TURIN, ITALY - MARCH 03: Alessandro Matri (R) of Juventus FC looks dejected as Michael Bradley #8 and Nicolas Frey #21 of AC Chievo Verona celebrate after the Serie A match between Juventus FC and AC Chievo Verona at Juventus Arena on March 3, 2012 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
In my attempt not to sound like a broken record, I shall spare you from the obligatory "all these draws are killing us, we need to win more games" rant. That said, all of us can't help but feel extremely disappointed with yet another draw in a game that should've been a definite win. Let's look at how it all happened.
Chievo arrived at Stadio Scirea (stadium name idea courtesy of Zumi) weakened by the absence of Sergio Pelissier through suspension. They were obviously going to play a defensive game and try to create something on the counter.
Instead of deploying his successful and attacking 4-3-3 lineup, Conte, being the meticilously organizational coach that he is, chose to field a 4-4-2 lineup whose main purpose was to cover for the lack of Vidal in midfield rather than take advantage of Pelissier's absence in Chievo's attack. Unfortunately, as it has too many times before in Torino, the choice proved too weak for Juventus to break through a defensive mid-table side and bag a decisive win.
Juventus started the game determined and dominated play and possession in the first 15 minutes. It seemed as if Conte had tried working with the squad on their attacking, as Pirlo and the centre backs tried moving the ball down the flanks quickly in an attempt to exploit Chievo's compact set up. We even saw some decisive through balls and laser passes continued on by dummies, with Vucinic, Giaccherini, Padoin and Lichsteiner all dancing to the same beat in the early stages of the game.
The first real chance came to Matri after a passive offside situation gifted him a 1v1 with Chievo's goalkeeper, Sorrentino. He was as surprised with the chance as anyone, and scuffed the one-on-one with a weak pass instead of shooting first hand or rounding the keeper.
It didn't take long for Juventus to find the opening goal, however. Paolo De Ceglie scored his first goal of the season and his first at the new Juventus Stadium after a free kick by Pirlo was headed at goal by Chiellini and bounced in his vicinity off the post. Paolino did excellently to react in the situation and headed home from close range to put Juventus up 1:0.
As was expected, the Bianconeri felt the momentum and tried killing the game off with a second goal. Simone Padoin had a solid long range shot excellently saved by Sorrentino, while Giaccherini couldn't finish a long ball from the substitute Bonucci. In the meantime, several small passing mistakes gave Chievo scoring opportunities, which they were unable to take advantage of in the first 45 minutes.
Juventus came out of the break with a bit less energy and settled for a slow possession game which lead to only a few chances. All the while, Chievo started being more dangerous and exploted the space between Pirlo/Marchisio and the defense whenever they went on the counter.
It soon became evident that one of the teams was going to score, and whichever did so first was going to reap the benefits at the end.
Unfortunately, that team turned out to be Chievo. Drame, who was very close to being sent off prior to this instance, hit a low shot at goal after a low passed across Juventus' box which was almost saved by Buffon before hitting Bonucci in the legs and ending up in Juve's net.
The Bianconeri then tried to get that precious second goal in the dying minutes of the game. Pirlo came the closest with a long range shot which was superbly saved by Sorrentino in goal. Del Piero had a one-two with Vucinic blocked before he could even take a shot. It was a little too late for the Old Lady and Chievo walked away with a second draw in two games against Juventus this season.
Buffon: 7- Did well for most of the match and you really can't blame him for the goal. For all we know, his save was deflecting Debra's shot wide, until Bonucci made sure the ball hit Juve's net. Either way, Gigi was solid and produced a positive display against the flying donkeys.
Barzagli: 6.5 - Only played 40 minutes, but did his job during the spell he was on the pitch. Unfortunately, he got injured and was substituted by Bonucci right before the first half.
Chiellini: 7.5 - Some of you complained I rated him a bit too low after last game, but I'm almost certain you'll agree with me on this one. Kaiser Giorgio was a BEAST all game! Even when he was hobbling around injured during the last 15 minutes of the game, he was still making the run (or one-legged hop) into Chievo's box on set-pieces, and hustled back on defense just in case. A great game by Chiellini, whom I feel needed to take the leadership role of his defense once again. Not sure if his shot at goal during the De Ceglie goal counts as an assist, but it just reaffirms his strong performance on Saturday.
Lichtsteiner: 6 - The Swiss has had a few quiet games in a row now after establishing himself as a difference maker down that right-hand side early on in the season. Though in his defense, he has had to adjust to many different formations and players in front of him in attack. It would be fantastic if he steps up his game for the finish of the season because we could really use some experienced, passionate players to try and make a difference.
