It wasn't entertaining, but Juventus at last achieved their second Serie A victory in a row. The Bianconeri visited Tuscany to face an extremely combative Empoli. The Azzurri hadn't lost in their last three matches prior to their meeting with the Old Lady on Sunday afternoon.
Max Allegri employed a classic 4-3-3 formation, using the trident in attack of Juan Gillermo Cuadrado, Mario Mandzukic and Álvaro Morata. Empoli coach Marco Giampaolo — who took the place of Maurizio Sarri over the summer — implemented his customary 4-3-1-2, featuring his young star Riccardo Saponara as the trequartista.
The first minutes of the game were characterized by series of errant touches from both teams. Juventus tried to open Empoli defense with individual efforts; however the Tuscan side repelled the attacks appropriately.
On the quarter-hour, Sami Khedira located Mandzukic on the edge of Empoli's box, and the Croatian brought down the ball brilliantly and assisted Paul Pogba. The Frenchman's thundering volley passed few yards over the bar.
Four minutes later, Leonardo Bonucci executed a terrible pass; Massimo Macarrone took advantage of the Italian central defender's mistake and shot efficiently into the right bottom corner beating Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. Juventus once again needed to come from behind if they wanted to get all three points.
In the 32nd minute, Juventus equalized. After a timid attack, Empoli failed to clear the danger from their own box; Khedira returned the ball to a hazardous place with a header, then Mandzukic found the back of the net with a brave slide.
Six minutes later, Cuadrado executed a curled corner that found Patrice Evra waiting in the penalty spot. The diminutive left back scored with a great header despite the diving effort of Empoli keeper Lukasz Skorupski.
Two minutes after halftime, Saponara fed Maccarone, leaving the veteran one-on-one with Buffon. The Juventus captain won the duel stealing the ball from the Empoli's attacker. After that Juventus controlled the tempo of the game, the bianconeri didn't look dangerous; nonetheless they cooled Empoli. In this regard, Max changed to a 3-5-2 formation, when he replaced Cuadrado with Giorgio Chiellini at the 68th minute.
At 84th minute, Paulo Dybala sealed the victory for Juventus. After a shot from Mandzukic smashed the right post, La Joya — who entered to the game for Morata — recovered the rebound and scored cleverly. It's fair to say that this goal shouldn't have counted because Stephan Litchtsteiner was offside and he began the play when he forced a spectacular save by Skorupski.
Juventus showed a lot of calm and experience in this one, the Carlo Castellani stadium isn't an easy place to visit and sometimes is necessary to just win.
Buffon 6.5 He couldn't do nothing about Empoli score; yet he saved his side again, winning the one-on-one against Maccarone. The referee showed him a yellow card for a head -scratching foul just outside the penalty box.
Lichtsteiner 7 We missed you, Swiss Express. He was a constant menace in the right wing and a great presence in defense.
Barzagli 7 Solid as always. He had a nice game overall.
Bonucci 5.5 His poor passing put his side in troubles. Nevertheless, he rebounded and played a decent match after that.
Evra 7.5 Quietly the Frenchman is having another excellent season. He deserved to score long time ago. He's my man of the match.
Marchisio 7 Kept Saponara under control. A nice game by Il Principino whose presence and leadership is felt in the midfield.
Khedira 6.5 Assisted Mandzukic for the first Juve goal. He was a reference in the center of the pitch.
Pogba 6.5 A quiet effort by the Frenchman. He showcased some of his magic but he was more of a warrior in this game.
Cuadrado 6 Again, the speedy Colombian needs to make better decisions with the ball.
Mandzukic 7 A fighter in the pitch. He scored his second goal in serie A with great determination and was Juventus' reference on attack.
Morata 6.5 Failed to make an impact in the left flank. That said, he worked really hard on defense.
Chiellini 6.5 Entered for Cuadrado and helped his side to close the game. Fine cameo by Giorgio
Dybala 7.5 This kid is exceptional. As soon as he entered to the game Juventus had imagination. He scored calmly sealing the victory.
Padoin s/v Entered in the final minutes for Lichtsteiner.
Allegri 6.5 Made a great read of the game. He took a wise choice replacing Caudrado for Chiellini and switching his module.
THINGS I THINK I THINK
- At last Juventus win two in a row in Serie A!
- At last Juventus scored on a set piece!
- Again: Cuadrado and Dybala? Cuadrado or Dybala?
- Empoli have a better trequartista than Juventus?
- 'Padowin: The Human Victory Cigar' is back.