Wow, what a way to bring Group H to a close!
It had been a pretty uninspiring group up to this point with Juventus and Chelsea securing their passages into the round of 16 after Matchdays 4 and 5 respectively. But this was an epic conclusion.
Somehow, someway, Juventus have won Group H after Chelsea conspired to throw away top-spot in the group late on against Zenit in Russia.
What went down in Group H on Wednesday
The Bianconeri barely took care of business on home soil against bottom-of-the-group Malmo, edging home by a 1-0 scoreline. All the drama played out in the other game as Chelsea drew 3-3 with Zenit in a topsy-turvy contest.
Chelsea took an early lead through Timo Werner amid a dominant opening 20 minutes before Zenit turned things around just before half-time as Claudinho and Serdar Azmoun scored for the hosts.
Romelu Lukaku restored parity for the visitors before Werner grabbed his second with five minutes remaining to give the Blues their second lead of the bout. A resilient Zenit, though, hit back in the dying embers as Magomed Ozdoyev’s screamer levelled proceedings at 3-3.
News of the Zenit’s last-gasp goal quickly reached the stands of the Allianz Stadium, with Juventus fans rejoicing as players shook hands on the field. Grazie, Zenit.
No draw will be easy for this Juventus side
Finishing atop Group H is a massive boost for the Bianconeri, who were staring down a frightening round of 16 tie if they’d finished runners-up. However, they’ll now avoid the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Bayern Munich in the first knockout stage.
As it stands, the Bianconeri could still face Paris Saint-Germain, with Atletico Madrid and Sporting Lisbon the other confirmed alternatives. Barcelona, Villarreal and RB Salzburg could also finish second in their respective groups with the final round of fixtures ongoing.
It won’t be easy, that’s for sure. Not for this Juventus side. We’ve seen the Bianconeri stumble at the first hurdle to supposedly inferior opposition for the last two seasons, so nothing can be taken for granted. We’ve seen this script before, you might say.
Nevertheless, by topping the group as opposed to finishing second, Juventus (and Zenit) have turned a rather perilous position into a considerably brighter one. That’s until they draw PSG, of course.