Sleepwalking Juventus advance past Porto, but need to improve for last-8
Juventus barely broke a sweat in their unentertaining 1-0 defeat of Porto to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Sitting back and allowing Porto to try to create something, the hosts did not show much ambition in the first half. Their interests were in controlling the match, not in producing entertainment.
Porto shot themselves in the foot when Maxi Pereira earned a red card for handling a close-range Gonzalo Higuain strike and Paulo Dybala converted the ensuing penalty perfectly. Juve's third goal on aggregate killed off any hope of a Porto comeback and the Italians treated the rest of the match as if it were a training session, barely expending any energy to seal another home victory -- their 40th in a row in European and Serie A competition -- and progression in the Champions League.
Juventus expended the least amount of energy possible to earn the result they needed going forward. Playing with confidence and maturity, they sealed qualification and intimidated Porto enough to ensure no comeback was ever in the cards.
Massimiliano Allegri was right to say that either Juve attack and score more goals or control possession better to ensure safety and bore opponents into mistakes. The side has yet to fulfil their potential and despite a mature and winning performance, more ambition should be shown to punish weaknesses and exploit opportunities.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Opting to play the now-usual 4-2-3-1 shape, Juventus did not perform at a high level but did just enough to secure the result, and part of that lack of effort is on the coach. Marko Pjaca was given another chance to prove himself while risk taker Mehdi Benatia was duly taken off to introduce more composure at the back.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Gianluigi Buffon, 6 -- Porto only had two shots on target so Buffon was essentially allowed to relax.
DF Dani Alves, 6 -- Completed the most passes, created the highest number of chances and most importantly, recovered the ball 11 times, more than any other player on the pitch. Tackled, intercepted and picked out his teammates well even if he produced nervy moments in defence. Always better going forward.
DF Leonardo Bonucci, 6 -- A confident and commanding presence at the back.
DF Mehdi Benatia, 4 -- A careless performance from the defender who takes too many risks. Also slipped to send Soares through on goal but the Porto player couldn't convert. Taken off in the second half.
DF Alex Sandro, 6 -- A muted performance from the usually relentless full-back. Did not penetrate or dominate as well as usual but it was his parried header that led to Higuain earning the penalty.
MF Sami Khedira, 6 -- His tactical intelligence always ensures a mature performance. Unremarkable, but important.
MF Claudio Marchisio, 6 -- A tidy performance from the player who helped control play but barely provided much reason for applause. Not yet at his optimum levels.
MF Juan Cuadrado, 6 -- Some poor decision making on his part, but he is good at creating numerical superiority, always overwhelming his opponent. Master of the dark arts and earned a silly yellow forcing Allegri to take him off at half-time.
MF Paulo Dybala, 7 -- Took on players and roamed in between the lines but did not always choose the right option. Good at releasing the ball quickly and elevating the quality of play in the final third while his penalty was expertly taken. His movement in tight areas is a joy to watch.
MF Mario Mandzukic, 6 -- A relentless presence on the pitch, the player is always on hand to win back possession, provide an aerial presence and try to ensure the side remains ambitious. Still, he's more of a hard worker than a man who can make an impact in the final third.
FW Gonzalo Higuain, 6 -- The forward is still struggling for goals but his quick reactions forced Pereira to "save" his goal earning the penalty. Needs to recover his predatory form.
MF Marko Pjaca, 6 -- It's hard not to wonder if he knows where the goal is. Despite showing great control and lovely footwork to evade defenders, his finishing must improve, quickly.
DF Andrea Barzagli, 6 -- Introduced more composure and elegance but was left a little flustered towards the end by Jota
MF Tomas Rincon, N/A -- Ensures safety, but not offered much time to make an impression.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.