Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic help Juventus fight back against Bayern
Juventus started Tuesday's match against Bayern Munich with fear and trepidation, conceding two goals to all but ensure their exit from the Champions League. That is until ambition reared its beautiful head.
In the words of Gazzetta dello Sport's match review, "No one puts Juventus in the corner."
If there is ever a side who knows how to stage a comeback, it is the Old Lady. Two goals in 13 minutes and the Bianconeri managed a 2-2 draw to keep hope alive in this competition.
Void of confidence, Juventus started in cowardly fashion and struggled to win back possession or merely keep hold of the ball for longer than a few seconds. Every pass inaccurate, every attempted challenge embarrassing, the side once revered for their spirit and intensity struggled to challenge their opponents or apply even a hint of pressure, falling deeper and deeper, terrified of what the German's front line would do.
After reaching the Champions League final last season and comprehensively defeating Manchester City twice in the group stage, Massimiliano Allegri had hoped his Old Lady had overcome her inferiority complex and was now psychologically capable of navigating the toughest European challenges. Yet it seemed those memories of the defeat suffered at the hands of Jupp Heynckes Bayern are still raw causing great damage to their confidence.
With Juve hardly pressing and barely interested in testing a German backline suffering from so many injuries, it seemed an early exit from the competition was not only expected but a certainty. That's is until Paulo Dybala scored.
With Mario Mandzukic making that bit more of an effort to deliver to Dybala, the Argentine's goal revived the Old Lady and sparked the reaction Allegri needed. Juve thereafter played with pride and intensity, pressing higher up the pitch and winning the challenges required to maintain their attacking momentum.
Allegri's substitutions were inspired as usual, few tacticians are so capable of changing the face of the game from the bench. If only his starters had managed to put Juve in a better position. A 2-2 draw is not ideal but at least the Old Lady has some hope of continuing her journey in Europe's grandest competition.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Gianluigi Buffon, 7 -- A little shaky at the start but always focused, he pulled off key saves to keep Juve in the game.
DF Stephan Lichtsteiner, 5 -- Suffered greatly against Douglas Costa, he wasn't on point defensively and offered little going forward.
DF Leonardo Bonucci, 7 -- The man who battles on when everyone around him has given up, he is always capable of rescuing a side when they start to collapse. Some wonderful interventions and a goal-line clearance, he minimised the damage that Bayern could have potentially caused in the first half.
DF Andrea Barzagli, 7 -- The reliable defender Juve need, he frustrated Robert Lewandowski all night, making valuable interceptions and maintaining composure.
DF Patrice Evra, 5 -- Struggled throughout the match, barely containing a rampant Arjen Robben.
MF Juan Cuadrado, 6 -- In high calibre matches like these, intelligence is key and sadly for Cuadrado, he is often exposed when playing superior opponents. Almost incapable of making the right decision, he at least won back possession and drew out fouls in dangerous areas. A relentless runner, it's a pity he plays with no direction.
MF Sami Khedira, 6 -- Sacrificed it all to halt Bayern but does not have the energy levels required to produce a box to box performance which is what is required in his position.
MF Claudio Marchisio, 6 -- It took him some time before he began to show pride, asserting himself to win back possession but the team was overwhelmed and needed him to step up a little earlier to better help control the match. Replaced in the second half.
MF Paul Pogba, 7 -- When the team plays badly, the youngster is mediocre, when the team plays well, the Frenchman is inspirational. A player of immense technique, he offers so much creativity and quality but not a leader who can spur the team on but rather one that relies on the excellence of those around him.
FW Mario Mandzukic, 7 -- Easy to spot his rustiness as he only just returned from injury but few fight as hard as the Croatian for the sake of the team. Won the ball to deliver the perfect assist for Dybala's goal, his determination has been missed.
FW Paulo Dybala, 7 -- Not as brilliant as usual in possession but the team let him down, the group could barely keep possession to deliver and aid him in his quest for goals. Once the team played, he took his chance for the goal.
MF Hernanes, 7 -- A great performance from the heavily criticised midfielder. He fought, he ran and he challenged to win back possession and spur his teammates forward.
MF Stefano Sturaro, 7 -- A fighter who makes the right runs into the box, he made the difference to a game that needed his physicality and desire to occupy the right spaces. Brilliant for scoring the equaliser.
FW Alvaro Morata, N/A -- His movements stretched the defence while his ability to be direct and run fast with the ball shook a fragile Bayern backline.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Minarzouki.