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Sassuolo 1-1 Juventus: Bianconeri held in frustrating trip to Mapei Stadium

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Juventus will rue their missed chances from the first half as they dropped points for the first time this season in Serie A at bottom-placed Sassuolo.

Giuseppe Bellini

Wasn’t it great to see Juventus playing again after a two-week break from proper football? Well, at least in the first half it was. I kind of expected the Old Lady to come home with the three points from the red lantern Sassuolo, even if quite a few players have been on international duty. It wasn’t to be, though, and after failing to go ahead in the first half, Juventus created next-to-nothing during a lackluster second half performance, as Eusebio Di Francesco got his tactics right.

Considering Carlos Tévez scored four goals in his two games against Sassuolo last year, you would have expected him to bag in a few more. Also, with Alvaro Morata suspended, out-of-form Fernando Llorente got another chance to finally get off the mark this season, as he was picked ahead of Sebastian Giovinco — who made two appearances for Italy during the international break — and Kingsley Coman. But still, the Spaniard failed to deliver, again. Wasting good chances has become a bit of a habit nowadays for the Bianconeri and this problem needs to be solved. Morata, anyone?

Much have been said before the game about the striking partnership of Simoze Zaza and Domenico Berardi — two potential Juventus players — and rightly so. Zaza found the net again, as he did in the same fixture last year, while Berardi was inches away to score from a direct firee-kick. The young, promising duo didn’t fail to impress us again, unfortunately. Their performances should only increase this season, with Juventus keeping a close eye on both of them.

Despite the draw, it was great to see Roberto Pereyra successfully covering Arturo Vidal's role again and Paul Pogba back to his best. The Frenchman didn't show too much so far this season, but he would have almost single-handedly beat Sassuolo, if goalkeeper Andrea Consigli wouldn't have found himself in such a good form. More of the same from Pogba, together with an inexhaustible Tévez and an in-form Vidal should bring Juventus more glory this season, without doubt.

The Old Lady must put behind this negative result — two points have been lost and that is it. There is no need to overreact or talk about a slump. Allegri has to mount his players for the tricky upcoming away fixture in the Champions’ League against Olympiakos. He has done it previously ahead of that Roma game, after the Atletico set-back. Winning in Greece would give Juventus a huge advantage — let’s see it happening.

MATCH SUMMARY

The first half started at a pedestrian pace and it took 10 minutes until Juventus created the first chance of the game. Pogba’s cross from the left flank found Llorente in the box but his deflected ball was saved by Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli. From the resulting corner, Leonardo Bonucci tapped the ball in from close range only to be correctly flagged offside by the assistant referee.

Seconds later, Sassuolo opened the scoring. Zaza found himself unmarked near the 6-yard-box but his initial shot was blocked by Bonucci. Juventus’ defence couldn’t properly clear the ball and Zaza coolly deflected Alessandro Longhi’s volley past his international teammate Gianluigi Buffon, into the side netting.

After just five minutes, the Bianconeri pulled level by virtue of some Pogba brilliance and Tévez industry. The Argentine chased what appeared to be a lost ball, recovered it on the by-line and laid it at the edge of the box for the young Frenchman who, after a short touch, placed a fantastic shot at the far post, giving an idle Consigli no chance.

After another 20 minutes of play in which Juventus controlled the game, with both Angelo Ogbonna and Stephan Lichtsteiner missing decent chances and referee Luca Banti not pointing to the spot when Pogba was brought down in the penalty area, the French youngster stepped up again to deliver another moment of magic. Receiving the ball just inside his own half, he embarked on a great run straight down the middle of the pitch, muscling his way through in style. Having beaten several defenders on his way, Pogba’s low shot from 11 yards was saved by Consigli, who made another good save seconds later to deny Tévez’s volley.

The last action of the first half saw Pereyera linking up with Bonucci and Pogba at the edge of the box, but the Argentine placed his shot wide and the teams went to the locker rooms at the break with nothing to separate them.

The second half started in a similar slow tempo as the first, with Sassuolo having the first good chance. Pogba conceded a free-kick at the edge of the box and received a yellow card for the foul. Berardi stepped-up to take it and curled his effort just wide of Buffon’s left-hand post.

Juventus failed to create anything dangerous and Allegri changed replaced Patrick Evra with Claudio Marchisio on the hour mark, changing the system to a 4-3-1-2. Kingsley Coman came in for Llorente and wasted a decent chance to put Juventus ahead with 20 minutes left to play, as he shot over the bar from just outside the 6-yard-box, after a good cross from Pereyra.

With Buffon only making a couple of routine saves, the last part of the game was played mainly in Sassuolo’s half, but with no positive results for the Old Lady. Pogba received a ball inside the box from Tévez, 15 minutes from time, but couldn’t get enough power behind his shot and Conisgli pushed it away for a corner kick.

Juventus couldn’t break Sassuolo’s defence eventually, with Pereyra wasting a final chance in injury time when his shot from 16 yards was blocked by onrushing defenders. The Bianconeri’s frustration was there to be seen, as Bonucci received a late yellow card for arguing with the referee, while Simone Padoin, who was an unused substitute, saw a straight red from Banti — God knows why.

LE PAGELLE

Buffon: 6 Was called into action a few times, making routine saves. Had nothing to do to prevent Zaza from scoring.

Ogbonna: 7 Playing better with each passing game. Solid in the centre of defence and also did a decent job when moved to the left flank.

Bonucci: 6.5 Won all his aerial duels and gave Zaza a hard time throughout the match.

Chiellini: 6 Poor marking when Juventus conceded, but put in a couple of good tackles when needed.

Lichtsteiner: 6 Very poor clearance at Zaza’s goal, as he headed the ball straight to Longhi. Wasn’t involved in attack too much either.

Pereyra: 7 Another spirited display from the Argentine who contributed in both attack and defence pretty good. Lacked the finishing touch, as he missed two decent chances.

Pirlo: 6 An uncharacteristic sloppy performance. Showed signs of tiredness, losing the ball in midfield on a few occasions.

Pogba: 8 Definitely his best game of the season so far. Dominated the midfield, scoring a great goal. Should have scored following his individual run, though.

Evra: 5 Terrible display from the wing-back. Lost his man who crossed at Sassuolo’s goal and failed to backtrack in time. Brought nothing in attacking moves.

Tévez: 7.5 Was the main danger in attack again — never stopped running into spaces to create chances. Great effort to produce the assist for Pogba.

Llorente: 5.5 Another frustrating day for the Spaniard. His hold-up play was somehow decent in the first half, but couldn’t create anything.

Subs

Marchisio: 6 Played the last 30 minutes but couldn’t make an impact as the struggled to find a key pass.

Coman: 6.5 The young forward tried too much on his own, although he gave some extra speed to attack.

Giovinco: 6.5 Clearly frustrated to be introduced so late in the game, but had time to send in two decent crosses.

Coach

Allegri: 6 Not having a fully fit, rested squad at his disposal might be an excuse for him, but dropping points at the bottom-placed team is a bad result nonetheless. Insisting with Llorente in the starting XI was an odd decision, with both Giovinco and Coman eager to demonstrate. Although he made the first two changes quite early, the players couldn’t break the opposite defence, as there never seemed to be a clear idea of what to do with the ball in the final third.