When you get a piece of magic four minutes into a game, you think it's going to be your night. That's exactly what Juventus got on Thursday, courtesy of a pretty familiar source from an even more familiar dead-ball situation. Go ahead and look at the gif below, it won't hurt you to do so.
That thing of beauty you see above was the reason Juve were soaring high after just four minutes Thursday night. Well, one of the reasons why, at least. Juve came out like gangbusters, took the lead, and appeared to be storming into the semifinals rather than limping to the quarterfinals like was the case in Florence a few weeks back.
But because Lyon grabbed an equalizer a mere 13 minutes after Pirlo's latest dead-ball masterpiece, things weren't so easy. In fact, I feel safe in saying that outside of the first 15 minutes, Lyon was certainly the better side. And if it wasn't for that away Juve had in their back pocket — more on that later — things could have been much more difficult with things level on aggregate instead of having a 2-1 lead.
.@Asabob20: "Their goal made it a different game, but we did well to keep the ball. We can't always go at full pelt when we play so often."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 10, 2014
Ah, the beauty of getting a goal in the first game away from home rather than at Juventus Stadium.
And once Claudio Marchisio's long-range shot deflected off a Lyon player and into the back of the net, Juve's place in the Europa League's final four was just about wrapped up. Just two games separate Antonio Conte's squad from a European title game being a home game. It's a possibility more than ever before now.
.@chiellini: "Playing the #UEL final at home might not ever happen again in the club's history. We must seize the occasion." #JuveOL— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 10, 2014
The man does have a point, you guys. Regardless of how you feel about the Europa League, it's a pretty unique opportunity that not many clubs will ever get to play for. Would I like to be in the semifinals of the Champions League instead of the Europa League right now? Well, yeah. That's pretty obvious. But having the chance to play for a Europa League trophy in front of the Juventus Stadium faithful is a pretty unique alternative.
Random thoughts and observations
- Andrea Pirlo is good at free kicks. You heard it here first.
- Gianluigi Buffon is good at goalkeeping. You heard it here first.
- Can you imagine how much different this game could have been if Leonardo Bonucci didn't score in the dying minutes in France? That away goal from Lyon would have been even more of a possible possible reason for Europa League derailment. But because of Bonucci's goal last Thursday night, we're here thinking about Juventus in the Europa League semifinals, not being dumped out of another European competition.
- The announcers on Fox Sports 1 here in the states were getting some good use out of the "Carlos Tévez hasn't scored a goal in Europe in four years" narrative. And while it's true that Carlitos hasn't scored a goal in a European competition in quite awhile, that doesn't mean he's playing poorly at all. He was pretty close to grabbing a goal on more than one occasion Thursday night. You get the feeling that long-awaited goal will come. Say, the Europa League final sounds like a good time to break the duck...
- There was a Seinfeld episode where Jerry was dubbed 'Even Steven' by Kramer because when something bad happens, a good thing ends up being right around the corner. I think that's how I will think of Claudio Marchisio's performance against Lyon. His sub-par defending allowed Lyon to tie the game at 1-1 in the first half, but his second-half goal was what allowed Juve to breathe a little easier and win both legs. See? Claudio Marchisio, also known as Mr. Even Steven.
- It seems like it's becoming redundant at this point, but Martin Cáceres is really, really good at what he does for a living.
- Juventus had a lead in the 80th minute and Antonio Conte didn't throw on Simone Padoin. Somebody help because this does not compute.
- Friendly reminder: Europa League semifinal draw tomorrow afternoon at 12:00 CET. In case you're wondering and feel like laughing at yours truly, that's at 3 a.m. here on the West Coast. Dammit.
- Europa League Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Lyon, Leg 2
- Juventus vs. Lyon, Leg 2: You choose Antonio Conte's starting lineup
- Europa League Preview: Juventus vs. Lyon, Leg 2: The final four awaits
- Juventus 2 - Livorno 0: Initial reaction and random observations
- Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Livorno