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3 things we learned from Juventus' narrow win over Manchester City

Juventus booked their place in the Champions League's knockout stages and went top of their group with a gritty win over Manchester City on Wednesday.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Juventus leapfrogged Manchester City to go top of their Champions League group with a 1-0 victory over the Blues in Turin on Wednesday. It certainly wasn't a sparkling performance from the victors, though an early goal was backed up by some determined defending, and few could begrudge the bianconeri the points. Both of these sides have now guaranteed their progression into the knockouts.

The game's opening exchanges were finely poised, with both sides trading spells of sterile possession. Over a quarter-of-an-hour's worth of football had been played when the first chance arrived, though Fernandinho blasted the ball over the crossbar after a smart layoff by Yaya Touré.

However, just a couple of minutes later the deadlock was broken with a goal at the other end. Some delightful play by Paul Pogba saw him skip past Kevin De Bruyne and send Alex Sandro free down the left flank. The Brazilian subsequently arced an inch-perfect cross into the penalty area, with Mario Mandžukić out-muscling Nicolás Otamendi before volleying home.

Juve grew in confidence after their opener, and almost doubled their advantage just short of the half-hour. A header from Stephan Lichtsteiner was met by a crisp Mandžukić strike on the edge of the City penalty area, but Joe Hart dived to make an excellent save. City were still in the game, but they were on the ropes.

When their next big chance finally did arrive, it was only courtesy of a sloppy mistake by Juve midfielder Claudio Marchisio. His errant backpass was intercepted by City striker Sergio Agüero, though goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon spared his teammate's blushes by charging off his line and preventing the Argentine from pulling the trigger.

The visitors did manage to start the second half with a bang, but Buffon managed to smother a Fernando header on the goal line with Touré lurking dangerously. Juve soon responded with a gilt-edged opportunity of their own, though Álvaro Morata's high lob hit the post and bounced to safety. Things seemed to be heating up, but it was unfortunately a false dawn.

It wasn't until the final few minutes that things really got interesting, with Hart making a crucial save to deny Morata seconds before Raheem Sterling squandered a brilliant chance from point-blank range at the other end. Substitute Juan Cuadrado almost killed the game off with a second for Juve moments later, but City's defense did enough to force him into firing wide.

Fortunately for the Colombian, he wasn't made to pay for his profligacy: Juve clung on for a narrow win to go top of the group with a round to play.

Juventus: Gianluigi Buffon; Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli; Alex Sandro (Patrice Evra 78'), Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchisio, Stefano Sturaro, Stephan Lichtsteiner; Paulo Dybala (Juan Cuadrado 82'), Mario Mandžukić (Álvaro Morata 55').

Goals: Mandžukić (18').

Manchester City: Joe Hart (Willy Caballero 81'); Gaël Clichy, Nicolás Otamendi, Martín Demichelis, Bacary Sagna; Fernandinho, Fernando (Fabian Delph 60'); Kevin De Bruyne, Yaya Touré, Jesús Navas; Sergio Agüero (Raheem Sterling 69').

Goals: None.

3 Things

1. Who are the real Manchester City?

It has been a bizarre season for Manchester City so far, with Manuel Pellegrini's side veering erratically from looking like England's best team to a rather disjointed, impotent one. In this match they were unfortunately the latter, with their star players failing to show up. Agüero failed to impress before being withdrawn, while De Bruyne continued his recent quiet spell. It's certainly not time to panic, but the world's football writers would be hugely appreciative if City kindly decide whether they're actually any good. At the moment, it's much too difficult to decipher the hot takes from the decidedly lukewarm.

2. Juve's gameplan was simple but effective

The old cliché of Serie A sides as outstanding defensive units has been thoroughly debunked over recent years (courtesy of a series of hopelessly porous performances from Italians in continental competition), though Juve have gone some way to restoring that reputation over the last couple of seasons. It was a similar story in this match, where they got the early goal and promptly sat back, frustrating City with sheer weight of numbers. It was a well-organized display from Massimiliano Allegri's men, and only late on did they start to wobble.

3. Alex Sandro is showing promise for Juve

With Kwadwo Asamoah still sidelined after suffering a serious knee injury, and Patrice Evra coming towards the end of his career, signing a new left wing-back was a top priority for Juve over the summer. They gambled on Porto's Brazilian starlet Sandro, and early signs suggest it's paying off. He delivered a fine performance before being substituted in the second half, including an excellent assist for the only goal of the game. He could well be an important cog in their first team for years to come.