On a beautiful, sunny Sicilian afternoon in late October, everyone's second-favorite team in Southern Italy was welcomed in Catania for a lunch-time kick-off game that had the promise to be an exciting clash of short, fast, and rested Elefanti versus tired, Champions League-frustrated, and table-leading Bianconeri. (Soo many hyphens)
It was not to be though. One (allowed) goal, four controversial instances (I shall go into more detail here in a bit), yellow cards galore, and a whole lot of wasteful football. I haven't been this excited about a game recap since Molinaro wore a Juve jersey for 90 minutes a week! So keep reading! /s
Let's get the bullshit out of the way first.
- 25 min - Catania's goal - clear mistake by Gervasoni and his assistants. Definitely a goal, should never have been disallowed. Would it have meant Juve's first defeat in 48 games? Maybe, but given our team's spirit and fighting back mentality like the one against Genoa - probably not. Would it have changed the game? Absolutely. Did it mean Juventus is paying referees to fix games? No, though don't be surprised if there are some recorded phone calls on some hard drive somewhere that prove nothing but will be instrumental in accusing Juve of doing just that. We know the drill, everyone.
- 47 min - Bendtner called offside - the reason I wanted to bring this to everyone's attention is to show the closeness of the offside call on a potential one-on-one goal-scoring opportunity. If you look at the following screenshot, you would think Nicklas was on line with the last defender, which would've put him onside. Still, it was called offside and no one raised any stinks or anything. These calls are close, and the refs are human. On to the next one.
- 57 min - Juventus' goal - At first I thought Bendtner was on line with the last defender when Mirko played him through, but upon review it looked like he was a half foot offside. Again, one half-foot decision goes against us, another for.
- 67 min - Marchese's red card - honestly, this is not really a controversy since his handball was blatantly, obviously intentional. Automatic second yellow, automatic red.
Buffon: 6.5 - I was initially surprised that he didn't dive to deflect the ball to a corner kick on Catania's disallowed goal, but after seeing it a few times he looked like he was expecting a defender to clear the ball and reacted late to the ball in his low left corner. Nonetheless, Gigi had a decent game with little to clean up in the back.
Barzagli: 7 - As mentioned above, Andrea did a heck of a job against the smaller, much faster Gomez for most of the match. Our entire defense really narrowed down the space in which Catania attackers like to run and Barzagli was always dominant in the air making sure both bases were covered.
Bonucci: 6.5 - I gave him a very generous, Ivo-man-of-match little trophy after the Napoli game, but there won't be one with the Catania game and date on it for the badass that is Leonardo. He still had a solid game, making a couple great tackles and interceptions, which is really all we need of him at the moment. If one's looking at consistency, I think he's finally finding it. Let's hope I don't jinx him.
Chiellini: 7 - Lost last weekend's captain armband with Buffon back on the field, but his performance, consistency, and reliability are almost always on a captain level. Would've loved to see him get a Ballon d'Or nomination this year after a fantastic season with Juventus and a great Euro Cup tourney, but apparently he failed to accomplish the "set your house on fire with firecrackers" and "come off the bench all pissed off at the world" categories in the application.
Lichtsteiner: 6 - On a day when Asamoah wasn't particularly effective, it would've been nice to see Lichtsteiner step up and pick up the slack on the right. He had a couple decent crosses looking for Bendtner, but could have, and should have done a lot more. Defensively, he was slow to get back and let his man run past him on an occasion when a Catania cross flew dangerously close to Buffon's goal line.
Pirlo: 6.5 - He certainly gave the impression that he was playing on a short field in the first half - most of his high passes were pretty long for a man of his accuracy. Nevertheless, he was right to try the long pass given that we had the tall Dane in instead of the technically superior Giovinco. He'll need to learn to play with Bendtner, and vice versa. I think that goes for most of the team anyhow.
