Serie A champions Juventus got the best of Major League Soccer’s All-Stars in a penalty shootout Wednesday after an entertaining 1-1 draw in the North American league’s mid-season exhibition.
Before a crowd of 72 317 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium – home of MLS’s Atlanta United – Juventus prevailed 5-3 in the shoot-out after New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips missed his penalty attempt.
After Wright-Phillips’ effort bounced off the post to leave Juventus up 4-3 – Mattia De Sciglio fired into the upper left corner past Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen to settle it.
Andrea Favilli had put Juventus ahead in the 21st minute, heading in a curling cross by Matheus Pereira.
The MLS All-Stars, selected from around the league through fan voting, pulled level in the 26th minute through Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez – the Venezuela star and former Torino forward who leads MLS with 24 goals in 23 matches.
Juventus keeper Wojciech Szczesny saved an initial effort, but after a scramble in the area, Martinez bundled the ball in to score in front of his home crowd.
“It’s been a moving week here,” Martinez said. “I have to thank all the fans in Atlanta for the way they support us all the time and the wonderful experience in this game.”
He added, however, that there was “a lot of pressure” on the All-Star team.
“Beyond the fact that we had a very good opponent, it was an important game, especially a team of this caliber. We had never played together before. We only had three days to meet, but I think we looked good despite that.”
It marked the second straight year that the All-Star Game ended in a 1-1 draw to go to a shoot-out. Last year, Real Madrid beat the All-Stars 4-2 on penalties at Soldier Field in Chicago.
The crowd was the largest ever for the MLS All-Star game, surpassing the 70 728 for the 2010 edition in Houston.
The game was one of four matches for Juventus on their North American tour, but they haven’t brought off-season acquisition Cristiano Ronaldo, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner whose 100 million-euro ($117 million) move from European champions Real Madrid was announced in July.
With three wins from three matches, Juventus will look to make it a clean sweep of the tour on Saturday night against Real Madrid at FedEx Field in Washington, DC.
“It was really a wonderful game, and it was a good preparation for us,” said Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri, who said he was “very pleasantly surprised” by the atmosphere in Atlanta.
“You know it’s not easy to put 70 000 people in a stadium like today,” he said.
The All-Stars were without Los Angeles Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was voted into the contest against his former club by fans but would have been playing in his third game in seven days.