Pjaca, Alves strikes lift Juve past depleted Porto


Porto (Portugal) (AFP) – Croatian starlet Marko Pjaca and Dani Alves came off the bench to strike late as Juventus overcame 10-man Porto 2-0 in their Champions League last 16 first leg on Wednesday.

Porto hosted Juventus, the beaten 2015 finalists, looking for their first win in four meetings between the sides — and confident in their chances after a recent six-game winning run.

But the hosts endured a disastrous opening half at the Estadio do Dragao, former Inter Milan midfielder Alex Telles sent off for a second bookable offence in the 27th minute.

After seeing both Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala come close, Higuain notably denied on 39 minutes by an alert Iker Casillas, Massimiliano Allegri replaced Juan Cuadrado with Pjaca on 67 minutes.

The 22-year-old capitalised only six minutes later, starting a great move before firing Dybala’s return pass past Casillas from 15 yards out. 

Allegri replaced right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner with Alves immediately afterwards and the former Barcelona star scored with practically his first touch of the game to wrap up a precious win for the Turin giants.

Deploying an attack-minded 4-2-3-1 formation designed to squeeze goals out of Higuain, Juve were forced to defend deep as Porto took control in the opening stages.

But early promise failed to threaten Gianluigi Buffon in the Juve goal, Yacine Brahimi’s free kick curling over after Giorgio Chiellini, who passed a late fitness test with fellow defender Andrea Barzagli, fouled striker Andre Silva.

Juve eventually settled and Higuain looked on his way to breaking the deadlock on 18 minutes until Marcano slid in to dispossess the Argentine yards from goal.

When Miralem Pjanic fired an enticing ball into the area for Mandzukic, Casillas was forced out quickly to slide the ball away with his feet. 

Juventus were gaining momentum but Dybala fired a great chance over Casillas’s crossbar after Sami Khedira’s smart overhead flick.

Telles earned his first caution on 25 minutes for a foul on Cuadrado and gave Juventus a welcome boost when he saw red barely two minutes later for a foul on Lichtsteiner.

Santo replaced Silva with Miguel Layun three minutes later but it took a superb reflex save from Casillas to stop Higuain’s deflected effort from squeezing in at the base of the post on 39 minutes. 

Casillas was beaten on the stroke of half-time but Dybala’s shot from the edge of the area came off the base of the ‘keeper’s upright.

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