Juventus forward Federico Chiesa’s strike 10 seconds into the second half earned his side a hard-fought 1-0 win over holder Chelsea in its Champions League Group H clash on Wednesday.
After a subdued first half with few chances, Chiesa exploded into life after the restart, rifling in what proved to be the winner on the end of Federico Bernardeschi’s clever pass.
Chelsea continued to dominate possession but struggled to create a killer opening, while Bernardeschi wasted a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0 after Chiesa again breached the Blues’ backline.
The one big Chelsea opportunity came and went late on as Romelu Lukaku, who had a very quiet evening, blazed over after turning Juve captain Leonardo Bonucci inside out.
The home side held on to continue a fine start to its Champions League campaign under returning coach Massimiliano Allegri as it sits top on six points from two games, while Chelsea stay second on three points.
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“Technically we could have played better but we suffered little and we missed a couple of counter-attacks,” said Allegri.
“Two games, six points, zero goals conceded so another step towards qualification, and a good step forward.”
Chelsea had started on the front foot, with Lukaku drilling straight at goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny early on.
But that was as good as it got for the holders in the opening period, as Juve dominated and created a host of promising chances.
Firstly, Bernardeschi should have done much better when finding himself through on goal, with Chiesa offering him an outlet he ignored to his right, before Italy forward Chiesa himself arrowed a strike just wide.
Adrien Rabiot then narrowly missed the target as Juventus kept coming forward, getting the home fans in a reduced 50 per cent capacity off its seats.
Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel yet again made a halftime change, bringing on Ben Chilwell for Marcos Alonso, but before the substitute could even draw breath, Bernardeschi had slipped Chiesa in to lift the roof off the Juventus Stadium.
Tuchel threw on more bodies in attacking positions in search of an equaliser but, other than a late flurry of openings, Chelsea again lacked a cutting edge in the final third, losing 1-0 for the second game in a row in all competitions.
After the loss, Tuchel said he felt his side had lost its mental sharpness even before the Champions League holder stepped on the pitch.
“We had a very good training session yesterday,” Tuchel told reporters. “We were absolutely sharp and looked very fresh and very hungry, ready for bounce back (from defeat to Manchester City on Saturday).
“I think it’s very difficult to find rhythm against a team that defends so deep, it was completely the other way around in the Manchester City game.”
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“The big difference was that we gave big mistakes away that cost us confidence. Early today I could tell it was different. We were not as fresh mentally as we were in training yesterday. I don’t know why.”
Chelsea registered just one shot on target all match despite having a large share of possession. It did not have a single attempt on target against City at the weekend, but Tuchel insisted he is not worried by its lack of attacking threat.
“We were lacking runs, we were struggling to find our rhythm and to keep the belief structure,” Tuchel added.
“Maybe it is a shooting problem, because if you don’t shoot then you don’t score. But if you play against a team that sit so deep like today it is hard to take shots. We will learn.”
ZENIT CRUISES PAST MALMO
In the other Group H fixture, Russian side Zenit St Petersburg notched the first win of its campaign with a 4-0 victory over Swedish side Malmo FF, who had Anel Ahmedhodzic sent off as it slumped to its second defeat in a row in the competition.