Di Maria makes the difference again as Juventus beat Freiburg

Angel Di Maria

ANGEL Di Maria scored his fourth goal in a row for Juventus in the 2022/2023 Europa League as they edged Germany’s Freiburg 1-0 on Thursday.

The Argentine 2022 FIFA World Cup winner scored in the last-16 first leg match with a thumping 53rd-minute header off Filip Kostic’s cross from the left wing.

This is a follow-up on his hat-trick in a 3-0 win over French side Nantes in last month’s play-off tie which saw them advance.

Freiburg were mainly harmless but had a goal from Lucas Höler disallowed via video review because the ball fell to him via Matthias Ginter’s arm.

Winning the Europa League offers Juve’s only realistic chance of playing Champions League football next season.

They are 12 points off the top four in the Serie A after being docked 15 points for financial irregularities.

Juventus were without midfielder Paul Pogba who was reportedly dropped for being late for a team meeting the previous day.

But they dominated the action from the outset to finish with 20 attempts to Freiburg’s one.

Adrien Rabiot’s early tight-angle effort was saved by goalkeeper Mark Flekken, a foul in the build-up made Di Maria’s 14th-minute effort not count.

Also, defender Bremer headed wide from a promising position on the half-hour mark.

Di Maria eventually broke the deadlock against Freiburg who had been mostly harmless.

But the German side then thought they had levelled in the 62nd minute.

Vincenzo Grifo’s free-kick from the left was deflected by Matthias Ginter into Lucas Höler’s path to smash home.

But a video review revealed that the ball had hit Ginter’s arm and the goal was disallowed.

“It was handball but not intentional. The ball hits me on the arm from half a metre. I don’t understand these things any more,” Ginter later said.

“We didn’t create a lot of chances from open play. The space was there but we lacked the final punch. But we still played a good game away from home.”

Grifo, who later sent a free-kick over the bar, remained upbeat that the Germans can turn matters around in their home leg next week.

“A 0-1 result is not so bad, because we know how good we are at home,” Grifo said.(dpa/NAN)