It looked like another home game against a defensively-organized Serie A team destined to end in a draw at Juventus Stadium on Sunday. Then, like lightning out of a blue sky, Emanuelle Giaccherini (of all people) controlled a deflected Pogba cross in the box and slotted home the winner in injury time. You can't write this stuff if you tried.
The commentator in the recording I watched (wasn't actually able to get up at 6 a.m. to watch the game live) made it sound like Giac's goal just clinched the Scudetto for Juventus. I realize it was an important goal that increased the gap between Juve and Napoli to nine points, but a Scudetto-winning goal on March 11 in Serie A? I don't think so. One game at a time, folks.
In truth, it was a pretty scrappy game against Catania. A lot of half chances, a lot of good ideas that lacked execution, and thankfully, a lot of solid defending from Juventus - all as usual. I won't give anyone the excuse they were tired - that's not really the Juve way, though I'm glad Conte gave the whole team a day off today - they sure have deserved it. What matters are the three points, and that we have. Rest, training, and on to the next one.
Buffon: 6.5 - Must have been a boring game to 'keep for Buffon, Catania lacked any kind of real organization in attack to really threaten him. Kept his focus for most of the game though.
Chiellini: 6.5 - He'll need a few games to get himself back both mentally and physically. Seemed more keen on rushing forward than on being his usual self in defense. Good to see him back in the side though, there's only so much Chiellini-less Juventus one can take!
Bonucci: 7 - A determined showing from Leo on Sunday. Played on the ball, was solid in defense, and had some good long passes. I love how highly he thinks of his long range shot yet he hasn't really scored many goals that way. It would be fun to see one of his efforts go in and his/Conte's reaction.
Barzagli: 7 - Mr. Consistency was at it again, towering over the diminutive Catania forwards and keeping them at bay. Pushed forward a decent amount as well!
Asamoah: 6 - Ever since I set him up for the signing of the season award earlier in the season, he's tried very hard to negate me. Maybe with Peluso's somewhat encouraging performances on the left flank we can finally see Asamoah in the midfield giving Marchisio a rest sometime soon if necessary? A change could be good for him. That said, he did do a good job defending on several occasions Sunday.
Pirlo: 6 - Tough game for Pirlo. He was too nonchalant at times and looked sloppy as a result. Had some good passes but none that really changed the game.
Pogba: 7.5 - The only real difference maker during the match, especially in the second half. Came out the break determined to change the outcome of the game and ultimately his cross found Giaccherini for the winning goal. Had some good runs and decent outside shots to switch it up for Juventus. Man of match, what for the energy he brought to the team in the second half, what for the lack of other real candidates for the award.
Marchisio: 6.5 - A 6 may be more appropriate for il Principino, but he did work a lot and came close to scoring on a one occasion in each half. He'll need to refocus and try to lead this team to victories when the going gets tough like he has before.
Lichtsteiner: 6 - Started off bright but disappeared as the game went on. Made a great run in the second half to set up Quagliarella for a tap in but Fabio somehow had his sitter saved.
Vucinic: 6.5 - I'm surprised he didn't score, really, as he looked destined to do so in the first half. He's had the shooting boots on, just not the scoring ones lately. One thing I also noticed that frustrated me is how easily he goes down. There are many instances where if he tried to stay and successfully did so, he'd actually be better off and in a position to score or set up a goal. Write it off as part of playing in Italy your whole life, I guess.
Giovinco: 5.5 - What a miserable day for Sebastian. Was largely invisible and got outmuscled when he was in possession. I'm not sure he's the type of player to sit on a bench for a few games and then suddenly make a difference when he gets playing time. He needs to play minutes and get himself right and comfortable before he can start hitting goals and being effective. Not sure how well that will work for Conte with the current striker rotation mess he has going on. Hopefully he can figure something more constant for him next year (depending on who goes in the summer).
Matri: 6 - Given his form, he was the natural choice to replace Giovinco. Provided good movement and width on the pitch but had little to show for in terms of shots and goal-scoring opportunities.
Giaccherini: 6.5 - As soon as he got on the pitch with 15 minutes to go, he lost the ball then slipped and fell on a pass then lost the ball again. Then he got booked for simulation. I was already cursing his name in my head when he scored the winner and made me take all of that back. Glad he didn't take his jersey off in the celebration of the goal - it would've been a red card for no reason.
Conte: 7 - He'll be lucky Giaccherini scored that winning goal in injury time but in truth, Juventus looked a bit slumpy on Sunday. Not something we're used to saying for this team of warriors. Conte sees the reason in tiredness and he probably knows best what his team needs. Look for a much grittier, more dangerous side next weekend. It also must be mentioned that defensively, we looked right on point to combat Catania's threats.