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Juve substitutes see off Porto; Vardy gives Leicester hope

Juve substitutes see off Porto; Vardy gives Leicester hope

LONDON: Juventus edged closer to the Champions League quarter-finals after second-half goals from substitutes Marko Pjaca and Dani Alves earned them a 2-0 away win at 10-man FC Porto in a one-sided last 16 first-leg tie on Wednesday.

Pjaca and Alves broke through with goals in the 72nd and 74th minutes at the Estadio do Dragao to give Juve a commanding advantage after Porto had held out since Alex Telles was sent off in the 27th after two rash fouls.

“We can be happy as it’s a really good result, but to be honest after the first-half red card, we had to win this game,” Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira told BT Sport.




“It’s absolutely not over,” he added. “We’re happy with tonight but in three weeks we’ll need to be careful as Porto are angry and have nothing to lose.”

In Wednesday’s other match, Jamie Vardy scored his first goal in the Champions League to give Leicester City some hope of staying in Europe’s elite competition despite a 2-1 loss to an utterly dominant Sevilla.

Goals from Pablo Sarabia and Joaquin Correa had given Sevilla a deserved 2-0 lead at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium but Vardy capped a spirited second half for Leicester with a 73rd-minute goal to keep the English champions in the tie ahead of the second leg at home on March 14.

“We didn’t give up and scored the goal which is important,” said Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri. “It gives us strength, it gets Vardy back among the goals and it opens up the tie.

“We know they are better than us. They are a big team, an experienced team, but we have a very big heart.”

SUDDEN IMPACT

Porto’s downfall was partly self-inflicted after left-back Telles received a red card following two senseless bookings in the space of 90 seconds, leaving the home side to play over an hour against the Serie A leaders with 10 men.

Struggling to break through FC Porto, Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri resorted to two second-half substitutes who quickly scored.

Juve, the beaten 2015 finalists, hemmed Porto in their area and Pjaca scored five minutes after coming on for Juan Cuadrado. Miguel Layun deflected Paulo Dybala’s pass into the path of the Croatian starlet who slammed a first-time effort past Iker Casillas.

Allegri replaced right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner with Alves immediately afterwards and the former Barcelona star controlled Alex Sandro’s cross with his chest before finishing calmly to wrap up a precious win for the Turin giants.

“We hit twice in quick succession when they got tired, exactly as Allegri told us to do,” said Juve midfielder Miralem Pjanic. “He kept telling us to stay calm and serene and wait for the right moment because it would certainly arrive.”

Juve, who are still in the Italian Cup, boosted their hopes of a maiden treble ahead of the second leg in Turin.

“This team still has plenty of room for improvement but the lads showed great maturity tonight,” said Allegri. “We’re entering a crucial period of the season and we need to approach it with enthusiasm, determination and be as clinical as possible.

“But we can’t believe 2-0 is enough to see us through. We have to approach the return as if it’s still nil-nil.”

GOAL DROUGHT

Sevilla were unable to capitalise on their dominant performance as Vardy’s first goal of the year gave Leicester City a lifeline in their tie.

“We were far superior, with some 10 clear chances, but we were not able to earn the advantage that we wanted,” Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli said. “We deserved more.”

Sarabia headed the hosts into a deserved lead in the 25th minute after Kasper Schmeichel had saved Correa’s penalty. Argentine forward Correa made amends by netting in the 62nd after inspired play from Stevan Jovetic.

Leicester were outplayed by the home side, who had 80 percent of possession in the first half, and it took a number of brilliant saves from Schmeichel to keep them in the game, while Sevilla’s Vitolo hit the inside of the post.

Vardy made the most of a rare attacking opportunity for the struggling English champions by blasting in a cross from Danny Drinkwater from close range and Ranieri’s side were fortunate not to concede late on when Adil Rami’s header smashed against the crossbar.

“They had 22 shots or something like that and we knew today was going to be tough and we’d have to ride our luck a couple of times and I was going to have to come up with some saves here and there but everyone deserves great credit for today,” said Schmeichel.

Sevilla, who are three-time defending champions in the Europa League, haven’t advanced past the last 16 in the Champions League since 1958.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2017

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