After two games against Verona-based opposition in which Juventus played the closest to perfection football you could get, scoring 10 goals in the process, there came the third meeting with a team from Romeo and Juliet’s city. And it was no surprise the Bianconeri had a much harder time trying to break down this defence. Chievo used to have that reputation of a disciplined team, of a team whose Serie A life would hinge on every single point they would gain away from their home stadium, Marcantonio Bentegodi.
And oh, they were disciplined. How they wanted that point so courteously given by the 0-0 draw. Being forced to say Giorgio Chiellini was the most dangerous man in the first half sums up the game pretty well. For exactly the first 60 minutes of the game, Chievo didn’t even look like doing too much to defend their dearest 0-0 result. Juventus’ attacks were once again slow and predictable, with a bit more pace coming from the fullbacks Patrice Evra and Martin Caceres. And this state of equilibrium, so perfectly balanced by one side’s sheer determination to win a point and other’s impotence to capitalise its dominance, was suddenly broke when the lighting struck.
There was no storm other than that man Paul Pogba, again, scoring his fourth goal in the last four appearances for the club, of which three were absolute belters. Doing nought to 60 in a fraction of a second, getting past opponents like there wasn’t anybody there and then delivering a thunderous shot somewhere near the post, unreachable for the goalkeeper, seems to have become house speciality for the Frenchman – world class speciality. It was a treat to watch him working his magic again, saving the day for Juventus, who were still quite far from producing anything dangerous at Chievo’s goal.
Max Allegri made just one change to the XI that started against Verona last weekend, with Arturo Vidal replacing Andrea Pirlo who was out with flu. And why would he change anything? The team worked well, excluding the first hour of Chievo game, and there is a Coppa Italia fixture on Jan. 28 when Juventus travel to Parma, that would give Allegri a good enough reason to refresh the first XI. The likes of Kingsley Coman, Fernando Llorente and the Simone duo would get more minutes than today for sure.
All in all, Allegri is doing his job with decency and a certain – and also welcomed – amount of discretion. It is true that seeing pictures of Antonio Conte back at Vinovo, chatting, shaking hands with the players while proudly giving them a tap on the back, has the potential of making even the most stony-hearted of Juventini sigh – you can’t help it, really. But at the time of writing, Juventus are eight points ahead of Roma, who are yet to play their tricky away game in Florence. Looking at the table, the situation is a most convenient one halfway through the season and we all like that, don’t we?
Roberto Pereyra had the first decent chance of the game six minutes in when he arrived at the near post to meet a low cross from Evra but goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri managed to get a foot in and send the ball behind for a corner kick. Carlos Tévez took the corner and Chiellini guided his header over the crossbar from six yards.
Juventus had a penalty appeal waved away by referee Davide Massa, as Vidal went down after a challenge from Alessandro Gamberini and saw the yellow card for diving.
Chievo barely threatened Buffon’s goal in the first half, with Gamberini being the closest to what can barely be classified as a chance, but the defender totally botched his shot.
Despite dominating possession, the Bianconeri only created another good goalscoring opportunity in the 25th minute, when Caceres delivered a great cross but Alvaro Morata missed his header from close range and the ball went well wide of the far post.
Vidal tested Bizzarri in the 28th minute with a long shot but the goalkeeper dived to his left post to parry it away for a corner kick. Chiellini was again at the receiving end of Tévez’s corner and forced Bizzarri into another good save.
Evra collided with fellow Frenchman Nicolas Frey in an aerial duel in the 38th minute which resulted in a horrible head injury for the Chievo defender who had to be replaced by Cristiano Biraghi. He was carried off on a stretcher in the applause of the crowds.
Dario Dainelli was booked in the third minute of injury time for a late challenge on Pereyra just outside Chievo’s box, being the fourth player to receive a yellow card for the visitors after Frey, Ezequiel Schelotto and Ervin Zukanovic. Tévez wasted the free kick after trying to send the ball beneath the wall and it was cleared away easily.
