TURIN, Italy (AFP) – Juventus relaunched their Champions League last-16 bid with a nervous 3-2 win over Olympiakos in Turin on Tuesday when visiting goalkeeper Roberto saved a last-minute penalty from Chilean Arturo Vidal.
Andrea Pirlo, on his 100th Champions League appearance, broke the deadlock with a trademark free-kick on 21 minutes but the hosts were stunned three minutes later when central defender Alberto Botia beat Gianluigi Buffon with a glancing header from a corner.
Juve needed a win, preferably with a two-goal cushion, to boost their qualification chances ahead of an away trip to Swedish champions Malmo and their final fixture at home to Atletico Madrid.
But despite replying to Delvin N’Dinga’s glancing header on the hour with two goals in the space of a minute, Vidal spurned the chance to secure a 4-2 win when Roberto saved his penalty with the final kick of the game after Carlos Tevez had been felled in the box.
Juventus are now level on points with Olympiakos but second on a better head-to-head record, with both trailing leaders Atletico by three points.
“It’s a shame we missed the penalty, it would have rounded off a good night for us,” Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri told reporters.
“Tonight the crucial thing was to get the win, so we have to be positive. We still have two games to secure our qualification.”
Pogba, who hit Juve’s winner with his first Champions League goal on his 100th appearance for the Italian giants, said: “Today’s game was crucial for us. We had to win and we did, now it’s all up to us.
Olympiakos coach Michel was quick to praise his players, especially Roberto, after a penalty save which could prove costly to Juve in the event of a tight qualifying duel.
An injury to defender Angelo Ogbonna forced Allegri to reshuffle, replacing his tried and trusted 3-5-2 with a 4-3-1-2 formation that saw Alvaro Morata join Tevez up front.
With Olympiakos seemingly bent on defending in numbers and striking on the counter, Juve easily dominated the opening half but wasted a number of chances early on.
They finally broke the deadlock when Pirlo stepped up to curl a superb free-kick high inside Roberto’s post on 21 minutes after Pogba had fallen on the edge of the area under a challenge from Luka Milivojevic.