Juventus revived their faltering Champions League campaign with a 3-1 victory over Maccabi Haifa at the Allianz Stadium in Matchday 3 on Wednesday, in a game that was all about Angel Di Maria.
The Argentina international provided three assists and could have doubled that tally but for some wasteful finishing, as he stole the show in Turin.
Indeed, his display saw him become the first player to register three assists in multiple Champions League since Johan Micoud for Werder Bremen in 2004-05, and the first ever to do so in a single game for Juventus.
Mutinous murmurings silenced
Having lost to Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica in the opening two games of Group H, Massimiliano Allegri‘s side were reaching must-win territory already and laboured against their Israeli opponents for the opening half an hour.
As the crowd began to turn on the team though, Di Maria showed his guile with an excellent slide-rule pass to carve open Maccabi Haifa‘s defence and allow Adrien Rabiot to drill Juventus into the lead.
He followed it up with a truly magnificent through ball with the outside of his boot to release Dusan Vlahovic after the break, allowing Juventus to extend their lead.
Indeed, the former Real Madrid star secured a third assist when his corner was headed in by Rabiot, and another wonderful through ball was wasted by Vlahovic.
Di Maria arrived at the Bianconeri on a free transfer from PSG this summer and has already proved to be an astute acquisition in a difficult campaign for the club.
Starring in the games that he has been available for, Juventus have already looked dependent on his creativity just three months into his stint in Italy and with Paul Pogba out until after Christmas, Di Maria‘s brilliance is essential to the formerly perennial champions in their hunt for silverware.
Link-up with Vlahovic
The 34-year-old suffered an injury on debut in August and his absence proved costly to Juventus, with Allegri‘s side falling into woeful form and struggling to just one win from eight subsequent games.
In Di Maria, they have a player who can drop into the gaps and find the passes to release the explosive Vlahovic, whilst having the vision to spot the Serbian striker’s movement like no other in the squad.
Keeping him fit is a must, and Juventus‘ season may well peter out sooner than feared without their Argentine talisman.