Kucher own goal sees Juve top group over Shakhtar
DONETSK, Ukraine - Juventus qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday after Olexandr Kucher’s own goal gave the Italians a 1-0 win and dropped Shakhtar Donestk to second.
Shakhtar had sealed qualification for the last 16 a fortnight ago but came into their final group game looking for the draw or win that would seal first place.
But with Juventus in need of at least a point to go through, the Italian champions displayed more urgency throughout and it showed in the period leading up to Kucher’s blunder which gave Juve the winner in the 56th minute.
The 1-0 win left Juventus top of the group on 12 points with Shakhtar qualifying second and eliminating reigning champions Chelsea.
Juventus had claims for an early penalty waved away after the ball appeared to come of the arm of Fernandinho following an Andrea Pirlo free kick on the left.
When Kwadwo Asamoah forged down the left midway through the opening half to cut back for Pirlo, the Italy midfielder was well off target with his strike.
Shakhtar were pressing and looking dangerous on the attack but failed really to threaten Gianluigi Buffon in the Juve goal.
The same could be said of Juve, who had the lion’s share of chances in the closing stages of the first half without really menacing Andriy Pyatov.
French midfielder Paul Pogba got in close during a threatening run but lost possession, then Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal sent a 20-metre shot into the arms of Pyatov.
Shakhtar, however, came close only three minutes into the second half when a rising Alex Teixeira drive swerved just wide of Buffon’s upright.
Juve replied almost immediately, Pogba cutting back to the edge of the area for Pirlo who rounded one defender before hitting a low shot that zipped inches wide of Pyatov’s post.
At the other end Buffon dived low to his right, more in caution than conviction, when Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan hit an angled shot from range.
Juve finally got the break, although it came thanks to a spot of good fortune.
Kucker had been under pressure from Sebastian Giovinco when Stephan Lichsteiner’s low, bouncing cross zipped in and as both players hit the ground the ball bounced off the defender’s leg and into the net.
Both sides had a number of half-chances during the remainder, but Juve held on to hand the Ukrainians their 11th defeat from their last 16 games against Italian teams in Europe.