So, what was that Rudi Garcia was saying about teams not exactly trying their best against Juventus?
Sassulo gave Juventus everything can handle. The 3-1 final score won't necessarily reflect that, but this was a team going toe-to-toe with the soon-to-be Italian champions from basically start to finish. Sassuolo gave Juventus everything they have — they attacked, they battled, they made Juve look quite un-Juve-like for a good portion of Monday night's showdown.
But even with Juve playing not-so-hot for the vast majority of the first half, they were able to rebound and do exactly what pretty much everybody thought they would do — beat Sassuolo. First, Carlos Tévez leveled it, Claudio Marchisio — thanks to a beautiful assist from Andrea Pirlo — put Juve ahead, and Fernando Llorente closed the door on any kind of comeback attempt. And with that, Antonio Conte's band of bianconeros moved within one point of clinching their third straight Scudetto. One point. That's it.
For 45 minutes people talked how Sassuolo might get points and re-open the Scudetto race with a win or a draw. Juve looked bad and Sassuolo looked damn good. But as Juve have done basically every time before when people said things might get interesting, they said one thing and one thing only: Shut the door on that talk, ladies and gentlemen.
Soon, we shall celebrate. And soon, we could possibly be seeing Juve hitting triple digits in points.
May 5 2002, May 5 2013, May 5 2014... Conte's favourite date— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) April 28, 2014
Oh yeah. In a matter of seven days, Cinco de Mayo won't be just a nationally-recognized day for drinking tequila.
Random thoughts and observations
- It was almost like Simone Zaza was auditioning for Juventus or something. Dude had himself a game, easily one of his best of the season. Kid might not end up being tipped as a star like another co-owned striker on the Sassuolo roster, but if he plays anything like that going forward, he will definitely be a useful piece to the puzzle in the future.
- Was Gigi Buffon at fault for Zaza's goal? Maybe a little bit, with an asterisk on it for the slight deflection it took before it got past San Gigi at the near post. But how good was he after that? Forget the near-post mistake, Buffon is Buffon and he always will be. That double save from point-blank range in the second half was absolutely immense.
- With his assist on Llorente's goal, Stephan Lichtsteiner is now joint-top along with Tévez amongst Juve players with seven assists in Serie A this season. Who predicted that one this season?
- How beautiful was Llorente's goal? Shades of Alessandro Del Piero, no? It was especially impressive when you consider how completely quiet Llorente was during the entire game before the backheel.
- Combined goal count for Tévez and Llorente: 34 goals in 35 league games.
Total cost in transfer fees for Tévez and Llorente: €9.5 million (plus bonuses to be paid to Man City).
- I'm struggling to find one single word to accurately describe what kind of game Angelo Ogbonna had. Was it a struggle? At points, yes. But at the same time, it's easy to see why Ogbonna does have these inconsistent showings where sometimes he's really good and other times he's not that great. His playing time the whole year is anything but consistent. And when did Martin Cáceres start playing really, really well? When he got consistent playing time.
- Claudio Marchisio is back to being the Claudio Marchisio I'm used to seeing. The run he made to get open for the goal was vintage stuff. Good news for Juventus, good news for Italy, good news for all of us.
- One point away for a third straight league title. There shall be partying next Monday. Get the champagne ready. But first, Thursday's second leg against Benfica awaits. Juventus Stadium should be rockin'. It's time for Juve to use that home field advantage to their...advantage.
- Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Sassuolo
- Alessandro Del Piero announces he is leaving Sydney FC
- Juventus vs. Sassuolo Preview: Round 35 — Party preparations
- Andrea Pirlo's "I Think, Therefore I Play" and the state of Italian football
- Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal reportedly at risk of undergoing knee surgery