For several games now, the writing has been on the wall. Juventus are getting tired, lack creativity, are inconsistent over 90 minutes, and dangerously close to losing.
Yet despite all of these signs, this team finds ways to win points. On Sunday night in Genoa, it was Juve's experienced, legendary leaders that stepped up in the most difficult of times to bring home yet another 3 points in the drive for that third consecutive title.
In many ways, it was just another Serie A game that won't leave many everlasting memories. But it was also an acute reminder - a reminder that this team has legends on it that are getting older and are on the way out, leaving us only a short time left to see their magic night and night out. We can get wrapped up in point totals, Scudetto pursuits, and tactical analysis every week, but we should never take for granted the quality of football players like Buffon and Pirlo give us each night.
A penalty save and a fantastic free kick erased Juventus' crappy play over 90 minutes that by all standards should've resulted in dropped points. It's a luxury that having world-class players allows a team - to come through in moments of pain and hardship.
There's no doubt that replicating a performance like this again is probably going to be punished. But until our next game against Fiorentina to keep our European hopes alive, let's all enjoy this a few more times.
Conte's rotation of players continued in this match as well, albeit caused by injury more so than personal choice. Barzagli pulled out during warm up to be replaced by Chiellini, and Osvaldo was in for Tevez alongside Llorente in attack. Pirlo, Pogba, and Vidal were the midfield trio.
The game was played at a refreshingly fast pace. Genoa are known for their spirited displays characterized by a lot of aggression, running, and counter attacks. The first half was fairly even, but the last 10 minutes of it were most notable. Bertolazzi proded behind Lichtsteiner for a high header and a weak penalty plead for Genoa, while Osvaldo saw two goals disallowed for offside, only one of which was correctly called. It was the first time in 10 games that Juventus did not have the lead at the half.
In the second 45 minutes, Genoa were a lot more open to attacking which meant more danger for Buffon. Twenty minutes from end though, Juventus had a strong case for a penalty after Llorente's pass hit Antonelli's arm in the box. The decision could've gone either way, but ironically a penalty was given to Genoa on the next possession for the same exact reason on the other end of the pitch.
That's when Buffon stepped up and saved Calaio's shot from 11 meters, motivating the whole team and giving Juventus a slim chance to pull off a victory still. Thankfully, Pirlo got one of those chances and used it brilliantly for a lovely free kick goal at the nick of time and another 3 points for Juventus.
Buffon: 7.5 - He's not a big penalty saver, but this one was huge! He's been his superman self lately and it is definitely what's keeping Juventus miles ahead of the competition on the table. Man of match. An excellent way to celebrate matching Dino Zoff's appearances in a Juventus shirt.
Caceres: 6.5 - Didn't have the best nor the worst of games, but did show some insecurity at times that could've cost us. Antonelli got past him on several occasions.
Bonucci: 7 - Was relieved to see Bonucci back in the side in Serie A. Was very physical and had some great timed challenges and clearances. There wasn't much space for his long-range passing which Juventus have been missing.
Chiellini: 7.5 - Barzagli's injury may have well been a blessing in disguise. Chiellini had a great game, was his usual warrior self, notching 10 effective clearance.
Lichtsteiner: 6 - Had absolutely no effect helping out in attack, though he was solid on defense. Played a bit deeper since Genoa were a threat. He's had a few games in a row where he's been ineffective in attack, which we cannot afford.
Vidal: 6 - Had a very quiet game against Milan last week, and here he is again with an ineffective performance. I don't blame him a ton for the penalty as it shouldn't have been called for consistency, but Vidal really didn't have a big impact on the game at all. Hopefully he can bounce back midweek and lead us to the next round in the Europa League.
Pirlo: 7 - Ahh that free kick. Gives you instant amnesia of the rest of his perfomance, and rightly so. Just scroll up and watch it again. Il Professore Clutch.
Pogba: 7 - A good game for the young Frenchman. Had a lovely assist for Osvaldo's incorrectly disallowed goal, worked very hard on defense, and was involved in a lot of plays.
Asamoah: 6.5 - Was on defensive duty for the majority of the game, but provided excellent support alongside Chiellini. Really allowed Giorgio to focus on Gilardino. I thought his passing was particularly bad tonight though.
Osvaldo: 7 - If there was a 20 minute highlight reel of him chipping Perin I'd watch it. Should've had at least one goal on the night. He did well given how little service there really was.
Llorente: 6 - Held the ball up well when he could, but that was really all of his contributions. Struggled with the pace and physicality of Genoa's center backs.
Padoin: sv -
Quagliarella: sv - he's alive? yay :)
Conte: 6 - He's working with a tired team at the moment and getting results, but this was a particularly bad performance by Juventus tonight. Conte has to break the mold a bit here to get better results. Juventus had one shot on target against Genoa - their lowest amount under his leadership ever.