POST-GAME REFLECTION & GAME RECAP
With Napoli and Lazio squaring off right after our game, it was a weekend that could've potentially blown the Scudetto race wide open if results didn't go our way. Not only that, but plenty of talk was had in the media of the upcoming Celtic game in midweek, which was possibly hurting the focus of our team right before this huge game against Fiorentina at home. Missing key players, coaches, and a good run of form was a big concern going into the Viola derby.
Yet here we are, recapping a game that was very much a routine Juventus win like we grew accustomed to seeing late last season and early in this one. So what happened? Sometimes, when a team is reeling, feeling down and hurting, a burst of energy and determination comes through that is a characteristic of only well-built, tough-minded squads comprised of gritty players and strong leadership. Perfect timing to make it 2 in a row and officially out of the beginning-of-calendar year slump we are so used to seeing each year now too!
With a makeshift defense of Barzagli, Marrone, and Peluso, plus De Ceglie on the left to complete the backups called in to step up in a big game, our Bianconeri played a fearless game in which they fully dominated Fiorentina, scored two great goals courtesy of our starting strikers (how often do we say that?), and kept a clean sheet ahead of the crucial first leg in the Champions Leage knock out stages.
The first half saw all the scoring action, as Vucinic and Matri were playing very well off each other, both looking determined to open the scoring early. Mirko did so with a spectacular half volley from outside the area after 20 minutes, showing once again that when he's focused and working for the team, he's the best striker this Bianconeri team currently has.
Recently resurgent Mitra Matri also got on the scoresheet, though somewhat fortuitously. Vidal (who has now assisted 4 of Matri's 6 goals this season) put Ale in a great position to score with a cutting pass in Viola's midfield just before the end of the first half. Matri, somehow losing his right shoe still put a shot on target with his foot which ended up in the back of the net after a slight deflection from Viviano. Just like that, a dominant 45 minutes went by in which Juventus not only opened the scoring but did what was necessary to put the game away as well.
In the second half, Fiorentina was a bit more active but still found very little space against a well-organized and superior Juventus. Juve had their chances on the break to make it 3-0, but alas ended the game with a clean sheet and a great intro win to a tough couple of weeks ahead for our Old Lady.
Buffon: 7.5 - Had a high number of saves, but they were mostly training ground shots straight at him. Still, Gigi did his part when it was necessary. Most notably, closed down Ljajic after a great run late in the second half and had a great reaction save to a Jovetic shot early in the game. He's in great form at the moment (just ask the Dutch). We'll need him against the tough Irish in midweek that's for sure.
Barzagli: 8 - What a monster game from Andrea! It was as if he looked to his left, saw Marrone and Peluso, and just said "follow my lead kids, maybe you'll learn something today." He was absolutely everywhere and dominated both in defense and had a few great runs in offense. He's an unsung leader of this team and once again he showed it when most needed.
Marrone: 7 - Kind of a quiet game for Luca but did his job very well indeed. Didn't seem to put a wrong foot all game, just did his work and moved on. As much as I love Bonucci, it was nice to see someone be as effective without all the tantrum that Boner brings.
Peluso: 7 - A more confident performance this time around from the new arrival, and a cockier one too. I kinda liked his arrogance at times. He might as well get into the role and own it, instead of look for approval from everyone else all the time.
Lichtsteiner: 7.5 - Here's how I see it - 7 for being the steadfast Steiner we are used to, and 0.5 for that "holy shit did Forrest Gump just unleash a left-footed shot curling away from the keeper and forcing a save" monster no one expected? More of that, please!
Vidal: 8 - Great game for the Chilean, played a lot more composed than he usually does and it was easily noticeable. His usual beast in defense, but also curbed his emotions and didn't let his hustle get ahead of him like he knows to sometimes. Glad he got the assist, wish he notched that curler as well. Easily a runner up for man of match.
Pirlo: 7.5 - Was given space because of our impeccable team pressing and he used it very smartly. Was feeling the touch, played so well just on hunches of where other players will be or will be running to. A couple of his long balls were just a tad bit off otherwise he would've had a couple assists easy.
Marchisio: 7.5 - Started off on fire and was unlucky not to score early on. In defense, helped De Ceglie and Peluso with Cuadrado a ton, as expected. Great game by our Principino - he was up for this one!
De Ceglie: 7 - I was surprised to see him come off as I thought he had a very decent game, but unfortunately word is he got injured and will now be unavailable for Celtic as well. Stepped in nicely on the left though, hope he won't be off too long.
Matri: 8 - Gotta give it to him, he's worked his socks off back into form. It was nice to see him genuinely smile after he scored without his one shoe. We don't need a ton from him before the end of the season - just break double digits for goals on the season and maybe notch one or two in the Champions League as well. As long as his confidence is back and he is getting playing time, chances are high he will continue to contribute. Just keep working son!
Vucinic: 8 - Committed himself to the team and to scoring on the day and had a fantastic game. Recovered many balls very high up, scored a great volley, and combined with Matri and the rest of the team well. Gets my man of match, despite him wussing out with some kind of knee injury. I think he just wanted the rest before Celtic.
Conte/Alessio: 7.5 - This was another important game without Conte on the sidelines, but our duo handled it superbly. Our pressing and grinta was beautiful to watch and really helped us dominate the game from start to finish. Something tells me we'll be very well prepared for Celtic as well. Plus, that game is played on my freaking birthday. Our boys better bring it!!!