Juventus secured a narrow 1-0 victory over Sporting CP in the first leg of their Europa League quarterfinal clash, with Federico Gatti scoring his first goal for the club in the second half. The hosts struggled to create clear-cut opportunities in a hard-fought encounter, but substitute Mattia Perin’s heroics in added time helped preserve the lead. The result continued Sporting’s winless run in Italy, and the Portuguese side will face a tough challenge in the second leg at Estadio Jose Alvalade next week.
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri made changes to the formation that lost to Lazio in Serie A, opting for a more attacking lineup with three forwards. However, their chances were limited and Sporting dominated much of the match. Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny had to keep the visitors at bay with saves from Sebastian Coates and Nuno Santos in the first half.
Szczesny’s injury scare further exacerbated Juve’s troubles, and he was replaced by Mattia Perin just before the break. However, the club confirmed after the match that the Poland international had not suffered any serious problems.
Gatti’s first Juventus goal seals first-leg win over Sporting
Substitute Dusan Vlahovic helped turn things around for Juve in the second half, but his header was blocked on the line by Coates. Gatti was quick to react and bundled the rebound in from close range to secure a narrow first-leg lead for the hosts.
Paul Pogba made his first appearance outside of Serie A this season when he came on late in the second half to replace Angel Di Maria, who had been a thorn in the side of Sporting throughout the match. Pote, in particular, was left frustrated as he led the game in shots, shots on target, and xG.
In managing to keep Sporting at bay, Juventus have now won their last four matches in Europe while keeping clean sheets. However, there will be some frustration about the manner of the performance, and the task is certainly far from complete, with Sporting likely to provide a sterner test on their own patch next week.
Perin’s double save preserves narrow advantage for Juve
Mattia Perin’s performance in the match was crucial for Juventus to secure the 1-0 victory against Sporting. After replacing the injured Szczesny at the end of the first half, Perin made a vital double save in stoppage time, first stopping a tap-in and then parrying the rebound away from danger. His heroics ensured that Juventus kept a clean sheet and took a small step towards the semifinals of the Europa League.