Pogba: 6 - Had a fantastic few minutes against Napoli last weekend and he deserved a starting spot for one of our tired midfielders on Sunday. Playing 15 minutes at home is a lot different than playing 90 minutes in the heart of Sicily, however. I hope he'll learn quickly that he'll need to be faster on the ball and he won't be getting any favors from the referees on shoulder to shoulder tackles. Stay on your feet, young man. Also, if you're gonna replace one of Vidal and Marchisio, you'll need to HUSTLE on defense. Not jog back - SPRINT! He is admittedly very young and the little hop in his step due to his height and long legs don't help the way he looks when he runs, but he is not getting back quickly enough to make goal-saving challenges the way our two midfield warriors do on occasion. Plenty to learn for Pogba, which is exactly what he'll be doing on Wednesday against Bologna as he's most likely starting again this time in place for the suspended Vidal.
Vidal: 7.5 - It may feel a bit premature to welcome Vidal to his best self, but a rebound goal and some productive work in midfield were surely positive signs after a lull in form this year. His beautiful slalom through Catania's defense in the 63 minute needed just a lighter finishing touch to cap off a great game by the guy most people wanted rested for the match. Since he'll sit the Bologna game out, he better be raring to go against Inter next weekend!
Asamoah: 6 - I'm very tempted to give him a 5.5, but a couple nice plays (defensively) towards the end there saved his ass. This has to have been the most disappointing game he's had in Bianconero, and that's mostly his own fault - he simply set the standard too high. All day long he was frustrated by Izco, Barrientos, and Rolin on occasion. They really took him out of the game, which you rarely see someone do to the Ghanaian.
Vucinic: 6 - Did brilliantly to set up Bendtner for the shot that was parried and eventually led to Vidal's goal. Other than that, he attempted some 1-2s with Nicklas and Pogba but failed to complete most promising attacks. The best chance on the night for the Montenegrin came from a beautiful Bendtner header-pass at the end of the first half, which he unfortunately couldn't convert from 5 meters out. Nothing vintage from Mirko, but he wasn't invisible like in games where he doesn't care.
Bendtner: 7 - This was a tough one. In my notes I take during the match, I wrote in bold capital letters WELCOME TO SERIE A, NICKLAS BENDTNER. Like Pogba, Nicklas will hopefully learn a valuable lesson from Catania's game - this league is physical! He's tall, boxy, looks strong, but he'll need to learn how and when to use that to his advantage in the box. Admittedly, he ran a lot on offense and while not always in the most effective way, he did draw a couple defenders out of position and caused a bit of havoc at the back. He was eager to go, which was great to see. His size made Lichtsteiner's poor crosses look good - the likelihood of him getting on the end of those is a lot higher. I can nit pick some more, but I'll make myself stop - don't want to draw too many conclusions from his first full 90 for Juventus and in Italy. A mostly positive game by Bendtner whom once learns how to play with the rest of the team can be a useful forward for Juventus, especially if he stays after January.
Giovinco: 7 - He came on 10-15 minutes too late, but wasted no time in making an impact. His first shot was a bomb at Andujar's goal, who btw was by far the best player on the pitch from both teams. The effort and enthusiasm from Giovinco are there, it's just the goals that lack. Really hope that changes on Wednesday so he can get over that hump mentally.
Caceres: sv -
Padoin: sv - was that the fastest a sub has been booked for Juventus this season? Ever?
Conte/Alessio: 6.5 - Props to Conte for trying something different - starting Bendtner instead of the typical Matri/Quagliarella bullshit was encouraging to see. We signed the year lease, might as well test-drive the car as well. Giovinco should've definitely come on a lot early, and I would've liked to see one of Vidal and Pirlo rested at the end, even if it were for 10 minutes.
THINGS I THINK I THINK
No Giovinco, No Counter Attack Party - In a game where both Bendtner and Vucinic start, there really is no pace in our attack for going on the counter. In addition, Nicklas spent every corner/defensive set piece in our own box clearing balls with his height while Vucinic lurked around our area like he was gonna bolt up the field if he were to control some of those clearances. The reality is, if Giovinco isn't playing, you need one of those strikers to play further up the pitch so Pirlo/Vidal/Marchisio/Pogba can hit a long ball to and immediately put him in a dangerous position. Watching Pirlo and Vucinic trying to lead a counter box to box with the ball on their feet is like watching a marathon race for senior citizens.