Juventus will head into the second leg of their UEFA Europa League Round of 32 tie with a comfortable cushion after defeating Turkish side Trabzonspor 2-0 on Thursday evening at Juventus Stadium in Turin.
Pablo Daniel Osvaldo broke the deadlock in the 15th minute, scoring his first goal with Juventus since completing his loan move from Southampton last month. Paul Pogba added the second deep in second-half stoppage time.
The result was perhaps harsh on Trabzonspor, who had a goal ruled out controversially in the second half. The same two teams will meet again next week in Turkey, with the winner over two legs advancing to the Round of 16.
Juventus entered the Europa League via a surprising third-place finish in UEFA Champions League Group B. Manager Antonio Conte, whose side reached the Champions League quarter-finals last season, said before the match that his team will "honour" the Europa League but hinted at squad rotation.
"We want to honour the Europa League as best as we can," Conte said in Wednesday's press conference, per ESPN FC. "But looking at our schedule, I realize that in 53 days my players will be involved in 16 games. Hence, I have to make changes and make sure that all my players are ready for this challenging schedule."
Up next in that busy schedule is a Serie A match at home to Torino on Sunday. Then, following next Thursday's Europa League second leg in Turkey, Juve will travel to AC Milan on March 2.
Conte's team currently hold a nine-point lead over Roma atop the Serie A table, having played one match more than their closest chasers. If Roma maintain their challenge, Juventus' trip to the capital on May 11 could prove decisive in the title race.
First, though, was the matter of facing Trabzonspor, the ninth-placed team in Turkey. Conte handed a starting place to Osvaldo, while Angelo Ogbonna, Leonardo Bonucci and Martin Caceres started in the three-man defence.
Juve's first sight of goal came in the fifth minute, when Carlos Tevez shot off target from Mauricio Isla's pass. The hosts continued to enjoy the greater share of possession, and the breakthrough came 10 minutes later.
Pouncing on a fortunate deflection in Trabzonspor's half, Osvaldo bore down on goal and shot through Onur Kivrak's legs to make it 1-0. It was the Italian's first goal for Juventus in three appearances.
It could have been 2-0 in the 28th minute, but Mauricio Isla shot straight at the goalkeeper after fine work on the flank. One minute later, Tevez curled another chance just wide.
Leading 1-0 at half-time, Juventus came close to scoring their second goal in the 50th minute via Pogba's first-time strike.
But the shot went just wide of the near post. Federico Peluso blasted over the bar in the 59th minute, and Bonucci's header was blocked two minutes later.
There was controversy in the 71st minute as Trabzonspor had a goal disallowed.
The visitors appeared to have equalised when Adin turned Erdogan's cutback into the net, but the assistant ruled that the ball had gone over the end line before the final pass. Replays suggested it was the wrong call.
Juve came close again in the 75th minute as Kivrak spilled Pirlo's free-kick. But the keeper recovered in time to block Tevez's rebound.
Just when it seemed the hosts would have to be content with the single goal, Pogba popped up with their second in the third minute of stoppage time. Bursting forward from the second line of attack, Pogba accepted a pass from Tevez and buried a powerful first-time shot at the near post for a 2-0 lead.
The final whistle sounded soon after, and with that, Juve took a two-goal lead into next week's second leg.
|Juventus Player Ratings vs. Trabzonspor|
Juventus return to Serie A with a home match against Torino on Sunday. Trabzonspor host Kayserispor in the Turkish Super Lig the same day.