Juventus knew they were going to get one hell of a game from Benfica on Thursday night. And there wasn't anything that really proved that not to be the case.
It wasn't exactly how we would have liked to draw it up — going back to Turin down 2-1 instead of, you know, having an away goal and a lead like was the case in the quarterfinals against Lyon. And in terms of the overall team performance, it wasn't as good as a lot of us would have liked to see in such an important game.
But I'll just do some short-attention-span writing right now...
There's the good: Carlos Tévez breaking his ultra-long European goal drought when he scored in the 73rd minute to even the scoreline at 1-1. You see that celebration? Yeah, he knew it was more than just an away goal for his team.
There's the bad: Leonardo Bonucci's marking on Benfica's opening goal. Can you say "beasted off the ball"?
There's the frustrating: Why Juventus had 58 percent of the possession and only took a grand total of 10 shots — five of ended up being on target. Nothing more, nothing less. Yeah, frustrating.
And then there's Lima's absolute bolt of lightning to give Benfica the lead and the win late in the game. I hate to tip my cap sometimes, but that was one hell of a hit to get Benfica the lead once again.
#Conte: "I'm really happy with our performance. After conceding, we barely gave them a sniff and put them on the back foot after the break."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 24, 2014
When push comes to shove, though, I ask this: Would you rather have Juventus heading back to Turin down 1-0 or down 2-1? (Well, I'm sure we would all like Juventus going back home up 4-0, but we know that's not going to happen.) The away goal makes this thing still a possibility. It wasn't looking so hot before Tévez nabbed the equalizer. It's not the best result, obviously, but it's not the worst thing in the world. Bad result? Nope.
If the first leg proved one thing, it's this: Juventus will have to be a lot, a lot better if they want to play for the Europa League title in their home stadium. There's absolutely nothing else telling us otherwise.
Random thoughts and observations
- Carlos Tévez scored a goal in Europe, and now your ongoing narrative about how he's not playing well in a European competition is dead. Sorry, folks. Time to think of new things to talk about now.
- Speaking of strikers, was this one of Mirko Vucinic's last chances to shine on the big stage in a Juventus jersey? I know I wrote nice things about him a few weeks back, and since then he's not exactly impressed. I know he was better in the second half before he was subbed off, but that first-half performance was...yeah.
- Can Antonio Conte please re-evaluate what he wants his team doing on corner kicks? If it wasn't a short corner that ended in nothing, Andrea Pirlo, for some reason, was blasting a cross nowhere near the 18-yard box. I mean really, what's the point of all this? Remember when Pirlo was hurt and Tévez took corners? At least we knew there was a chance of something happening.
- How many people were absolute terrified when they saw Benfica absolute explode on a counter? I by no means am a Benfica expert or claim to watch them all the time, but that's what a counter attack should look like every single time. You combine that with the high pressure they were playing to open the game, it's no wonder Juve looked all out of whack in the first half.
- Somebody go to Turin and tell Juventus players to shoot the damn ball. Seriously. Somebody do it. Right now.
- Benfica had two goals on two shots and 43 percent of the possession. Efficient. Incredibly efficient.
- I guess Artur is the latest goalkeeper to channel their inner Gigi Buffon when they play against Juventus.
- Am I the only one who had the thought creep into their mind prior to Tévez equalizer with something along the lines of "What might a 4-3-3 look like right now?" While I'm sure it probably won't happen, if Conte wants to roll out a trident of Giovinco-Llorente-Tévez in the second leg, I won't be opposed to it.
- Why am I still optimistic? Because the second leg is at Juventus Stadium. The same place where Juve are hoping to keep their Europa League campaign going. They've got the away goal, now it's time to use that and the Juventus Stadium advantage to their favor. To get another home game, they need to win the one this time next week.
- UEFA Europa League Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Benfica, Leg 1
- Juventus vs. Benfica, Leg 1: You choose Antonio Conte's starting lineup
- UEFA Europa League: Antonio Conte rules out Arturo Vidal for Juventus' first leg against Benfica
- UEFA Europa League Preview: Juventus vs. Benfica, Leg 1: On the road again...
- The case to bring Antonio Candreva back to Juventus