Angel Di Maria was the star of the show as he plotted Juventus’ way to a first win of their Champions League campaign by beating Maccabi Haifa 3-1.
The Argentine’s passing was on another level as pocketed a hat-trick of assists, often leaving the visiting defence spellbound by his ability to find his teammates.
The hosts enjoyed some bright moments in the opening 20 minutes, but were unable to make their pressure pay as Vlahovic missed a handful of chances. He did at least test goalkeeper Josh Cohen with one of them, seeing a low shot tipped away by an outstretched fingertip, before wasting a glorious opening when dragging wide from Filip Kostic’s pass.
As the half wore on, the Juventus players became frustrated, and so did their fans, who were at times whistling and jeering from the stands. Maccabi grew in confidence, but a lack of end product meant they didn’t test Wojciech Szczesny, and they were then hit with a hammer blow when Adrien Rabiot ran onto Di Maria’s superb pass and lifted the ball into the back of the net to hand his side the lead.
The second goal came straight after the break, and Di Maria was once again involved as he released Vlahovic with a sumptuous outside of the boot pass. The striker ran through one-on-one and finally got his goal, comfortably finishing to surely put the game to bed.
From then on, Juventus were cruising, with Di Maria superbly creating two more chances for Vlahovic, one of which was saved, while the other found the back of the net but was ruled out for offside. Maccabi Haifa found a way back into the game when substitute Dean David stunned the Allianz Stadium by rounding Szczesny and scoring, before Omar Atzili clattered the woodwork with a fizzing free-kick.
Juve finally put the game to bed though when Rabiot headed home his second of the night, flicking on Di Maria’s corner to make it 3-1 with seven minutes left.
TALKING POINT – JUVENTUS DREAM STILL ALIVE
Successive defeats at the start of this Champions League campaign could yet prove terminal for Juve’s hopes of reaching the knockout stages, but they have certainly still got a chance of progressing from Group H after this win.
The pressure is still on Max Allegri, twice a runner-up as a manager in this competition, as the Old Lady’s start to the season has been far from acceptable, given their high standards.
But this victory, as well as the 3-0 dismantling of Bologna, eases some of the tension around the Allianz Stadium after a five-match winless run, and it means they can still get through to the last 16.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Angel di Maria (Juventus). The Argentinian, a Champions League winner with Real Madrid in 2013/14, oozed class as he regularly picked apart a Maccabi Haifa defence who can rarely have come up against such a match winner.
He was involved in the three goals with some stunning passes, but regularly seemed to be playing on a level all of his own, with the opposition unable to get close to him.
The former Manchester United man missed the Serie A win over Bologna last weekend through suspension, and this was just his sixth appearance since joining from PSG over the summer, but he will surely be crucial to any Juventus revival as they seek silverware this season.
JUVENTUS: Szczesny 7; Cuadrado 7, Danilo 6, Bremer 6, Di Sciglio 6; McKennie 6, Paredes 6, Rabiot 8; Di Maria 9, Vlahovic 7, Kostic 6. Subs: Alex Sandro 6, Locatelli 6, Bonucci n/a, Miretti n/a, Kean n/a
Subs: Pinsoglio, Perin, Gatti, Rugani, Fagioli, Soule, Milik
MACCABI HAIFA: Cohen 6; Sundgren 6, Seck 6, Batubinsika 5, Goldberg 6, Cornud 5; Muhammad 7, Chery 5, Abu Fani 7; Tchibota 7, Pierrot 6. Subs: Atzili 8, Neta Lavi 6, David 7, Rukavytsya n/a, Haziza n/a
Subs: Fux, Mashpati, Arad, Eliyahu, Gershon, Menchem, Haziza, Maor Lavi
35’ GOAL! JUVENTUS 1-0 MACCABI (Adrien Rabiot) Just as Maccabi were beginning to grow into the game, Juventus hit them. A superb run from Adrien Rabiot, perfectly picked out in the box, and he lifts the ball into the roof of the net.
50’ GOAL – JUVENTUS 2-0 MACCABI (Vlahovic). Angel di Maria really has been the difference tonight, and he has just played a stunning outside of the boot pass to release Vlahovic, who surges through one-on-one and bags his sixth goal of the season
62’ ATZILI HITS THE POST. What an introduction from the substitute! A really good effort from 22-yards which is tipped onto the post and out for a corner! Let off for Juve
64’ VLAHOVIC GOAL RULED OUT. Another sumptuous Di Maria pass to Vlahovic, who is flagged offside after finishing. But Di Maria…wow
75’ GOAL – JUVENTUS 2-1 MACCABI HAIFA (David). The visitors are back in it! Substitute David has been on the pitch just seconds, but he runs onto a through ball, Szczesny comes miles off his line, the striker rounds him and scores. Game on!
81’ ATZILI HITS THE POST AGAIN. Wow! What a free-kick! The substitute whips in a fizzing ball that rattles the woodwork for a second time
83’ GOAL! JUVENTUS 3-1 MACCABI HAIFA (Rabiot). A hat-trick off assists for Di Maria! His corner is flicked on and into the far post by Rabiot, who grabs his second goal of the night. Panic over for the Italians