Ju­ven­tus take top spot with big win

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri's side recorded a com­fort­able vic­tory in Croa­tia to climb to the top of Group H.

Mi­ralem Pjanic scored one goal and cre­ated an­other as Ju­ven­tus eased to vic­tory over Group H ri­vals Di­namo Za­greb to move to the top of their Cham­pi­ons League group.

Mid­fielder Pjanic only played 45 min­utes, yet still played an in­flu­en­tial role in help­ing Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri's side end a run of four games with­out a win in the com­pe­ti­tion that stretched back to Novem­ber 2015.

The Bos­nia and Herze­gov­ina in­ter­na­tional opened the scor­ing with a del­i­cate vol­ley in the 24th minute be­fore set­ting up the sec­ond for Gon­zalo Higuain, who was af­forded far too much space by the Za­greb de­fence.

Paulo Dy­bala broke his duck for the sea­son with a left-footed strike in the 57th minute, while a mis­er­able night for the hosts was rounded out by goal­keeper Adrian Sem­per knock­ing Dani Alves' de­flected free-kick into his own net.

The re­sult was the per­fect re­sponse for Ju­ven­tus af­ter a 0-0 draw with Sevilla in their open­ing Euro­pean game, par­tic­u­larly with a trip to Lyon up next.

Di­namo's 2016/17 Cham­pi­ons League cam­paign had be­gun with a 3-0 loss at Lyon, a re­sult that – along with poor form in do­mes­tic ac­tion – cost man­ager Zlatko Kran­j­car his job.

Care­taker boss Zeljko Sopic had over­seen an up­turn in re­sults at home since tak­ing charge, but fac­ing Ju­ven­tus was eas­ily the tough­est fix­ture of his brief ten­ure.

Higuain hooked a Alves cross over the bar in the open­ing min­utes as the vis­i­tors dom­i­nated from the out­set, al­though they needed help from their op­po­nents to break the dead­lock.

Leonardo Bonucci's for­ward pass from the half­way line caused con­fu­sion at the heart of the Di­namo de­fence, re­sult­ing in Leonardo Si­gali in­ad­ver­tently head­ing the ball the wrong way to set up Pjanic's deft fin­ish be­yond Sem­per.

Di­namo came close to get­ting back on terms im­me­di­ately, with their first ef­fort at goal see­ing de­fender Gor­don Schilden­feld plant a header from a free-kick against the bar.

The dis­ap­point­ment at be­ing de­nied by the wood­work at one end was com­pounded by Ju­ven­tus dou­bling their lead be­fore the in­ter­val.

Hav­ing scored the first, Pjanic set up the sec­ond with a long pass over the top to Higuain, who con­trolled the ball on his chest be­fore steer­ing a left­footed vol­ley into the cor­ner of the net.

Al­though in­jury cut short Pjanic's match, with Juan Cuadrado re­plac­ing him be­fore the sec­ond half, Ju­ven­tus didn't strug­gle in the ab­sence of the for­mer Roma player.

Any slim hopes of a Di­namo come­back dis­ap­peared when Dy­bala was al­lowed time and space to take aim from dis­tance, the for­ward lash­ing a shot home from out­side the area to fi­nally get off the mark.

Marko Pjaca and Mario Mandzu­kic came off the bench to face their for­mer club but it was a cur­rent Di­namo player who was cred­ited with the last goal, teenager Sem­per fail­ing to keep out an Alves set-piece that had bal­looned up off the wall.

Vic­tory sees Ju­ven­tus take top spot in Group H, sit­ting ahead of Sevilla on goal dif­fer­ence af­ter two games.

Ju­ven­tus's Mi­ralem Pjanic cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing his side’s first goal dur­ing the match be­tween Di­namo Za­greb and Ju­ven­tus yes­ter­day Photo: AP

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