That was hard to swallow.
A tough game away to a determined side begun better than any of us could've hoped - with two goals in 20 minutes for a 0-2 Juventus lead. Not only that, but we dominated Verona on their own ground for the full first 45 minutes. Everyone was up to their task, defensively and offensively. Tevez rediscovered his goal-scoring touch and blasted two in the net like it was scrimmage. Pirlo orchestrated everything to the T, and it seemed like the win was safe in the bag. All that was left was a formality second half during which the Italian champion should hold on to a well deserved 2 goal lead and go home with the 3 points.
As they say, it happens to the best of 'em. With just 30 seconds left on the clock deep in injury time, Juanito equalized leaving Juventus no time for rebuttal. 2-2, final whistle, shock, disappointment.
I won't even go into the "positives" after last night's game. The Roman derby tie is weak consolation. A 15-match unbeaten run means little when you tie a game you are supposed to win. This is Juventus, our standards are the highest in Italy. Winning, as many of you know, is the only thing that matters.
I won't make excuses either. It's a long season, it's a long 90 minute match, but to be the champion you have to beat the best and stay mentally focused against the weak. Freak incidents happen, but this was not one of them. We single-handedly let Verona back in a match we had already won. Not closing out the game, poor possession, atrocious set-piece defending - all things that led to that last minute tie and the 2 lost points.
Only Andrea Barzagli was missing from Juve's starting 11, but the ever-confident Caceres stood proudly in his place. Marchisio was once again left on the bench for young revelation Paul Pogba.
Verona lined up a 4-3-3 which was basically a 5-4-1 waiting for the counter. Former Bianconero Luca Toni stood alone in Juve's half waiting for the long ball forward to start the counter.
The foam hadn't settled from my first poured beer and Juventus were up 0-1. Kwado Asamoah took a shot on goal after a great run down left, whose rebound was converted by the foxy reflexes of Carlitos Tevez. It was the first goal in a while for the Argentinian, but it would not be the last on the night either.
As they have done all season, Pogba and Tevez connected for Carlitos' second just 15 minutes later. Not even 22 minutes were played and Juventus were playing with a comfortable 2 goal lead.
After a dominant first half, the second 45 minutes took a quick turn for the worse. On the first dangerous set piece of the night, Verona exploited our weakness and Luca Toni pegged one back just 7 minutes into the second half. Juve's response was minimal, as the quality of our passing fell exponentially while real scoring chances were hard to come by. Dani Osvaldo, wearing the Juve shirt for the first time ever, almost doubled our lead once again but his first shot on the night hit the outside of the woodwork.
Just as Verona's efforts seemed to yield no game-tying results (much to the thanks of Gigi Buffon), substitute Juanito connected on another header from yet another set piece in the dying seconds of the game to shock Juventus and steal 2 points from the champions. Unfortunately on this one, Gigi couldn't do much about it.
Buffon: 7.5 - Had no chance to save either of the two goals, but made sure a third one didn't go in with a fantastic save late in the second half. Was a bit too comfortable on the ball while passing it around with our defense. Would hate to see something like that cost us in the future.
Caceres: 7 - Replaced Barzagli without missing a beat once again. Held his own against the taller and stronger Toni. Was at the right place at the right time on a few occasions to clear any danger. On top of all that, pushed hard in attack, especially in the first half.
Bonucci: 6.5 - Had a great first half and didn't let anything slip through the middle. I do, however, put blame on him and Chiellini for the first goal. They are both playing the offside trap off the set piece and when that fails, they allow Toni to take a free header from 5 meters. No physicality whatsoever on those plays. They need to really up their defending of set pieces.
Chiellini: 7 - Same issues go for Chiellini. He had an overall better game than Bonucci, but the defending on that first goal was atrocious. Limped off in the second half visibly frustrated with something.
Lichtsteiner: 6.5 - Provided a lot of width and worked very hard to be an option in attack. However, he has a beautiful tall Spaniard in the box that led the Serie A in headers scored at the start of the match only to attempt 3 crosses, one of which kinda sorta found a target.
Vidal: 7 - He's usually one of our best players, so this was an off night for Arturo. He just couldn't seem to get it going in attack. Was snapping at player's ankles defensively as usual and had the most tackles out of anyone on the team (8), but contributed little offensively.
Pogba: 6.5 - Despite the lovely assist to Tevez, Pogba had another frustrating game for himself and for the fans. His touch was way off, he gave away possession too easily, and fouled way too much. He also failed to closed down Romulo for the cross of the tying goal, though the same blame can go to Peluso. Maybe a little rest on the bench will suit him so he can get his young inexperienced head back together. We wouldn't want to burn him out this early, would we?
Pirlo: 7.5 - Verona did most things right in their tactical set up - they pressed high early and if our passing beat that, they put 10 men behind the ball deep. They had players just bursting out in attack on the counter and they fed off of Toni. The only thing they sacrificed was a marker on Pirlo, who in turn had a field day because of it. Andrea found plenty of space, played the ball equally well to the left and to the right, set up many potential chances with his long balls, and even took a few shots albeit none on target. My only complaint with him remains - he needs to step on the ball when the other team has momentum and qualm our nerves with possession football.
Asamoah: 7 - Was very active along the left up until getting subbed out for Peluso. Did well defensively and set up the first goal. Similarly to Lichtsteiner, he could've delivered more crosses in the area for Llorente.
Tevez: 8 - For the first time in 2014, Tevez scores and gets man of match for his performance. Two great goals showing his goalscoring touch is slowly coming back. After weeks of frustrations, missed shots, and woodworks, it was nice to see a big smile on his face again. Our team should've really made sure we won this one for him.
Llorente: 7 - Played the distributor role all night and had no real chances to score. Could've guarded the ball a bit better on occasion. Right now it looks like it's either the Tevez or the Llorente show each night and I'm totally fine with that, as long as we get the three points.
Osvaldo: 7 - I'll be honest, I don't rate Osvaldo as high as some. I still think he's the 3rd or 4th best striker on our team. That said, he had a very positive debut and almost scored with his first shot! Linked up with Tevez very well despite not having played with him much (if at all). I'd love to see how he does with Vucinic alongside him, that would be a very interesting partnership backup.
Ogbonna: sv -
Peluso: sv -
Conte: 6.5 - I'm going a bit harsh on Conte today. His impact during the game is limited, yes, but he could've done a lot more with better substitutions. Marchisio was NECESSARY in midfield in the last 30 minutes. He could've easily kept Asamoah in and taken Pogba out for Marchisio. Would this have changed it all? You never know. But you have to put your team in the best position to win and Peluso on for Asamoah is not cutting it.
- Juventus 2 - Hellas Verona 2: Initial reaction and random observations
- Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Hellas Verona
- Juventus vs. Hellas Verona Preview: Round 23 (Skidoo) — Highway to Hell-as
- Fabio Quagliarella and the writing being on the wall
- Juventus submit Europa League team list; Daniel Osvaldo in, Fabio Quagliarella out of 23-man squad