De Ceglie: 7 - Paolino had another great game as a left back, and has done all he can to solidify himself as a starting left defender this season. He looked genuinely ecstatic to have scored his first goal of the year, yet remained focused on both ends of the field. I caught Conte yelling at him for pushing too high up in an overlap with Giaccherini midway through the game, and he never really attacked too high after that. Still, he managed a few solid crosses in the box when no one else was doing anything of the sort.
Pirlo: 6.5 - Andrea did his best to influence the game offensively but struggled finding outlet passes into Chievo's box. Neither Vucinic nor Matri was particularly inspired to make too many runs in the box, and Pirlo found himself spreading play out to the flanks in an attempt to stretch the compact Chievo defense. His excellent free kick did lead to Juventus' only goal and he nearly sealed the win with a dangerous shot at Sorrentino late in the game. Once again, however, he had some risky passes in our own backyard which led to more counter attacks by Chievo. The team is still not optimized around him and I can't help but feel like we are missing out this late in the season.
Marchisio: 5 - Perhaps it was the absence of Vidal, but Marchisio's lack of impact was hugely evident on Saturday. He struggled to make a difference in midfield and was rarely back in time to shut down Chievo's counter attacks. In light of Padoin's somewhat positive performance, I'd consider throwing him or Marrone in the starting lineup in a 4-3-3 on Wednesday against Bologna and dropping Marchisio. It could be that he's just really tired and needs a break. Maybe he'll be able to re-focus after a game off. I really hope so, we desperately need him to be the warrior that we've come to know.
Padoin: 6 - As most of you, I was very surprised to see Padoin start in a right winger role against Chievo. During the course of the game however, Simone played a lot more centrally than initially thought, almost like a fake-sub for Vidal's absence. This resulted in him neither playing extremely well as a central midfielder nor as a right winger. He did have two great chances to score which he failed to convert only because of Sorrentino's brilliance. Overall, he made it work in a strange position on the field, but I do wish he did better with holding and distributing possession.
Giaccherini: 6 - The diminutive midfielder started the game off terribly, losing possession in Juve's half, getting outmuscled by defenders, and faking penalties instead of taking a shot from 5 meters in. When he did have a clear one-on-one with the keeper, he directed a difficult volley wide instead of controlling the ball and getting a better shot in. As the game went on, Giaccherini did better and used his quickness to make runs in the box and create havoc in Chievo's defense. I still maintain that he is a lot better player as an impact-sub in the second half than as a starter. Would've loved to see Elia in his place, but that seems like it will never happen.
Vucinic: 4.5 - An absolutely dreadful performance by Mirko who not only made no positive impact in attack, but did very little to track back and stop potential counter-attacks by Chievo. Gave the ball away constantly and was completely wasteful up front. He really does not deserve to start anymore, no matter his price tag. He better be benched against Bologna.
Matri: 5 - Invisibile for most of the match, Matri showed once again that he almost completely depends on the service to him during the game. Strangely, it was evident he missed players like Pepe who work hard on the flanks and deliver no-nonsense crosses in. Nonetheless, his first touch wasn't there for most of the night, which is unacceptable for a guy who's supposed to play with his back against the goal in his position.
Bonucci: 6 - Many will rush to be harsh at Bonucci, but I thought he looked up for the game despite coming on as a sub for an injured player. From the moment he walked on the pitch he played with confidence, tackled well, and made a couple good outlet passes (one notably to Giaccherini for a solid goal chance). To be honest, I wouldn't blame him much for Chievo's goal either. Not sure how much he could've escaped the shot coming at him in such a short time. Still, he did fairly well after a miserable game last week and amidst boos and whistles from his own crowd. Just keep your head up, young Leonardo - you may not be a big game player yet but no one in their right mind would quit on you this early on in your career.
Caceres: 6 - Couldn't quite make an impact on the game as a central defender late in the game, but looked ready and up for it while he was on the pitch. With Barzagli and Chiellini injured, he'll need to quickly form a partnership with Bonucci for Bologna's game. Have to admit, I'm very curious to see how that works out.
Del Piero: sv - I really wish our Capitano started the game in place of Vucinic. Given Chievo's defensive mindset, we could've used his flair instead of Mirko's alleged pace. Chalk it off as a Conte mistake.
Conte: 5 - Speaking of Conte, I still can't believe that he gets the tough games right tactically and messes up the easy ones at home. How difficult was it to see that the best defense against Chievo was always going to be strong offense? After all the draws this year, he's continually acknowledged that our team needs to adapt yet he still hasn't made the adaptation himself. This team is crying for more flair and creativity, and the players that can offer that are rotting on the bench. It already feels like it's to late for bad results to force his hand, but better late than never, right? We better see some changes on Wednesday and I don't mean BorrielLOL.