Mister Antonio "errday I'm shufflin" Conte was not going to back down now. After rotating some players for the midweek fixture with Copenhagen, the royal shuffle continued on Sunday against Verona with the introduction of Fernando Llorente to the starting line up for the first time in his Juventus career!
And it took some time, it even took a goal in our net for Verona's lead 35 minutes into the first half, but Carlitos and Lloritos found their rhythm and combined for a deuce that secured an important Juventus victory.
In addition to Llorente, Marco Storari perched up between the posts and Angelo Ogbonna got the nod over Giorgio Chiellini on the left side of our three-man defense. Paul Pogba started in midfield once again as Claudio Marchisio was only recently cleared to play again.
It was a hectic 20 minutes or so at the beginning, what with Juventus trying every single long-range effort thinkable, what with Rafael, Verona's goalkeeper, getting head scratches and injuries in the most inopportune situations.
After the initial sloppiness, Juve started pushing forward with more focus, and created a few chances as we were entering the second half of the first 45 minutes. Verona, on the other, hand, waited patiently for counter attack opportunities and was able to stretch our defense on a couple occasions with their pace going forward.
It wasn't a counter attack that opened the scoring for Verona though. Once again, it was a damn set piece (corner), after which Juventus' defense allowed a pass to be directed towards Cacciatore who sloted home from literally centimeters away from the goal line. Just like that, it was 0-1 Verona.
Similarly to the Inter match, Verona's first goal fired up everyone on the Juventus squad and the pursuit for an equalizer needed no introduction. Just four minutes later, Carlos Tevez latched on a great pass by Bonucci, and found the high far corner skillfully to put Juve level. The clearly fired up Argentinian was and has been a true inspiration in our team with his work rate and goal scoring.
It didn't take long for Llorente to join Carlitos on the scoresheet either. Arturo Vidal curled a beautiful cross towards the Spaniard who fought his defender well to get to the ball and head it home from close range. As the final whistle of the first half went, Juventus had successfully mounted a come back and was in the lead to win the match.
The second half was played yes, but had little of long-term significance really. Let's get to the ratings and break down each player's contribution on Sunday.
Storari: 6.5 - The goal wasn't his fault and the rest of the match he did well, even if he wasn't called upon much.
Barzagli: 7.5 - With Chiellini on the bench, it was up to Andrea to take the leadership role in defense from minute 1. I thought he had a great game, moving very well to stop attacks and get in front of defenders, and to cover up mistakes when necessary. Hopefully the bit of rest he got is helping him get back to top shape.
Bonucci: 7.5 - Danced to Barzagli's tune all night too. Made some positive strides forward and was up for the game. One more assist goes to Bonucci for a great pass to Tevez for the equalizing goal.
Ogbonna: 6.5 - Right now he is a decent enough backup to the starting trio with Caceres out injured. Remember how long it took Bonucci to start performing at a high level consistently? Let's all give Angelo some time, these rotation games are sure going to help him fit in with the squad better.
Isla: 6.5 - Many have raved about his performance, but I honestly didn't think it was anything special. Just because he didn't embarrass himself or the team doesn't mean he warrants much praise. Verona did give him a lot of space and he attacked when possible, but his crosses weren't really memorable. I still think he has a lot to improve if he is to justify wearing the Juve shirt.
Pirlo: 6.5 - Another "off" night for Pirlo, who was man-marked tightly during the game, but thankfully it wasn't felt very much. Our biggest problem was our finishing/completion of attacks, not creating them.
Pogba: 7 - Was a bit too long-shot happy, but worked hard in defense when it mattered. He is improving on the defensive end, and when he doesn't score or have an assist his contribution shouldn't go unnoticed.
Vidal: 7.5 - Some of you may not agree with me here, but I thought Vidal had a very good game. He single-handedly stopped many Verona attacks and was an attacking threat most of the match.
Asamoah: 6.5 - Failed to really ever get noticed for something positive throughout the game. I do remember one through ball that if Pogba didn't pick up midway, could've put him in a scoring position. He will need to assert himself more on the left flank and make more of a difference.
Tevez: 8.5 - Fantastic game from the little pitbull. Was hungry for a goal since minute 1 and never stopped running, covering, tracking back, closing down, and stretching the field. He took his goal very well, though if he was more on point with his finishing he could've had three by the end. Maybe a bit selfish at times, but if he produces goals I can't complain too much.
Llorente: 7.5 - Man oh man, how happy I am for this guy. With all the drama Conte created by not really playing him until today, you would've thought we had another Elia case on our hands. Nonetheless, Fernando waited for his chance, started the match, worked hard, and scored the winner. There's plenty of more to come from him that's sure, but it was a very nice way to kick off his Juve career. Here's wishing to many more goals from the Spaniard.
Marchisio: 6.5 - I was just happy to see him back on the field again.
Vucinic: 6 - Mirko is not a guy to put on for a cameo performance while being up 2-1 against Verona. He will never be motivated to do anything in that situation.
Giovinco: sv - Though he should've been given a penalty!
Conte: 7.5 - We've criticized him so far, let's give him credit now that he actually played Llorente. Not only that, but he was able to rest up Buffon and Chiellini. Well done sir.