If players ever needed additional motivation to play a high profile game at the top level, the Juventus Fiorentina game provided many before it even started. The "rematch" as many were calling it in the media, was supposed to be another cracker of a game between two very motivated teams. The first encounter against the two in October ended with Juventus suffering the first loss of the season after relinquishing a 0-2 lead at halftime in Florence.
Unfortunately, as it is often the case, the quality of the game did not match the hype it followed. There was only one goal scored (to the previous 6 in October), there were no spectacular stories about players coming back from long knee injuries to carry teams to victories, and there was very little drama in front of either goal over the span of 90 minutes.
Fortunately though, and this is by far the most important thing for us Bianconeri, the resulting outcome of the match meant three points, a 14th straight victory at home, to match a now 14-point lead over Roma in the race for the Scudetto.
Ma. Ma. Mia.
Both teams were playing without their marquee playmakers as Pirlo and Borja Valero were unavailable. This was definitely one of the main reasons the quality of the match was a tad bit lower than expected.
Juventus, lining up Marchisio in Pirlo's role and Ogbonna in the center of defense, dominated the first 45 minutes. There weren't a ton of goal-scoring opportunities though, as the only notable one was in fact Asamoah's goal. The Ghanaian had seen plenty of the ball along the left flank in the first half (which was definitely by design with Pirlo not in the team) and after a couple shots on goal finally found his mark. Wiggling through 4 Fiorentina defenders, unusually for him he lined up a beautiful shot with his right foot that took the smallest of deflections and went in off the post. With just a few minutes left in the first half, it was the perfect time to strike and take the lead for Juventus.
The second half, while many label it as another meltdown by Juventus, was actually very even up until 10 minutes from time. Juventus weren't sitting deep and inviting Fiorentina on, which I actually thought was pretty encouraging given how some of our other recent second half performances have gone.
Fiorentina did get its chances to equalize though and it became very dangerous with the introduction of Mati Fernandez and Masto. Diakite had a goal disallowed offside, while Masto hit the crossbar of Buffon's goal with a close-range header. Bullet dodged, and a big one too.
At the end of 90 minutes it was another well-fought victory for Juventus, though many will question if this type of play will be sufficient to continue being victorious in the Europa League as well.
Buffon: 7 - Was laser focused throughout the whole match and you can really see him eager to lead our team in games against big teams. Had a couple good saves and was very attentive to rush out and clear a goal-scoring opportunity for Fiorentina in the second half.
Barzagli: 6 - Didn't have his usual quality against Milan and the same story repeated against Fiorentina. He's not himself yet and he'll need a couple more games to get back to it. Vargas gave him more trouble than he should've.
Ogbonna: 7 - I thought Ogbonna had a great game subbing in for Bonucci in the middle of the pack. Tidied everything up, tracked Gomez when needed, and made some great clearances.
Chiellini: 7 - Our team is a different beast with him on the field. Despite Cuadrado's sneakiness and pace, Chiellini coped well and was at the right place at the right time on a few occasions.
Lichtsteiner: 6 - Surprisingly, most of our build up play came along the left flank with Pogba and Asamoah in tandem. Lichtsteiner tried to cut in from his right side and he even floated in some crosses in early on, but his delivery was way off. Had a good chance in the first half that he scuffed as well.
Vidal: 6 - Rarely do I give Vidal a 6, but he was very ineffective all day long. Got himself booked early and that kinda threw him off a bit.
Marchisio: 6.5 - Did his best possible Pirlo impression in the regista role and did it decently well. Had the right ideas - played it simple and down the flanks most of the time with the occasional long ball forward.
Pogba: 7 - Out of the three midfielders, he definitely stood out. Worked very hard to be useful in both attack and defense. He can still do much, much better - maybe he'll get his rest this Thursday against La Viola in the EL.
Asamoah: 8 - By far Juve's best player of the night and the definite difference maker. Scored a lovely goal, but also had a few other shots that were dangerous prior. He welcomed the opportunity to see more of the ball with Pirlo unavailable.
Tevez: 7 - He didn't score, but did everything possible to put himself in a position to do so. Worked tirelessly all game and recovered many balls with his pressing.
Llorente: 6.5 - Not the best of games for Fernando who will most likely sit the next one out with Osvaldo back in the squad. Had some good touches and fought valiantly in the air, but wasn't able to create much in attack with Tevez.
Padoin: sv -
Isla: sv -
Conte: 7 - Prepared well for the absence of Pirlo and strategically focused the play down the flanks. He'll be seeing Fiorentina a lot more here soon so I'm sure he has a plan that if the players can execute, will see us through to the next round of the Europa League.
- Juventus 1 - Fiorentina 0: Initial reaction and random observations
- Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Fiorentina
- Juventus vs. Fiorentina Preview: Round 27 — Everything comes full circle
- Paul Pogba exit rumors are still plentiful, still pretty annoying
- Beppe Marotta says Antonio Conte's contract renewal talks will come in due time