Turin, April 12 (IANS) Paulo Dybala scored a first-half brace to lead Juventus to a 3-0 victory against Barcelona in the first leg, giving the Catalan football giants a huge task in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final here.
Barcelona on Tuesday put themselves in the position of needing another miracle to stay alive in Europe’s elite club competition, thnaks to Juventus, who delivered a complete performance to extend their home unbeaten streak in European play to 22 matches.
Just weeks ago, the Catalan side amazed the football world by rebounding from a 0-4 away loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their knockout-stage tie to trounce the French club 6-1 in the second leg at home, reports Efe.
The hosts pressed from the opening whistle and generated two chances in the first three minutes before going ahead 1-0 in the eighth minute on Dybala’s curled shot just inside the far post after receiving a pass from the right by Juan Cuadrado.
Barcelona were poised to equalise in the 21st minute after Lionel Messi evaded Sami Khedira to deliver a great ball to midfielder Andres Iniesta in the area, but Juventus veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon turned the shot aside.
The stop by the veteran Italian captain sparked a counter-attack that culminated in Dybala’s second goal of the night. Mario Mandzukic’s drive to the byline and precise cut-back put the ball with a lot of space for Dybala to sweep home clinically inside the near post, beating goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Steigen.
Barcelona regrouped and grew more effective on the attack, though an apparent Messi goal was disallowed because Luis Suarez was offside.
The visitors were the more aggressive squad in the opening minutes of the second half, yet Juventus enjoyed more chances.
Gonzalo Higuain squandered two opportunities for the home side before Giorgio Chiellini converted on a header off a Miralem Pjanic corner on the 55th minute to make it 3-0.
With the match out of reach, Barcelona set out in pursuit of what could turn out to be a valuable away goal and they seemed to be on the verge of getting it when Suarez sent the ball racing toward the net in the 68th minute. Buffon, however, was again up to the task, and the stingy Juventus defence held Barcelona at bay for the final quarter of the match.
After the match, Barcelona fans are clingin on to the hopes of another miraculous comeback, which many experts feel will be tough as PSG lack Juventus’ huge experience at this stage of the competition, as well as the defensive meanness which characterises the Italian side.
Barcelona chief coach Luis Enrique took the entire blame for the defeat. “It was a difficult first half, very similar to the one in Paris and the second was much better. If you gift the first half, then obviously you’re going to have problems,” Enrique was quoted as saying by Mediaset.
“A coach does everything to help the team and prepare them, but evidently I did not. We have to improve, learn from these mistakes, analyse the game carefully and realise where we went wrong.
“It’s the second time this has happened. It’s hard to think of a comeback, but we’ll try to get back on our feet and put in a good performance in the second leg.
“It’s not good to pick on single players after a defeat. It’s a defeat for the whole team, starting with the coach.”
Meanwhile, Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon has advised his teammates that they should not take Barcelona for granted despite a 3-0 lead.
Buffon, 39, has asked his teammates to keep their feet on the ground ahead of second leg in Barcelona next week as they were aware of Barcelona’s 6-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) after going down 0-4 in the French capital.
“The feelings are positive. This was no fluke result today. We deserved it and we have no reason to fear anyone,” Buffon told Juventus’ website.
“We played our game and showed what we’re capable of but you only have to look at the PSG match to remember that we must be careful. We’re happy, but we’re not through yet,” he added.
This is published unedited from the IANS feed.