Chiellini 45, 50 Del Piero 68
LECH POZNAN 3
Rudņevs pen 14, 31, 90+2
A brace from Giorgio Chiellini and a magical strike from Alessandro Del Piero were not enough for Juventus as an Artjoms Rudņevs hat-trick earned Polish champions Lech Poznań a deserved draw in the first Europa League group clash at the Stadio Olimpico. Rudņevs denied the Old Lady the three points with a stunning strike in injury time, though in truth the Juve players, management and fans alike would have gladly settled for 3-3 30 minutes in after a horrific start allowed the Poles to take a two-goal lead.
Coach Luigi Del Neri made several changes to the line-up that started against Sampdoria, giving starts to Alex Manninger, Zdeněk Grygera, Momo Sissoko and Nicola Legrottglie. Del Neri kept faith with Felipe Melo but in the 13th minute he cost his side a goal after a rash lunge on Sławomir Peszko gave Lech Poznan a penalty which was coolly dispatched by Rudnevs. The tackle was completely unnecessary as Juventus were comfortable until then.
Afterwards the jubilant Poles took charge of the midfield battle. Melo’s partnership with Sissoko simply wasn’t working, though hardly a surprise as the duo have never looked comfortable together. The latter did his job as ball-winner but his distribution was poor.
After 31 minutes Lech Poznań added a second following more woeful defending. Juve failed to clear after a set of pinball-esque riccochets in the box, and Rudņevs volleyed home from six yards. It finally sparked the home side into life and in first-half injury time Chiellini gave his side a lifeline with a brave header from Del Piero’s free-kick. The goal was a vital psychological boost and within five minutes of the second half the same combination worked as Del Piero’s corner was met by Chiellini to equalise.
The comeback seemed complete on 68 minutes when the Bianconeri legend struck a trademark thunderbolt into the top corner from 30 yards. However, in injury time he was upstaged by Rudņevs, who completed his hat-trick with a fizzing left-footed strike that Manninger barely saw as it flew in off the underside of the bar, sending the shirtless Polish crowd into ecstasy.
For Juventus, Miloš Krasić put in another wonderful performance, giving Luis Henriquez a tough time. The other wingers were not nearly as effective, however, as Davide Lanzafame was anonymous and his replacement Simone Pepe had little impact. Up front, Del Piero rolled back the years with two assists and a wonderful goal. But his partner Vincenzo Iaquinta had a night to forget, still seemingly short of match fitness.
Barring Chiellini, the Juve defence was woeful. Although Manninger was not directly at fault for any of the goals, he failed to organise his back-line properly. Grygera and De Ceglie were particularly dreadful and contributed nothing going forward. Motta came on in the second half and wasn’t much better, while Legrottaglie looked rusty and his positioning left a lot to be desired.
The lack of quality full-backs is going to haunt the Old Lady and needs to be rectified in the January transfer window. While the last-gasp equaliser yesterday evening was a blow, it could be seen as a blessing in disguise as it exposes the cracks a victory may have somewhat hidden. As it is, there’s a lot of work to be done – and quickly.
21 Grygera – 33 Legrottaglie – 3 Chiellini- 29 De Ceglie
20 Lanzafame – 5 Sissoko – 4 Felipe Melo – 27 Krasic
10 Del Piero, 9 Iaquinta
45 – 2 Motta on for 29 De Ceglie
56 – 23 Pepe on for 20 Lanzafame
80 – 8 Marchisio on for 9 Iaquinta