Juventus-Ajax: Bianconeri Advance To Europa League Round of 16 After 0-0 Draw
Juventus entered the second leg of their Europa League tie with Ajax not only having the home field advantage, but also with the aggregate scoreline in their favor.
Alberto Zaccheroni was able to adjust his tactics to a more defensive-minded 4-3-1-2 compared to his trademark 3-4-1-2 while trying to hold the 2-1 goal advantage. On the other hand, Ajax entered the contest knowing that they needed to win by two without star striker Luis Suárez in the starting lineup because of suspension.
And that's exactly what happened. It was a textbook game tactically by Juventus as the scoreless draw allowed the Old Lady to advance to the round of 16 of the Europa League. It also extends Zaccheroni's unbeaten streak to six games since he took over for Ciro Ferrara.
It wasn't all pretty as just a minute in Alexander Manninger, who is filling in for the injured Gianluigi Buffon, overran a cross at the top of the box and only got his right hand on the ball at first. He was able to recover and get a handle on the ball before it caused serious trouble.
Juve's first attempt on goal came with a little under two minutes gone when Claudio Marchisio had a quality look at goal. The Italian international's shot, however, was right at Ajax keeper Maarten Stekelenberg and he had no trouble smothering it.
Two minutes after David Trezeguet had to come for an injured Amauri, Momo Sissoko banged an Alessandro Del Piero corner off the post. Trezeguet had a chance to put the rebound away but his side volley sailed over the bar.
Juve looked to take the lead not once but twice in a matter of seconds when both Giorgio Chiellini and Nicola Legrogtagglie had their headers cleared off the by Ajax players marking the posts.
From then on, Juve were on the defensive. And unlike many times before, the defense rose to the occasion.
While Ajax dominated the possession in the second half, little came of it. Ajax's best chance of the game just moments into the second half when Marko Pantelic nodded a corner over the bar from just six yards out. Three minutes later Christian Eriksen crushed a volley but it went right into the arms of Manninger.
The flurry of chances to begin the second half ended when Pantelic again had a chance to open the scoring. His shot went just over the bar and Juve could breath again.
The match slowed down considerably from then on as the chances were few and far between. Ajax were trying to create chances, but were shut down by the likes of Chiellini and Paolo De Ceglie before they became meaningful.
Juve's best chance of the second half came on 72 minutes when Del Piero curled a free kick over the Ajax wall and barely nicked the top of the crossbar.
Ajax substitute Urby Emanuelson had two chances within five minutes of coming on but only one of them found the face of goal. He first blasted a free kick right into the wall and then an effort from 20 yards out was no trouble for Manninger.
In the closing moments, Trezeguet had a chance to put Juve in front but his close-range effort was no trouble for Stekelenberg. Emanuelson again had a chance to score in stoppages but saw his effort go just wide.
The final whistle blew and that was it. A scoreless draw in Turin and Juve advanced to the next round of a competition they never thought they'd be a part of.
Onto the round of 16 for Italy's Old Lady and a matchup against Fulham.
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