Last season's Champions League runners-up Juventus came from behind to start their group stage campaign with a win over Manchester City on Tuesday. It wasn't a brilliant performance from the Italian side, but two moments of pure quality saw a controversial Giorgio Chiellini own-goal canceled out by strikes from from Mario Mandžukić and Álvaro Morata.
City almost broke the deadlock within a couple of minutes, when a sloppy Stefano Sturaro giveaway allowed Fernandinho to send Raheem Sterling through on goal. However, Gianluigi Buffon was on hand to make a crucial save and keep the scores level.
Juve reacted well to the early scare, and saw plenty of the ball in the following few minutes. They thought they'd taken the lead themselves inside a quarter of an hour, though Álvaro Morata's attempt to play the ball in an offside position meant Paul Pogba's far-post tap-in was correctly disallowed by the officials.
The visitors successfully managed to limit City to large spells of pedestrian short passing, but a rare defensive mistake by Leonardo Bonucci gifted the hosts the half's best chance just past the half-hour. A deft touch by Wilfried Bony enabled him to wiggle free of the Juventus center-half, only to blaze a shot over the crossbar with Sterling free to his left.
Juve were given another scare five minutes before halftime, though a snapshot from Fernandinho on the edge of the penalty area whistled wide of Buffon's goal. The upshot was that the game stayed goalless to the break. City had created the better chances, but without the dominance that has characterized their domestic performances so far this season.
Tellingly, they needed a set-piece to break the deadlock shortly before the hour mark. Vincent Kompany initially appeared to have powered a corner beyond Buffon and into the back of the net, though replays showed him to have climbed all over the back of defender Giorgio Chiellini, off whom the final touch came. Despite Italian appeals, the goal stood.
Juve were suddenly forced into playing more proactively, and they were almost exposed within minutes. A great dummy by Bony bought David Silva the space to send Sterling through on goal, but he was denied by a great Buffon save for the second time. Juve responded with their first clear-cut chance of the game, but Joe Hart kept a Sturaro effort out from point-blank range.
Hart was, however, powerless to stop Juve equalizing with 20 minutes remaining, when a brilliant Paul Pogba delivery found Mario Mandžukić in sufficient space to stab the ball against the post and into the back of the net. The game was all square again, and it was impossible to predict which way it would turn.
The answer was in Juventus' favor. Striker Morata had been having a very quiet evening, but with 10 minutes remaining he netted a spectacular goal on the turn from the edge of the box. Hart was unable to stop the ball from rocketing inside his far post, as the visitors earned an unlikely three points.
Manchester City: Joe Hart; Aleksandar Kolarov, Eliaquim Mangala, Vincent Kompany (Nicolás Otamendi 75'), Bacary Sagna; Fernandinho, Yaya Touré; Samir Nasri (Sergio Agüero 83'), David Silva, Raheem Sterling (Kevin De Bruyne 71'); Wilfried Bony
Goals: Chiellini o.g. (57').
Juventus: Gianluigi Buffon; Patrice Evra, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Stephan Lichtsteiner; Paul Pogba, Hernanes, Stefano Sturaro; Álvaro Morata (Andrea Barzagli 85'), Mario Mandžukić (Paulo Dybala 78'), Juan Cuadrado.
Goals: Mandžukić (70'), Morata (81').
1. City weren't as good as usual
It has taken a while, but this season it has looked like Manuel Pellegrini has finally got Manchester City playing as he'd always planned. Quick and incisive with their passing and tireless in their movement, they've looked almost unstoppable. However, though this was far from a vintage Juve performance, they turned in an impressive defensive display to limit City's space and scoring opportunities. They still created chances, but not as many as we'd normally expect. They lacked their usual vim and vigor, and for that Max Allegri's side deserve some credit.
2. Álvaro Morata is not a winger
Juve were certainly much better in the defensive phase than the offensive one, and only created a couple of clear-cut goalscoring opportunities in the entire match. It was partly the result of Allegri's decision to play striker Álvaro Morata in an unfamiliar role out on the left: Whether by instinct or instruction, the Spaniard drifted into central positions during Juve's attacks, at the expense of offering width to stretch the City defense. It meant right-back Bacary Sagna had a relatively easy evening, and that Juve's build-up play was predictable and easy to defend against. It was telling that scored his brilliant goal once shifted into the middle of the pitch.
3. City have given themselves work to do
There's certainly no reason for Manchester City to panic yet, but they're also not going to have an easy ride in this group. In the other fixture, Sevilla demolished Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-0, and it could well prove to be City's performances in their matches against the Spaniards that determines who'll go through.