The beginning of second half saw Claudio Marchisio trying his luck from distance with no result, and Evra delivering a good low cross in the 50th minute for Vidal, but the Chilean was a step ahead of the ball and sent his left-footed shot well over the crossbar.
Pogba was again the man who put Juventus upfront with another fantastic strike from distance in the 60th minute. The Frenchman demonstrated some sublime skills to get past Isaac Cofie at the edge of the box and then sent a left-footed piledriver at the near post that gave Bizzarri no chance.
Allegri decided to change to 3-5-2 two minutes after taking the lead and Stephan Lichtsteiner replaced Vidal who looked quite unhappy for being substituted. It was an inspired substitution from Allegri, as the Swiss was to double Juventus’ advantage in the 73rd minute.
Padoin’s first action of the game resulted in a perfect cross for Pogba who produced a fantastic first touch to put the ball down, but his shot was aimed straight at Bizzarri. The goalkeeper only managed to palm it away at the Swiss right-back’s foot who coolly put the ball in the back of the net.
Marchisio had a glorious chance to score the third goal for Juventus in the 76th minute after dribbling his way inside Chievo’s box but his powerful shot was blocked by Bizzarri. The rebound found Lichtsteiner again but the Swiss was in an offside position.
Schelotto missed his side’s best chance of the game in the 87th minute. Bonucci couldn’t deal with a long ball played for Sergio Pellissier and it got to Schelotto’s foot who hit a first-time shot from not more than six yards that hit the near post, as Buffon was well beaten.
Chievo broke free on a counter once more in the second minute of injury time but Caceres managed to block a through ball attempt from Riccardo Meggiorini. The ball bounced back to the Italian whose shot from distance went wide of Buffon’s goal. It was the last notable action of the match and referee Davide Massa blew the final whistle.
Buffon: 6.5 A quiet day at the office for the captain, who was barely called into action for a few crosses. His first save came into 83rd minute.
Caceres: 6.5 Great performance from the Uruguayan who was very involved in attacking actions while at right back. Despite having a few problems with Schelotto, he was steady at the back as well.
Bonucci: 5.5 Nothing out of the ordinary for the centre back, who was rarely involved in defensive actions. No trademark long balls from him either
Chiellini: 6 Was a threat from corners in the first half, getting a few headers in and also played a few decent direct passes for Morata and Tévez. Caught out of position late in the game for a couple of times.
Evra: 6 Delivered quite few decent crosses but his teammates couldn’t make the most of them. Wasn’t called into action too often defensively and was replaced by Padoin with 20 minutes to go.
Vidal: 6.5 Probably the most influential midfielder beside Pogba, the Chilean was unlucky not to get his name on the score sheet. Was booked for a foolish dive in the first half
Marchisio: 6 Was barely seen in the first half, but had a decent second part of the game when he came close to scoring. Stupidly booked for protests
Pogba: 7.5 Another simply brilliant performance from the Frenchman who single-handedly won the game for Juventus. Produced a moment of magic to open the scoring and did the most for the second goal as well.
Pereyra: 6.5 His movement was good throughout the game and also contributed defensively, but he couldn’t influence the attacking moves as much as he would’ve wanted.
Tevez: 6 Quiet game for the Argentine goalscoarer, whose first decent attempt came late in the second half.
Morata: 6 The Spaniard tried a lot and found himself just inches away from getting his goal in the first half after Caceres’ cross. He looked somehow frustrated for the most part of the game when his game wasn’t what he wanted
Lichtsteiner: 6.5 Replaced Vidal in the 62nd minute as Allegri decided to change formation and found himself in the perfect position to score the second goal.
Padoin: 6.5 Came in for Evra and made an immediate impact by providing Pogba with a great cross at the second goal. Very active on the left for the 20 minutes he played
Pepe: N/A Replaced Pereyra late in the game.
Allegri: 6 He definitely has Pogba to thank for paving the way to victory with his solo effort. Up until then, it was the same old story of Juventus trying hard but not managing to open up stubborn defences. Changing to 3-5-2 was a good decision for it was easier to defend the lead and also gave Lichtsteiner the chance to score his goal.
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