Football Features

Dybala proves his worth: The winners & losers as Juventus beat Atletico Madrid

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:23, 26 November 2019

Juventus secured top spot in Champions League Group D with a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid.

Paulo Dybala scored the only goal of the game just before half-time to secure the victory, with neither side looking at their best.

But who were the key winners and losers from the clash?

Winner: Paulo Dybala

It wouldn’t be unfair to say the first half between Juventus and Atletico Madrid wasn’t the best in terms of attacking football. As we reached injury time, the sides shared 10 shots on goal, with only two hitting the target – one each. And it looked as though things were going to peter out as the first half came to an end. But then up stepped Paulo Dybala.

The Argentine was starting ahead of Gonzalo Higuain for Maurizio Sarri’s men, leading the Juventus line alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, just the second time Dybala had begun a Champions League game this season.

Like his fellow attackers, Dybala had been fairly quiet for most of the first half but when Juventus were awarded a free-kick outside the area near the byline, the Argentine stood over the ball.

With the likes of Ronaldo, Matthijs de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci in the box, Dybala had options for his cross. But he did not feel like passing. Instead he sent a shot with both power and curl over Jan Oblak into the net, with the ball just skimming the underside of the crossbar.

It was a wonderful effort that Dybala simply had no right to score, against a ‘keeper of Oblak’s class from such a wide angle.

Loser: Diego Simeone

Over the years Diego Simeone has made a name for himself as one of the best defensive coaches in world football. When Atletico Madrid are on their game, good like trying to score against them.

But, the thing is, Atletico haven’t really been on their game lately – and it has put their Champions League status is some doubt. While nothing should be taken away from Dybala and his wonderful free-kick, Oblak must feel he could have done better to stop the Argentine scoring from a wide angle.

It was the sixth game in a row in which Atletico Madrid have conceded in across all competitions, last keeping a clean sheet on October 26 in a 2-0 win over Athetlic Bilbao. Since then, Alaves, Sevilla, Bayer Leverkusen, Espanyol, Granada and now Juventus have all breached the Atletico net.

It’s the joint-worst run the club have suffered under Simeone, also going six without a clean sheet in March 2017 and August 2014. But that’s not all. Atletico have also failed to win five of those six games, drawing three and losing two – only beating Espanyol.

Rather than sealing their last-16 spot with one match to spare, Atletico must now beat Lokomotiv Moscow in their final game to be certain of reaching the knockout stages.

Winner: Maurizio Sarri

When Maurizio Sarri replaced Massimiliano Allegri in the summer, there were doubts over his credentials for the job. The Italian had only just won his first major silverware with Chelsea at the end of May, leading them to Europa League glory at the end of a season in which he received largely negative press.

A record like that would never be good enough for Juventus, who win Serie A every year and needed to go up another level to win the Champions League.

But Sarri can’t have asked for a much better start than the one he is currently enjoying. After 13 games in Serie A, Juventus are one point clear at the top of the table, winning 11 and drawing twice.

They have carried that form over to the Champions League, securing top spot in Group D with a game to spare – winning four and drawing one of their five games so far. Sarri is also yet to drop points at home this season, turning the Allianz Stadium into a fortress.

Yes, there’s still a long way to go, but you can’t fault Sarri for the start he has made.

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Loser: Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t had his way with Sarri in recent weeks, first being substituted late on against Lokomotiv Moscow, then only playing 55 minutes against AC Milan before not featuring against Atalanta at the weekend.

Sarri has been insistent it was due to an injury though Ronaldo would have still backed himself to perform on the pitch.

He did make that return against former rivals Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night and will have been hoping to add to his impressive record against the Rojiblancos. But he did not have much success.

The Portuguese forward was in the wars at the Allianz Stadium, being subject to rough treatment from Atletico’s players. He also picked a minor knock early on, colliding with the corner flag when trying to chase a ball that was running away from him.

And, despite Juventus’ win, Ronaldo’s rough treatment was all for nought with the forward managing just one shot which sailed over the bar and just 43 touches of the ball.

Winner: Bayer Leverkusen

Prior to this Group D clash, Bayer Leverkusen continued their Champions League turnaround with a 2-0 win over Lokomotiv Moscow. A first-half own goal from Rifat Zhemaletdinov got Leverkusen off to a positive start before Sven Benders rounded off the win shortly after half-time.

After losing their first three games of the group Leverkusen started the comeback with a 2-1 win over Atletico, but reaching the last-16 was still a tall order. However, Atletico’s defeat at the hands of Juventus has opened the door slightly more for Leverkusen who now sit just one point behind the Spanish side with one game remaining.

Now Leverkusen know they only need to better Atletico’s result in the final gameweek to jump ahead of the Spanish side and qualify for the last-16. However, it won’t be easy. While Atletico host bottom-of-the-table Lokomotiv Moscow, whom they previously beat 2-0, Leverkusen must hope Diego Simeone’s side drop points while also beating Juventus. Although, Juventus may well field a slightly weakened team with top spot secured.

Loser: Alvaro Morata

While Atletico’s defence will need looking at for Dybala’s goal, their attack didn’t offer much in terms of fighting back once behind.

Alvaro Morata was charged with leading the line against his former side and former manager on Tuesday evening, spearheading the attack alongside Vitolo. How sweet it would have been for Morata to prove Sarri wrong, after being snubbed at Chelsea last season.

But, in the end, Morata only showed proof that Sarri was on the right lines when favouring Gonzalo Higuain and Olivier Giroud ahead of the Spaniard – though only the latter brought some success.

Morata was poor against Juventus when Atletico needed him on his game, managing just 32 touches of the ball. Of Atletico’s players that feature the full match, only Jan Oblak had fewer touches than Morata. The Spaniard also failed to hit the target with either of his two shots.

Morata’s misery and frustration was compiled late on when he missed an open goal to equalise, unable to get onto the end of Angel Correa’s ball across the box with Wojciech Szczesny beaten.

If he had scored, it would have been ruled out for offside, but in the era of the internet and social media, not many will bother to think about that when clips of the miss are circulated.