How many times has Gianluigi Buffon been Juventus’ hero this season? How many times has he shouted his lungs out at his teammates during matches? With the risk of pointing out the obvious, Buffon is pretty much the reason why the Old Lady is not finding herself in an even worse position in Serie A. Without his magnificent saves, the Champions League knockout stages wouldn’t be just one point away.
For all the heat and criticism Max Allegri is getting, he is doing a rather good job with the actual Juventus. In a difficult season of transition from a squad characterized by harmony towards an almost completely new squad for which inconsistency has been the defining word so far, finding out a scapegoat in the person of Allegri was the easiest thing to do. But overlooking the many individual mistakes – the whole lot of individual mistakes – that have marred the results so far is not entirely sensible.
Allegri has made them as well when shuffling the starting line-up and formations like a deck of cards. But seeing an experienced defender like Giorgio Chiellini swinging what is supposed to be his stronger left foot like a primitive man would swing his cudgel in search of his prey is painfully – not even as a Juventino, but as a supporter of the game of football. It becomes even more so when, in the same match, another player supposed to keep his cool and create something in the final third goes flying in with a two-footed challenge for a ball that was never going to be his.
The list could go on for a while and would include the previous games but also Alvaro Morata leaving his team with 10 men on the pitch for three minutes for having to change his socks. But despite all that, this season has not been as bad as the tifosi perceived it. With the right attitude, Christmas time could be a very enjoyable period – not just because of all the mulled wine and select dishes, but also for having Juventus just a few points off the first spot.
Even considering the huge advantage of finishing first in the group Champions League seems like an affair ready to be put to bed until February. Second place is more than enough to get you to the last 16 and beyond that, just like last year’s experience taught us all. Focus shall then be on the Serie A, where a big game away at Empoli awaits. Immediately afterwards, the much-loved international break is again welcomed.
Whether it is going to be a good timing or not, the Milan-Manchester City double will let us know.
Juventus came close to open the scoring inside five minutes after a set piece taken by Paulo Dybala from the right but after the defence cleared the first ball in, Alvaro Morata couldn’t keep the rebound on target.
The host had the first real opportunity of the game in the 14th minute when Mahmoud Dahoud controlled a ball outside Juventus’ area and then sent a piled river straight against the crossbar, leaving Buffon reactionless.
It was a sign of things to come as Monchengladbach opened the scoring a few minutes later. Chiellini completely missed a clearance inside the 16-yard box and Fabian Johnson took full advantage of it after Raffael played him in one-on-one with Buffon. The American winger gave Juventus’ veteran goalkeeper no chance with a neat finish at the far post.
The Germans continued to press on after the goal and Buffon was forced into making a couple of saves to keep the scoreline within reach for Juventus as Ibrahima Traore and Havard Nordtveit both tried their luck with shots from distance.
Chiellini was close to made up for his mistake at the goal conceded in the 26th minute when his header from a corner kick taken by Dybala went inches wide of the far post.
With 10 minutes left to play in the first half, weak long-distance attempts from Dybala and Hernanes could do little to change the score in favour of the Old Lady, who struggled to link more than a few passes together and threaten Yann Sommer’s goal.
Thirty nine minutes in, Evra leaped over the hosts’ defence following a set piece delivered into the box by Dybala but his magnificent header was pushed behind for a corner kick by a full-stretched Sommer.
Lichtsteiner levelled the scoreline a minute before time with a delicious first-time volley that went in off the far post, after Paul Pogba chipped in a similar wonderful ball over the German defence line. A goal reminiscent of the times Pirlo-Lichtsteiner used to be one of the most used paths in Juventus’ game.
Juventus started the second half in the same attacking mood as they finished the first and Pogba came inches away from scoring when his curled effort went just of Sommer’s left-hand post.
The Bianconeri were controlling the game and pushing for another goal when Hernanes received a straight red for a two-footed challenge on Alvaro Dominguez in the 53rd minute.
Johnson almost put the hosts upfront once again in the 64th minute but he couldn’t keep his first-time volley from inside the area on target. Moments later, a deflected shot of Dahoud put Buffon to the test once again, but the keeper managed to keep hold of the ball.
After Andrea Barzagli replaced Morata, Juventus spent the final quarter of an hour defending the result, with Monchengladbach coming close to scoring on a couple more occasions but Buffon proved his world class quality on both situations, saving a point for the Italians.
Buffon: 8 Could to little to stop Jonhnson’s shot, but was magnificent every time Monchengladbach tested him, single-handedly saving the game for Juve
Lichtsteiner: 7 Fabulous goal from the Swiss Express on his return to football after a month out
Bonucci: 5.5 Mispositioned himself again in a couple of situations and had a shaky game overall
Chiellini: 5 Horrendous mistake to allow Johnson to score
Evra: 6 Missed a great chance in the first half but had a decent performance defensively
Marchisio: 5 Haven’t seen him
Sturaro: 5 Haven’t seen him either
Hernanes: 3 Sent off for a totally idiotic challenge
Pogba: 6.5 Really wasteful at times and gave the feeling he was trying too much, but a delightful assist.
Dybala: 6.5 Very lively upfront, delivered a few really good crosses and created chances for his teammates
Morata: 5.5 Poor performance from the Spaniard who rarely got involved effectively in any attacking moves
Cuadrado: 5.5 Came in for Dybala after the hour mark but had little impact on the game
Barzagli: s/v Replaced Morata with 15 minutes left to play
Lemina: s/v Late replacement for Sturaro
Allegri: 6 Juventus were completely outplayed in midfield and Allegri did little about it. A really good start in the second half came to nothing after Hernanes’ dismissal. Got the maximum out of the game in the end.