Juventus’ impressive unbeaten streak came close to being ended in spectacular fashion on Tuesday when the Serie A champions escaped with a 1-1 draw against UEFA Champions League Group E opponents Shakhtar Donetsk.
Shakhtar came to Turin with ample knowledge of their opponents thanks mainly to the nous of their coach Mircea Lucescu, who formerly coached Brescia, and the youth-filled Ukrainian side went on to produce some fine individual and collective play to dominate an encounter they were unlucky not to win.
“We knew they’d be strong up front and knew how to play football,” Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio told Sky Sports. “We could have lost this game, but we also missed several chances.”
Lucescu said some of his team had been “playing together since they were 18,” and he now believes the Ukrainians are serious contenders for the knockout phase.
“A point against Juventus is great, it’s an important result for us. Now people must believe we’re serious contenders for the knockout phase,” he said.
Juventus had talked pre-match of the danger posed by Brazilian Willian and fellow midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and the latter spurned a golden chance when he sent a close-range effort over the bar on six minutes.
In reply, Alessandro Matri then failed to connect with fellow striker Mirko Vucinic’s cross after it had been deflected by Yaroslav Rakitskiy.
Juve’s three-man defense had resisted defeat in 45 previous games, but they were often exposed and made to pay in the 23rd minute.
Willian was allowed to shoot from the edge of the area, pick up the rebound and feed Brazilian striker Alex Teixeira, whose angled shot flew past Gianluigi Buffon and into the roof of the net.
Minutes later, Juve leveled as Shakhtar’s defense was found lacking when unmarked Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci first-timed Andrea Pirlo’s low corner into the roof of the net.
On the half hour, Matri’s effort from the edge of the area went straight into arms of goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov.
Ghanaian Kwadwo Asamoah then did well to get ball across goal and although it went out for a corner, Bonucci’s downward header forced Pyatov to save frantically with his feet.
Juve started the second half more brightly and dominated possession, but ultimately struggled to find the final touch.
Stephan Lichsteiner’s return pass into the area for Juve, with Matri in a scoring position, lacked power and when the Swiss midfielder was fed by Arturo Vidal another cross toward goal was cleared.
Sebastian Giovinco came on for Vucinic just before the hour and the little midfielder powered down the left to cross for Matri, but the striker’s first-timer from close range went over the bar.
Matri was replaced by Chelsea goal hero Fabio Quagliarella, but it was Shakhtar who would gain the momentum in the closing stages.
On 73 minutes, Darijo Srna’s free-kick took a deflection off the Juve wall and panicked Buffon, who saved with both hands.
Moments later, Mkhitaryan’s shot went just wide of Buffon’s right-hand post after he had been set up nicely by Luiz Adriano.
The visitors spurned a golden chance to snatch the victory in stoppage-time when Willian picked up a loose ball in area. Although his shot was blocked, the Brazilian picked up the rebound to hit another which came off the post.