If the first 10 minutes were to be an indicator, this would've been a hell of a game 11 on 11. However, an unfortunate foul by Udinese's goalkeeper Krkic left the home team a man down and then a goal down after just 14 minutes. From there on, Juventus thoroughly dominated proceedings. All the "drama" aside, there were many interesting ways in which Juventus 2012/2013 continued to mature in Sunday's match. Let's take a quick look.
For the first time this season, Buffon and Chiellini started the match and formed the Scudetto-winning backbone along with Barzagli and Bonucci in defense. Their experience, calm, and familiarity with Juventus' style of play was immediately evident in our build-up play.
And boy was it needed early on. Just like Parma last week, Udinese started the game playing high up the pitch pressing Juventus' backline and midfield. However, Conte's men seemed better prepared this time around and our team responded splendidly. Pirlo and our defenders wasted very little time on the ball and quickly passed either up the pitch or over the high Udinese defense when our attackers or wingers were making runs. The results came quickly. With Pirlo as the main architect, Lichtsteiner had a great one on one with Brkic but his lob went just over the crossbar. A minute earlier, Giovinco was a step short on rounding the keeper after a great pass from Marchisio.
The game's initial thrilling pace came to a halt in the 13 minute. On yet another Pirlo pass over Udinese's defense, Giovinco raced first to it and attempted to head the ball over the keeper. Sandwiched by two Udinese defenders who gave him a slight push forward, he crashed into the body of Krkic and toppled over after hitting his head/chest. The referee hesitated for a second and then surprisingly, awarded Juventus the penalty while simultaneously sending Krkic off for a last man foul.
Was it a penalty? Maybe, and there was definitely hard contact between Giovinco and the goalkeeper. But the ball was out of reach for the minuscule attacker and the keeper didn't seem to go out of his way to hit him. The referee would've probably been better off dismissing the foul but once he blew his whistle, the red card had to come out as well. You can blame it on the goal-line referee if you'd like. Either way, due to that decision Juventus had a penalty (which Vidal converted), a man plus for 75 minutes, and complete control over the game.
But our Bianconeri didn't sit back to aimlessly hold possession. They asserted themselves, switched play often and well, and executed some great scoring chances throughout the rest of the match. In truth, it was a very good team performance marred by that one referee decision that changed the game early on. Vucinic rounded off the first half with a great placed finish, and the Atomic Ant got his first two goals of the season in the second half.
Overall, a great team performance in which our team gelled, improved, and created plenty of opportunities. A shame we didn't keep a clean sheet too.
Buffon: 7 - It was nice to see our captain back on the field but he didn't really have much to do. Kept possession going on a few occasions and took the ball out of his net after a defensive lapse.
Barzagli: 6.5 - Had a solid game for the most part but should've cleared the ball better on that Udinese goal.
Bonucci: 6.5 - Stepping into the middle of our defense, Leo had a decent game and stayed very deep. Barzagli and Chiellini did most of the pushing up when in possession. Defensively, he did well to block shots and steer little Toto to the flanks instead of through the middle.
Chiellini: 7 - Slotted right back in the starting line-up without even a friendly under his belt after two months, but Kaiser Giorgio was as solid as always. Strong and quick to close down. I still get a bit jerky when he makes a long pass to our midfield though.
Lichtsteiner: 7 - Another excellent game from the Swiss. Love watching him cover the whole right flank with his pace and stamina. Always where you'd need him to be. He's played a lot more attackingly in the first 2 games of this season which was the one thing he missed last year. Pirlo is now always on the lookout for one of his runs behind the defenders. He can be a great fit in Conte's 3-5-2 if he can produce on both ends.
Pirlo: 7 - Started off a bit shaky but found a lot more space and rhythm once Udinese went down to 10 men. Mirko's deeper position helps him as well - it allows him to stay deeper and float some balls over the midfield and defense, which is how the penalty came to be in the first place. Btw, how weird was it to see him sprint on a 3-on-2 break AND misplace the pass? That's gotta be a first in a Juventus jersey.
Marchisio: 7 - Another quiet but very efficient game from Claudio. Would love to see him shoot more too, good things always happen from his attempts (see Gio's first goal).
Vidal: 7 - You could see the relief on his face once he converted the penalty, and he made it look pretty too. Provided the physicality we needed in midfield, but would like to see him be more composed in some of his tackles. I'm turning into a broken record here, I know.
Asamoah: 7 - Just like Lichtsteiner, he was always in the right place at the right time. Seemed motivated to beat his former teammates and show that he deserves the step up to a club like Juventus. Never lost track of his man defensively and got a somewhat lucky assist on Mirko's goal. I really expect him to be consistent like this all season long.
Giovinco: 8.5 - The little guy is back! Made great runs from the very start, was fouled for the penalty, scored his first ever brace for Juventus, and almost had a hattrick after a great run in Udinese's box. Last year at Parma he played like he owned that team. Cannot wait for his self-confidence to get to that level at Juventus!
Vucinic: 8 - Placed his goal perfectly in the back of Padelli's net and overall looked very lively once again. That was his 9th career goal against Udinese - more than against any other Serie A team. Wait, I just thought of something...
THINGS I THINK I THINK
Are we seeing a new Mirko? - 2, count them, 2 games in a row now where Mirko has been playing with passion, determination, and high work-rate. What happened to the Lazy Mirko who would only show up for the games he chose? At first I thought it's the 'stache that's motivating him, but that was gone for the game in Udine. He has looked happier and more engaged through social media, which may mean he is really enjoying life in Torino. Whatever it may be that's making him play this way - I hope it sticks around and doesn't disappear after the fist disappointing game of the season. Cause like it or not, Juventus is going to have a bad game soon enough.
Conte or Carrera? Or both? - I just realized I skipped Conte's rating last week. Now that I think about it, the way I see it is Conte gets the mark for everything but the in-game substitutions. The subs are on Carrera. Let's start with that system from next game on.