As Arturo Vidal stepped up to the spot with the game on the line, I was confident about how things would turn out. For as much as he's struggled this season, his penalty-taking ability has still been pretty much on point. And it's not like history would tell us otherwise since Vidal put on a Juventus jersey. He has been as money from the penalty spot as money gets.
Then ... poof! Nicola Leali went flying the wrong way, opening up over half of a goal for Vidal to easily slide in the go-ahead goal with less than 10 minutes of regular time remaining. That goal never happened, with Vidal's shot never being on target and whizzing past the left goal post.
If there was ever one single moment that was a microcosm of Vidal's 2014-15 season, one that has been filled with struggles and inconsistency, this was it. And because Juventus played with fire, they got burned, failing to take advantage of Roma's scoreless draw against last-place Parma with a 2-2 decision on the road at Cesena.
Of course, Vidal wasn't the only one to play a key role in the loss. It's actually ironic because Vidal was actually pretty playing pretty well in the opening 45 minutes. But as good as Gianluigi Buffon was in the game, so many others were just ... not very good at all. Some folks would probably say Max Allegri's assessment of it being "a poor night" might be an understatement based on how things went. Leonardo Bonucci struggled to do anything right, Angelo Ogbonna was far from his best, and Andrea Pirlo was completely off his best.
Cesena, much to their credit, didn't pull the old park-the-bus tactic with Italy's No. 1 team in town. They attacked Juventus, and for a large portion of the game, they were the much more dangerous side. Sure, Juventus played poorly, but it's not like Cesena was just sitting back and doing nothing.
Their attacking ways were the reason way Juventus' often-shaky defense Sunday night truly struggled to ever find its footing. That allowed Cesena to grab an equalizer on Franco Breinza's fifth goal of the season.
If only Vidal had made that penalty, though. Man, if only.
Random thoughts and observations
- Dammit. Just dammit.
- Juventus could have easily dropped all three points against Cesena if it wasn't for the three huge saves Buffon made in the first half. All of them came in the first 15 minutes, too, which is a pretty good indication of just how fast Cesena jumped on Juventus.
- I know he played well in the first half, but I'm starting to grow tired of seeing Vidal play behind the two strikers. I can understand Allegri's reluctance to change things up because there's not a natural trequartista on the roster, but where have Vidal's best games come this season? In his natural position in the midfield. So ...
- ... if that means sending Andrea Pirlo to the bench for a couple of games, I wouldn't be opposed to it. Pirlo hasn't been very good this season, and his sloppy turnover led to Cesena's opening goal in the first half. It's not like Pirlo's form right now is telling us he has to play, regardless of how Allegri feels about the maestro's role in the team these days.
- Another goal and assist from Álvaro Morata. Throw out how Juventus played as a team, it's fun to see a young player really come into his own and find a great run of form. That's exactly what Morata is doing these days. He's got six goals and four assists in just 782 Serie A minutes this season. I'd say that's being pretty productive.
- Regardless of how Juventus played, Claudio Marchisio scoring the game-winning goal on his 200th Serie A appearance would have been a wonderful thing to write about. Unfortunately, Juve's defense had to cough up a lead and kill a post-game thread full of Marchisio praise. I would have liked that.
- Coming off a game like this, I'm wondering just how many players Allegri will rest against Atalanta with Borussia Dortmund waiting in the wings a few days later. Paul Pogba could probably use a rest, same with Vidal and a couple other players. We'll see. Allegri has shown he isn't afraid to rotate the squad, that's for sure.
- Still plus-7. After a game like that, it definitely could be worse. Although, it also could have been better. Oh well.
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