Paulo Dybala was the hero for Juventus in Turin, scoring twice to give The Old Lady a 2-1 win after Lokomotiv Moscow scored first. The Russian side did achieve one objective however: stopping Cristiano Ronaldo from scoring.
Lokomotiv’s enigmatic manager Yuri Semin mused to reporters before the game about Juventus’ star man in his pre-match press conference with little hope of what lay ahead in the match.
“No one could stop Cristiano Ronaldo in his career, why are you asking me to do it?” he said, slightly resigned to perhaps a task too big for his men.
But his men did exactly that, preventing the Portuguese from getting his name on the scoresheet and for 77 minutes Lokomotiv led in Turin.
The improbable happened on the half hour mark when Aleksei Miranchuk smashed home the opener after Joao Mario’s shot was saved by Juve keeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Maurizio Sarri’s side struggled to get going in the first half, and their best chances came from set pieces, but Juve were wasteful; when Loko captain Vedran Corluka fouled Dybala 25 yards out, Ronaldo hit the wall.
The home side had one chalked off minutes later when a Ronaldo high kick on Guilherme felled the keeper, just before Dybala volleyed home, but the referee had already blown.
Lokomotiv’s best chance came when Nigerian-Russian defender Brian Idowu broke through on the counter attack from a Juve corner but, perhaps surprised at what was happening, wasted the opportunity by shooting from afar.
Lokomotiv still went into the break level, leading many Russians to believe they could overturn one of the strongest sides in the competition in their own back yard.
After the restart, Ronaldo again fired into he wall on 63 minutes, ten minutes later and Gonzalo Higuain dragged a volley wide on 73 and then went wide with a header moments later.
When it looked as though Juventus wouldn’t be Abel to penetrate the Loko defense, up popped Dybala on 77 minutes with a whimsical left-footed strike that curled into the far side of Guilherme’s goal.
The equalizer was deserving of winning any match, but that goal came three minutes after Juve’s first when Argentine Dybala pounced after Guilherme parried a long-range shot.
Dybala gave a wry glance at the Juventus directors who tried to offload him to a host of clubs including Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur during the summer.
And that’s the way the game finished. Close but no cigar for Lokomotiv, who welcome the Italian giants to Moscow on November 6.