming on for Steven N’Zonzi, although the changes made little difference.
Sevilla spent the next 10 minutes ball-watching as Juventus passed around at will, until Cuadrado broke the monotony with a vicious drive from outside the area that Rico did well to block.
Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri replaced Morata with Zaza in the dying minutes and the Italy international seized his chance in style.
Dybala did well to hold off his markers to send the Italian on a long run that ended with his angled strike beating Rico down low on 87 minutes.