By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
For a while there, it was suddenly looking rosy. Juventus were sitting pretty in second place as their players left the field following a routine 4-0 win over Nordsjaelland, and were ready to entertain Chelsea on matchday five safe in the knowledge that a win would take them into the last 16 of the Champions League.
But the Blues were not done.
In the 94th minute of the European champions’ clash with Shakhtar Donetsk at Stamford Bridge, Victor Moses rose high to earn the home side a 3-2 win and simultaneously send Juve crashing back down to earth. One minute they were one step from qualification, now they are a giant leap from their goal.
The Bianconeri had done everything they could do on the night. From the moment Claudio Marchisio side-footed home Mauricio Isla’s low driven cross, the floodgates were always bound to open for a side who had drawn their previous nine European fixtures. Arturo Vidal even managed to double the lead in making a tackle, such was the tone of the evening, before Sebastian Giovinco finally broke his European duck by collecting Andrea Pirlo’s reverse pass with the outside of the boot and finishing with aplomb.
|MATCH FACTS | Juve 4-0 Nordsjaelland
It was all a far cry from the Parken Stadion a fortnight ago, where Juve failed to break down the Danes until 10 minutes from time, by which time Mikkel Beckmann had breached their own defence. The job they were completing with something to spare - stretching the opposition, playing penetrating through balls, getting in behind the defence inside the 18-yard area - was simply what they should have been doing in Denmark. They were dominant and destructive, but they were two weeks too late if they wanted to soften their path.
Going into the break 3-0 up, their job was already done and it was all about whether Shakhtar would be rewarded for their sometimes sumptuous football at the Bridge. As Fabio Quagliarella turned in a fourth, things were also going their way in England. It looked as though those dropped points in Copenhagen would not carry such a heavy punishment. But by the time both referees had whistled for full-time, Group E was suddenly looking daunting again.
Instead of standing one game away from the promised land, they are now facing the challenge of getting four points from their next two matches. Make no mistake, both Shakhtar and Chelsea will take their full complement of points from their clashes against Nordsjaelland, so the Bianconeri will have to do all the work themselves. They can certainly expect no favours.
As if facing the champions of Europe is not enough of a task, they must also travel to Donetsk to face a Shakhtar side who have practically dominated Chelsea over the course of their two clashes and have already proven once that their style of play is very tough for Juventus to handle. If any side is built to beat a team that play as Antonio Conte’s men do, it is the Ukrainian champions.
The Moses goal was a stroke of bad luck for Juve, but they cannot feel too hard done by. They are in the position they are in as a result of their own failings. Despite having had the benefit of playing Nordsjaelland twice already, they’re still playing catch-up, and the blame for that lies only with the Italians. A win and a loss is better than two draws, they say, and they are learning that right now to their detriment off the back of nine European games without a victory.
Wednesday night was about breaking a duck; for the first time since the summer of 2010, Juventus won a European fixture. But the job is only just starting. Nordsjaelland are no kind of preparation for the real task which lies ahead over the final 180 minutes of their group campaign, and Moses’ goal has doubled the work they have to do. They are in with a chance, but it remains a slim one.