Juventus grabbed three precious points in UEFA Champions League Group A after toughing out a 1-0 win against ten-man Maccabi Haifa FC in a rainy Turin on Matchday 3.
High and low
Giorgio Chiellini's simple header two minutes after the break was enough to lift Juventus on to five points at the group's halfway stage. By contrast, the Israeli champions, who faded after a bright beginning and suffered the second-half dismissal of Tiago Dutra, still have nothing, not even a goal, to show for their efforts in the competition.
After a fruitless first two group games, Haifa almost had the perfect start. Finding himself alone eight metres out, Vladimer Dvalishvili headed a bouncing centre powerfully towards goal but Gianluigi Buffon – warm enough with two minutes gone – stuck out a hand to leave the Georgian pulling his hair in frustration. Soon after, Buffon's opposite number, Nir Davidovitch, did the same to divert to safety Fabio Grosso's firm, if poorly disguised, free-kick from the edge of the area.
Although the hosts had endured a winless month, there was a sprightliness to Juventus's early play. Driven on by Sebastian Giovinco's quick feet and Grosso's surging overlaps, the Bianconeri pestered the right side of Maccabi's defence. From one Grosso cross, Trezeguet, playing his 300th match for the Turin club, steered a volley centimetres wide with the outside of his boot. Giovinco was beating players for fun and had to be upended by Jorge Teixeira mid-slalom.
Test of nerve
Mohamed Sissoko glanced a Mauro Camoranesi set-piece narrowly off target, then Diego cracked a free-kick just past the woodwork, yet the first goal would not arrive before half-time to calm the Old Lady's nerves. Two minutes after the interval, though, she could relax and sit pretty. Haifa's defence retreated before Diego's firm, inswinging free-kick from the left and Chiellini popped up at the back post to nod in.
Diego almost doubled the advantage with a cheeky chip from 25 metres before Trezeguet and Giovinco forced Davidovitch into decent stops as the home team surged forward. The Ligat Ha'Al side were losing their discipline more than their shape. Midway through the second period, Chiellini was involved in another key incident when he fell under a dangerous-looking challenge from Dutra. The Haifa substitute was shown a straight red card to complicate matters further for Elisha Levi's charges.
Amauri replaced Trezeguet with ten minutes left as Juventus attacked with caution against the ten men – betraying their anxiety and the importance of a first victory. They were nearly made to pay for their conservative approach as first Dvalishvili, with a turn and shot, and then Dekel Keinan – back-post header – gave Buffon serious work to do. Camoranesi might have settled matters as the clocked ticked down, rattling the near upright with only the keeper for company. Giovinco's last-minute free-kick brought another scare for Davidovitch, but one goal was enough in the end. The clubs meet again in sunnier climes on 3 November.