Juventus took one step towards the Champions League last night with a narrow 2-1 victory at home over Borussia Dortmund, an impressive overall performance from the Serie A side who now find themselves at least slight favorites to go through.
But Juventus have a habit of winning home, both domestically and in Europe. They’ve lost just one of 15 European home fixtures since moving to the new Juventus Stadium in 2011. And while Juve have been the dominant force in Italy of late, if they do progress, it will only be their second appearance in the last eight since 2008.
Antonio Conte, the manager who ushered in this new era of Juventus' dominance, always saw his teams fall short somewhat in Europe. His successor, Massimiliano Allegri, now at least has the chance take Juve further than Conte could.
It was by no means a commanding performance from Juventus. They took the lead in part due to a blunder from Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller that allowed Carlos Tevez to simply roll the ball into the goal. But Juventus soon made their own blunder, as Giorgio Chiellini’s slipped and allowed Marco Reus time and space to fire in the equalizer.
It was only a moment of quality from Alvaro Morata that put the Old Lady ahead just before halftime. Bad marking from the Dortmund defense allowed the former Real Madrid man to get on the end of an excellent cross from Paul Pogba and tuck home what proved the winner.
Both sides had chances in the second half but neither broke the deadlock; despite Ciro Immobile and Nuri Sahin coming close for Dortmund; while Morata, Tevez and Chiellini had near misses for Juve.
But in the end, there was a sense that Allegri got his tactics spot on. By allowing Dortmund possession, absorbing the pressure and then launching sudden attacks when the ball reached the final third, Juve kept the upper hand. Granted, they missed several chances to build on their lead. Also, this current Dortmund team is somewhat blunted as an attacking force, compared to the side that reached the Champions League final in 2013, so the strategy proved worth the risk.
“It was a fair result, though we could’ve had more goals and had far more scoring opportunities. I thought we had a good second half and allowed Borussia practically nothing,” remarked Allegri to Sky Sport Italia afterwards.
“To break down Borussia you need technique, precision and intensity. It was a very tactical game and I think we had more chances than they did.”
Although Juventus got a good result, it did come at a cost, with Andrea Pirlo forced to limp off with a calf injury just days before Juve’s Serie A clash with Roma. But Allegri and his men have every right to be pleased, despite the precariousness of a 2-1 lead. With the tie still balanced on a knife’s edge, Juventus will have almost no margin for error for the return leg at the Signal Iduna Park next month. It is there perhaps that Juve’s European credentials will truly be challenged.