Juventus intent on qualifying in style
Juventus said they won’t settle for a draw against Shakhtar Donetsk in their final Champions League Group E match after puncturing Chelsea’s hopes with a 3-0 humiliation in Turin on Tuesday.
Holders Chelsea went into their penultimate group fixture one point ahead of the Bianconeri but manager Roberto Di Matteo’s plans to confuse the hosts’ defence by failing to field an out and out striker fell spectacularly flat as Juve ran riot.
Fabio Quagliarella, who scored the equaliser for Juve in their 2-2 deaw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, got his foot to Andrea Pirlo’s speculative shot to beat Petr Cech just after the half hour.
Juve doubled their lead on the hour when Arturo Vidal’s shot was deflected off Chelsea midfielder Ramires.
Fernando Torres, left on the bench, came on late in the second half but it was one of Juve’s second half substitutes, Sebastian Giovinco, who rubber-stamped the win when he slipped the ball past an onrushing Cech in the 91st minute.
It was only Juve’s second win of the group campaign but has put the Old Lady of Turin in second place behind Shakhtar Donetsk after the Ukrainians qualified by defeating Danish champions Nordsjaelland.
“It was a great team effort,” said assistant Juventus coach Angelo Alessio, whose side now have nine points, two more than Chelsea.
Juventus require only a draw against Shakhtar to qualify for the last 16 knockout phase for the first time since 2009, but Alessio added: “We will respect our opposition and the game, we won’t be playing for a draw.
“It’s not our style to go for a draw, we want to win the [Shakhtar] match.”
Barely six months after being crowned kings of Europe, Chelsea now face the ignominy of dropping out of the competition at the group stages.
It comes amid a torrid spell for the English giants, who have now leaked 20 goals in their past nine games in all competitions, including two in a 2-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
While Blues manager Di Matteo brushed off suggestions his position is now in danger, he did not emerge from the Chelsea dressing until well over an hour after the game had finished.
Di Matteo, however, refused to blame his players for the defeat.
“I’m responsible for the result, for the performance,” said Di Matteo. “The blame belongs to me.”
Di Matteo’s plan was for midfielders Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata changing positions in a loosely-assembled attack that would keep Juve guessing.
“I didn’t want to give the centre-backs any points of reference,” explained Di Matteo.
Hazard missed a great chance on nine minutes after Oscar set him up following a great counter-attack, but after two other chances were spurned by Ramires and then Mata Chelsea soon ran out of ideas.
“Hazard had the first good chance for us, Oscar had another one in front of the keeper and Mata also in front of the keeper,” added Di Matteo.
“I thought we were really dangerous and created some good opportunities.”
In the end the visitors were made to pay by a Juventus side intent on scoring goals.
Alessio later said Juve also had a plan: “We were unpredictable tonight, that’s one of the reasons we beat Chelsea tonight.”
Although Chelsea will be favourites to beat Nordsjaelland in two weeks at Stamford Bridge, they will need Shakhtar to deny Juve in the Ukraine before making the last 16.
Juve suffered only their first defeat in 50 matches a little over two weeks ago, to Inter Milan, but Di Matteo believes Chelsea’s dream is not over yet.
“Mathematically it’s still possible. When there’s hope, you try,” he said.
“We can’t control what Juve do against Shakhtar. We just have to make sure we do our job our end and win the last group game.”