UEFA.com's Paolo Menicucci knows Juventus were fortunate to beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in Turin, but that away goal – and Andrea Pirlo's injury – have created intrigue.
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That away goal could be huge
Jürgen Klopp made it clear from the off that Borussia Dortmund were not coming to Turin to defend. Everybody expected Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to play as a striker but the Gabon forward started behind Ciro Immobile and alongside Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in an attack-minded lineup. The visitors dominated the first half and were rewarded with Reus's valuable away strike. "We were almost perfect in the first half, but unfortunately we conceded two soft goals," Klopp told UEFA.com.
By contrast, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri had stressed the importance of not conceding at home, and that showed in his team's approach. The Bianconeri were happy to cede possession and wait for opportunities to break, especially through Álvaro Morata – preferred to Fernando Llorente for his pace and ability to run with the ball.
"We wanted to invite Borussia forward, jam up the midfield and create spaces behind them to make the most of their defensive weaknesses," Allegri explained. "Borussia played with great intensity in the first half, but we had more chances to increase our lead in the second."
The scoreline was harsh on Dortmund
Juve had a dream start as they took the lead on 13 minutes through Carlos Tévez. It should have made things easier for the hosts, but an unfortunate Giorgio Chiellini slip allowed Reus to equalise and silence the home crowd five minutes later. "Sometimes you slip up and nothing happens," the defender said. "But when you are the last man, you can only pray the forward makes a mistake."
It was a huge boost for Dortmund who began to hold sway, Andrea Pirlo's injury compounding Juve's confusion. Completely against the run of play, however, it was the Bianconeri who scored again through Morata in the 43rd minute. "We were the better team after our goal," Reus said. "Unfortunately we gave a soft goal away on the verge of half-time."
Were Juventus better without Pirlo?
The Italian title holders played better in the second period with Roberto Pereyra – introduced for Pirlo on 37 minutes – operating behind the forwards and Claudio Marchisio taking Pirlo's place in front of the Bianconeri defence.
Dortmund had previously put Pirlo and the Juve defence under pressure, seizing possession as they sought to build from the back. "Our plan was to press them on the ball," Klopp revealed. "Especially Chiellini and [Leonardo] Bonucci, which of course worked for the goal."
Without Pirlo, the Bianconeri were more direct and Pereyra proved to be more dangerous than Arturo Vidal in supporting the attackers. The Argentina midfielder also came close to adding a late third for Juve. Allegri will be hoping Pirlo's calf injury is less serious than feared, yet there is no doubt he has a workable plan B should the 'regista' fail to recover for the return leg. "He will undergo tests," said the coach. "We are worried. We'll see."
Dortmund's league position fools no one
A run of three straight Bundesliga wins has hauled Dortmund off the bottom of the German table, but the UEFA Champions League anthem continues to inspire them. Particularly in the opening half, the German side played the scintillating attacking football that has made them famous across Europe.
"We never thought we were going to face the team who were struggling in the Bundesliga," Allegri said. "We know what they can do. They like to play with pace and run into space. For us, it was a big test against a great side, and the lads did well.”
Morata's pace may be Juve's salvation
The 22-year-old Morata was named man of the match after setting up Tévez's goal and scoring Juventus's second from a Paul Pogba pass. His speed was crucial, but more than anything the Spanish international gives Juventus an alternative up front.
Last term, the Bianconeri fielded target man Llorente with Tévez deployed to exploit the gaps created by the powerful Basque. With Morata, Juve can play a different way, and Allegri may be inclined to make further use of his pace on 18 March, when Juve could have even more need to counterattack.
"A striker has to adapt to every situation in a game," Morata said. "The second leg will be extremely tough in a difficult stadium, but we will go there to give everything we have."