By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
Watch out Europe... Juventus are back! They may not have won on their return to the Champions League, and there may have been signs of a few old failings still on display, but the Bianconeri showed that they are the real deal in coming from two goals down to earn a draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
When the European champions hit them with a double sucker-punch on the half-hour mark, they could easily have folded. But instead they took confidence in having overcome a difficult opening quarter to wrestle the initiative from their hosts.
There was also another key moment during that 120-second period between Oscar’s two goals, as Arturo Vidal hobbled back onto the field of play.
The Chilean had seemingly damaged ligaments in his ankle in the act of almost putting Juve ahead, and for a while it appeared as though his night would end there. But when he regained his feet, the Old Lady regained hope, and within five minutes he limped his way into the Chelsea penalty area and fired them back into the game.
|MATCH FACTS | Chelsea 2-2 Juventus
From there, Juve’s usual possession game, which has served them so well under Antonio Conte, was too much for Chelsea to handle. The Bianconeri dominated the second half, and were fully deserving of their equaliser, brilliantly taken by Fabio Quagliarella after he peeled off the static John Terry to latch onto Claudio Marchisio's excellent through ball. If Juve had gone on to get a winner, which they nearly did when Quagliarella turned and hit an excellent left-footed shot off the top of the bar, then Chelsea could have had no complaints.
They may have ridden their luck at times - such as when substitute Juan Mata fired wide at 2-1 - but this was a display of real belief and real intent. The occasional moments of weakness at the back, particularly early on when they found a couple of testing corners difficult to deal with, were quickly overcome.
Vidal remained key throughout a fixture played at a much more frenetic speed than anything Juve have played during their two-and-a-half year absence from the Champions League, with Andrea Pirlo closed out early on and the responsibility shifting to the former Bayer Leverkusen man to rein things in in midfield. The feeling is though, if he had gone off, then there may have been no point to show for their endeavour at the end of the night.
In dominating Chelsea, and pegging back the Blues, the Bianconeri proved they have the game and the desire necessary to go far in the tournament, but there still remains a question mark over what will happen if they are forced to dig deep within the squad reserves. Quagliarella came off the bench to save the day, which was one positive, and it will give Conte and Massimo Carrera great hope. But there will be other, less obvious, but equally huge tests to come.
So it’s so far, so very good for Juventus. Looking at the bigger picture, a point on the opening night is more credible than incredible, but it’s an excellent first step, and ensures that the rest of Europe will now be taking them very seriously.