A rather entertaining game was played yesterday at the City of Dubai Manchester stadium, between a team attempting to assert itself as an elite group...and well, another one. We saw a massive improvement across the pitch, it reminded me of the Ranieri teams where we could travel for UEFA games, and actually hold our own.
The biggest change was we saw the return of the Udinese defense, a cohesive team effort that included plenty of off the ball movement, and covering for one another. There was a 10 minute section in the middle of the game where City probably had 80% possession, but Juve had our team behind the ball and defending brilliantly. There was no way through for City, Marchisio and Melo protected the top of the box, our wings were smothered by our fullbacks and wingers, and our back four actually looked like a real unit. It was excellent defending, and vintage Juventus/Delneri tactics. Impressive.
Manninger: 6- Had one nervy moment, but aside from that looked calm and assured at the back. Made one or two smart saves when called into action, including smothering a rebound shot from Adam Johnson. Could have done a bit better on the goal, I thought he went a little too far to the right in coming out.
Grygera: 6.5- Another very solid showing from the oft-maligned Czech player. Tevez was a hard customer, but had him locked up for large portions of the match and forced him to cut in center. Looked very comfortable in defense, and moved up top in a supporting role occasionally. His confidence is growing under Delneri.
Chiellini: 6.5- Had Adebayor's number for most of the match. Would probably thrive in England, then again, where wouldn't he star?
Bonucci: 6- Cut down on the tricks and clever moves, but did well to patrol the center with Chiellini. A much improved performance between the two of them.
De Ceglie: 6.5- Very impressed with PDC's game yesterday. I expected him to get torn apart by Adam Johnson, but he put in some smart tackles and did not look timid. Excellent crossing as usual when he moved forward. Some blame for the goal, but more than anything our center midfield gave Toure far too much time on the ball.
Krasic: 6- Zabaleta couldn't handle him, and he had a legitimate shout for two penalties, one which was certain, the other mixed. Not sure why, but in the 2nd half he didn't get the ball anywhere as much as he did in the 1st half.
Sissoko: 6.5- His first half was mixed, his second he really got it together and played a very powerful game. Is it surprising that it came against an English opponent? No, he's a very English-style player. Broke up attacks and never stopped pressuring Man City, but his passing is still woeful. And we're talking 5 meter passing.
Marchisio: 6- Some people criticized his performance, but I thought it was pretty good. Sure, he went missing occasionally but otherwise he balanced out Sissoko's play pretty well. Had a goal-line clearance in the 1st half. Minus .5 for not closing down Toure earlier.
Martinez: 5- Two things did not play into his favor yesterday. First, the fact that he's coming off a month injury and was hardly in match-shape fitness when he got injured. Second, we played a very defensive game on the wings, he's not as natural sitting back. Still think he can be very useful, not necessarily as a starter but he has some nice tricks.
Del Piero: 6.5- Thought maybe he should have come off in the 2nd half as we struggled to attack quick enough on the counter, but looked dangerous as always. Smashed the crossbar near the end.
Iaquinta: 6.5- Brilliant, brilliant goal I never expected Iaquinta to attempt, much less score from. Aside from that, he played very physical against Manchester City's equally physical defense.
Delneri: 6.5- A good performance especially defensively, away against a very difficult opponent. Well done, mister.
Things I Think I Think:
#1- English stadiums suck: Kidding. I love how close they are to the pitch. However, I must complain about their audiovisual equipment. I couldn't hear Delneri all game, very disappointing.
#2- The referee was garbage: Against Palermo, we had a legitimate penalty turned down, but otherwise it was reffed well. This was terrible. Krasic had a clear penalty in the 1st half that the Spanish ref ignored, then a bit later was tackled in the box and received a yellow for diving. He embellished it, no doubt, but there was contact from Kompany, and he didn't get any of the ball. There were so many fouls that he never called, Iaquinta was flattened at the edge of the box (no call) and on the subsequent counter, Grygera received a yellow for virtually the same kind of tackle on Adam Johnson! The whole game, he was yelling at our players to get up when they went down. Fair enough, but he didn't do the same to Manchester City players. He nearly dragged Iaquinta to his feet. An awful, awful performance from the Spanish referee.
#3- Krasic's Penalty: An obvious call. How did the referee miss it? I'm not going to complain too much, because all things considered, a draw was probably a fair result and 1 point at Manchester is decent, but there are 5 referees on the pitch, and a "6th official." How did none of them see it?
#4- Excellent Defense was Excellent: Looked like the Udinese game. Except for their goal, which was a stupid goal to concede. Adam Johnson made a run from our left flank, and De Ceglie should have stuck with him and a CB probably should have swooped in as well, but my blame goes to the midfield. ADP was hassling Toure, he walked by, and then Marchisio stood there. Yaya Toure was afforded far too time to waltz forward, wait, and then play a simple pass into the box for Johnson. Marchisio should have closed him down far before that. Or Sissoko and his gangly legs.
#5- Roberto Mancini was a Juventus fan as a child, and would consider coaching us someday: I mention it because if I didn't, he'd probably pop on himself and post it in the comments section.
#6- Team Eats: Bad food.
#7- Eto'o v. Juve: If you listened to the last podcast, I mentioned I'm afraid of Eto'o this weekend. I know it's shockingly brilliant journalism, and only insight that we amateur bloggers can bring, but I am worried. Reason to be less worried- he's been shifted back to a striker role, instead of winger. That means instead of running against De Ceglie, Motta, or whoever is playing fullback, he'll be looking at Keyser Giorgio.
#8- UEFA is no fun: Iaquinta scores his goal, runs over to the bench to celebrate, the 4th official was stopping the substitutes from man-piling on top of him. Lame. And I'm sure all the women out there agree.
#9- How'd UEFA's 4th/5th referees do? Platini's plan to avoid video replay is to have two penalty-box referees, who are supposed to watch for two things: Penalties, and did-it-cross-or-did-it-not issues. Del Piero's goal was correctly not called, although the guy could have been standing there and have had no idea, but they failed on Krasic's penalty shout. Thus far in the Europa League they've had a very mixed record, no real showing that they are going to resolve controversy.
#10- Adam Johnson is a good player: I've watched two Manchester City games this year. Man City thrashing Liverpool, and yesterday's game. Very impressed with Johnson in both games, English commentators on my stream were talking about him trying to cement a spot. Not sure how he's not doing it, he looked better than Milner, Silva, or even Tevez when playing on the wing.
Next up....the Derby d'Italia. Away.