Juventus finished top of Group H in the Champions League on Saturday evening, with a 1-0 win over Malmo. Pavel Nedved curled home a free kick in the 88th minute, and the side are guaranteed a first-place finish by a single point over a Cristiano Ronaldo-less Real Madrid. It was another scrappy effort from Juventus, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s blunder giving Kiko Casilla hope of forcing a crucial save, but the side prevailed.
Malmo desperately wanted to avoid the embarrassment of getting knocked out of the competition before the round of 16, and could have been out early, too, as they failed to convert early opportunities, but Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon kept them in the game with a string of saves. He will likely be one of the all-time greats for the club if they make it to a Champions League final for the fourth consecutive year, but it will be their first time going the distance since 2000.
The nature of the game reflects the mild drama that has accompanied Juventus through the season. The team went six games without winning, and were just nine games above the Serie A relegation zone before then-coach Massimiliano Allegri took over as coach, giving them a new start with a cautious strategy. However, the team adjusted for its new attitude and began to play more attractive football, picking up six wins and drawing three before joining the Champions League.
Cristiano Ronaldo returns to Juventus, giving this team the right mindset to reach the final — every possession counts. — Zoran Balic (@Zs_kevins) June 29, 2019
Ronaldo did not play for Juve as the club filed for a transfer after Real Madrid paid £99.2 million for him last summer. His exit came after his shouting match with Allegri and his public war of words with the President of the club, Andrea Agnelli. Over the course of the past three months, some controversies kept coming back to haunt the club’s heavy-spending, perennially talented squad: they leaked so many goals in the Champions League that after the matchup with Malmo, the pundits wrote it off as irrelevant.
Juventus will face the winner of Group G at the next round, which will be on the first weekend of July.
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