As soon as Nicola Rizzoli blew the final whistle to announce Juventus’ success over AC Milan at San Siro last week, there was a word in every Juventini's mouth: ROTATE. With the toughest week thus far fast approaching, which includes an away Champions League fixture at last season’s runner-up Atletico Madrid and a home match against Roma, Max Allegri had to make sure players will boast the energy needed to get well past what could be described as two season-defining matches.
Therefore, Allegri decided to make two changes to the side that beat Cesena 3-0 on home ground on Wednesday: Paul Pogba regained his place in the starting XI, as Roberto Pereyra was on the bench and Carlos Tévez, who was rested against Cesena, replaced Sebastian Giovinco. Stefano Colantuono included in his side’s first XI former Juventus player Marcelo Estigarribia, as well as, according to recent reports, possible future Juventini Davide Zappacosta, Richmond Boakye and Danielle Baselli.
Knowing Juventus were unbeaten in Bergamo, in Serie A since 2001, when a team boasting the likes of Zidane, Davids, Montero, Inzaghi and Del Piero somehow succumbed to defeat, morale was high through the players’ ranks. After becoming the first team in Italian history to win the first four matches of the season without conceding a single goal, Juventus were looking to continue in the same fashion and extend this record, so Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia seemed like the perfect venue for the achievement.
Juventus managed to win the game more comfortably than expected but there was desperate need for a moment of magic from club captain and living-legend Gianluigi Buffon, who saved a penalty taken by German Denis when the score was still 1-0, paving the way to victory and keeping a fifth consecutive clean sheet. The stars seem to favour the Old Lady so far, in what has been one of the most exciting starts of the season from recent years; one that lays ahead two big challenges for a team flying-high.
A cagey start of the game made us wait until the 17th minute to have the first good scoring chance. Patrice Evra’s cross at the far post was headed back in by Fernando Llorente for Pogba who managed to control the ball with his back at the goal and lay it for Tévez’s shot, but the whistle came for a fault in attack.
Juventus were attacking as usual with the centre backs in the opposite half, as Atalanta preferred to sit back and defend on two lines, putting 10 men behind the ball. Tévez managed the first shot on target on the half hour mark, but he didn’t really test 22-year-old goalkeeper Marco Sportiello. Shortly afterwards, some good link-up play from Vidal, Llorente and Evra put the Frenchman in a great position for a cross, but his low ball at the edge of the six yard box reached nobody.
Eventually, the inevitable happened. In the 35th minute, Llorente found some space right outside the penalty area and played a great through ball to the onrushing Stephan Lichtsteiner who chipped it back nicely past Sportiello, leaving Tévez with the simple formality of tapping the ball in. After taking the lead, Juventus controlled the game until the break, giving Atalanta no opportunity to threaten.
Shortly after Orsato blow the whistle for the start of the second half, Stefano Colantuono made an inspired substitution by replacing Estigarribia with Salvatore Molina. The latter was brought down in the box by a clumsy Giorgio Chiellini after almost an hour of football, leaving referee Orsato no choice but to point to the spot.
It was the key moment of the game, as Gianluigi Buffon brilliantly dived to his left to save Denis’ penalty. Right at the next action, Tévez received a ball just outside the box from Evra and placed a low shot at the near post, beating Sportiello, scoring his second brace of the season after the one managed against Malmo in Champions League.
Juventus were in complete control from that moment, as a demoralized Atalanta tried to make up for Denis’ mistake and grab a goal, but in this way, leaving space at the back. Tévez was close to a hat-trick 10 minutes later, but the Argentine couldn’t quite control his 10-yards-volley and the ball arrived safely in the hands of the goalkeeper.
In the 83rd minute, substitute Álvaro Morata scored his first official goal for the Old Lady. A wonderful through pass from Tévez found Pereyra in the box, who had time to prepare his cross for Morata and the Spaniard headed the ball in past Sportiello. It was a brilliant move from Juventus — the icing on the cake.
The away side had no problems protecting the result in the final minutes and ensured the 100% record so far in Serie A, without conceding a goal.
Buffon: 8 – Wasn’t called into action at all in the first half, but showed his class once again, making the match-winning save on Denis’ penalty.
Ogbonna: 7.5 – Solid performance defensively. Was unbeatable in air and made some good interceptions and clearances. Also advanced with the ball when space was available.
Bonucci: 7 – Won most of his aerial duels and played confidently. Wasn’t involved in the game when Juventus had possession as often as usual, so there were no trademark long balls from him.
Chiellini: 6.5 – Advanced whenever possible in the opposite half trying to help the build-up play, but was really negligent to concede the penalty as there wasn’t any real danger.
Lichtsteiner: 7.5 – Unstoppable on the right flank, always making runs behind the defenders. Played a neat ball back inside the box to assist Tévez first goal.
Vidal: 6.5 – Wasn’t as influential as usual but considering his great performance from Wednesday, this was somehow expectable. Replaced after 70 minutes by Pereyra.
Marchisio: 7 – Brilliant defensively but had no space to dictate the play as Boakye man-marked him. Got booked but it was a good performance overall from him.
Pogba: 7.5 – Another powerful display from the Frenchman. He was involved in all the attacking actions of Juventus, sometimes taking Marchisio’s role of passing the ball around. Very good at cutting Atalanta’s attacks, as he was the player with the most tackles (5).
Evra: 7 – Had a shaky start but steadied his game eventually. Made a few key passes and got an assist at Tévez’ second goal.
Tévez: 9 – The Apache was once again man of the match – absolutely brilliant. Came back deep to get the ball and assure the game was flowing. Scored the first goal with a simple tap-in but got his second with a well-placed shot at the near post.
Llorente: 7 – The Spaniard was again in the target-man role. Played an important part in the first goal as he opened up Lichtsteiner with a through ball in the box. Replaced with Morata after 67 minutes.
Morata: 7 – Only played the last 25 minutes but it was enough for him to get his first goal for Juventus: great header from just outside the 6-yard-box. Was also involved in a few individual actions but with no effect.
Pereyra: 7 – Replaced Vidal and linked perfectly with the rest to control possession, as Juventus were looking to hold on to result. Played a perfect cross for Morata’s goal.
Coman: N/A – The Frenchman replaced Tévez late in the game and had no time to make an impact.
Allegri: 7.5 – Juventus won the game in great style, dominating possession and breaking the opposition’s defence. But the coach deserves credit for his selection, as a fully-rested Tévez came back in the starting XI to run the show for the defending champions. Introducing Pereyra and Morata, who combined perfectly for the Spaniard’s goal, was a very inspired move, which also ensured Vidal gets some rest before the Atletico clash.
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