In a relatively interesting development, Juventus manager Antonio Conte rolled out of the dressing room sporting his favorite hat to protect himself from the elements. Turns out, Conte's hat turned into a makeshift rally cap for his team coming out of the halftime break.
Second-half goals from Paul Pogba, Fernando Llorente and Arturo Vidal sent Juventus into the winter break in style with a 4-1 thumping of Atalanta on Sunday in Bergamo. Four goals in back-to-back league games. Not a bad way to close out 2013, guys. And with the the win, Juve were able to keep their plus-5 advantage atop the Serie A table.
Pretty good Sunday, I'd say.
Llorente: It was a really tough game because Atalanta are a strong side, especially at home. #AtalantaJuve— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) December 22, 2013
The lone blemish in what was an otherwise productive day: Maxi Moralez's 15th-minute goal put an end to Juve's long shutout streak, keeping Gigi Buffon from making even more history in his legendary career.
But something tells me that Buffon will take the three points as a consolation gift a few days before Christmas. And after that goal, especially in the second half, Juve's defense put the clamp down on a Atalanta attack that was looking quite solid in the first 45 minutes on Sunday.
745 - Gianluigi Buffon has conceded a goal in the league after being unbeaten for 745 mins - he's now 6th in the all-time Serie A. Moralez.— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) December 22, 2013
Rinse and repeat. Nine straight wins in a row for Conte's squad and now it's all eyes focused solely on the game coming out of the holiday break. Methinks the first game of 2014 is a rather important one. Feel free to agree.
Random thoughts and observations
- The Carlos Tevez goal tally is now at 11 on the season after he recorded the opening goal on Sunday. If he was around last season, he'd officially finish as Juve's leading scorer. But since he obviously wasn't, we can only point out that Tevez has now scored one more goal than both of Juve's top scorers — Vidal and Mirko Vucinic — did a year ago. And there's still over half the season to go. Stay hot, Carlitos.
- After a couple of relatively quiet games, Llorente was back to doing Llorente things. An assist on Pogba's eventual game-winner and then a wonderfully taken strike from inside the penalty area to put the game away at 3-1. He will almost always be involved in the build up play because that's what he does. But this was a game, even with some of the frustrations that came in the final third, that Llorente's contributions made a huge difference.
- Giorgio Chiellini might very well be the most awkward player ever when he comes out of the defense and tries to contribute to the attack. And yet, despite all of that, he got an assist on Llorente's goal. This game is a funny thing sometimes — and so is watching Chiellini charge up the field when he tries to channel his inner left winger.
- Claudio Marchisio slotted into the Andrea Pirlo-like regista role after Pogba began the game there. That marks the second time in less than a week that Il Principino has been deployed as the holding midfielder in the center of the park. As somebody once said to me, "Your thoughts?"
- For all the good that came with Juventus scoring four goals, it wasn't exactly like they were firing at will for good portions of the match. There were a good number of shoulda-coulda-woulda moments, most notably Tevez's 1-on-1 with Atalanta keeper Andrea Consigli that somehow ended with no shot on goal. Juventus definitely should have finished with more than 16 total shots against Atalanta. But then again, when you score four goals and every shot on goal hits the back of the net, I guess it's okay to forgive them a little bit.
- You see Stephan Lichtsteiner's cross on Vidal's goal? Juve need to do that more often. Dangerous.
- You see Marchisio screaming at the top of his lungs at Pogba after Atalanta's goal? That was awesome.
- Let the Roma talk officially begin. Jan. 5 — and the chance for 10 straight Serie A wins — can't get here soon enough.