Every so often, Juventus plays a provincial team and get a tougher game than against some of the big boys. Sunday was another one of those days. Given an opportunity, once again, to extend our lead at the top over Roma to nine points, Juve (once again) flubbed their lines with an erratic display.
Juve were good at times, and woeful at other times. Yet, Juventus had the chance to take all three points against a very good Cesena side.
Cesena did not look like the team that's spent pretty much all of the season so far in the bottom three. Quite the contrary. They looked like a team at least in mid-table, pushing for a Europa League spot come end of the season. Their front three of Djuric, Defrel and the veteran Brienza caused no shortage of distress for Juve's back four all game. In particular, Leonardo Bonucci was constantly put through the ringer by both Defrel and Djuric. He especially had a tough time with the big Bosnian in the second half. The Seahorses also enjoyed some penetration from midfield by Ze Eduardo. Their left back, Renzetti, had a solid game generally keeping Lichtsteiner in check and put in the cross that led to their equalizer. If they keep playing like this, they may very well escape the drop.
A few positives to take from this match for Juve.
- On his 200th appearance in a Juve shirt, Claudio Marchisio put in a solid — if unspectacular — shift, also getting the go-ahead goal momentarily.
- Álvaro Morata was once again good, scoring and inadvertently assisting on Marchisio's goal.
- Despite not extending the lead over Roma, Juventus did not lose. And given the way Roma's results have been going lately — five draws in their last seven league games, yikes! — it's not looking likely that Juve's lead will be significantly chipped away soon.
- Fernando Llorente did not look as awful as he has for the most part this season. He did win the penalty; his initial attempt would have probably scored if it wasn't for the handball.
With Atalanta and then the big showdown against Dortmund in the next 10 days, Juve need to pick themselves up from this set back and get back on track. We cannot afford to slip up, especially in the second of those games.
At least we'll have Carlitos back against Atalanta...
There was a quick start to this game, with Marchisio getting a shot off right from kickoff, after some good work from Morata and Vidal. Moments later, a Pogba slip and giveaway to Cesena's undoubtedly best player Gregoire Defrel, resulted in a Cesena counter attack down Juve's right — something that would be a feature of the first half — with Defrel's shot forcing a good save from Gianluigi Buffon at his near post.
One minute later, nice one-touch passes between Arturo Vidal, Marchisio and Morata before a cross field pass out left by Vidal for Paul Pogba to control, cut inside and get a shot off, which was well smothered by Nicola Leali. Another minute later, poor control and a slip at the back by Bonucci — who had a poor first half — resulted in another chance for Defrel, but the Frenchman took too long on the ball and Buffon spread himself well to block his shot.
A couple minutes after that chance, Cesena broke down Juve's right again — with Bonucci caught out of position — with Ze Eduardo getting to the box unchallenged before shooting straight at Buffon.
All these chances by the home side were a sign of things to come, as shortly after that Ze Eduardo chance, Cesena deservedly took the lead. Another giveaway in midfield, this time by Andrea Pirlo, led to a 2-on-1 counterattack with Defrel leading the way before sliding a pass across for his strike partner Djuric to coolly finish under Buffon. Cesena had their tails up and continued to attack. On twenty-two minutes, a Vidal giveaway in midfield led to a Cesena counter attack led by Brienza, however his cross for Djuric couldn't be controlled by the Bosnian Ibra lookalike.
Juve finally got a great chance, and it resulted in a goal. Pogba, who was a spectator up to this point, put in a brilliant cross from the left into the box and Morata ghosted in between two Cesena defenders to nod home past Leali at the near post. Not long after, Juve took the lead — this time it was Cesena with the costly error. A throw in was nodded on by Morata, and with two defenders going towards the ball and getting in each other's way, Marchisio made the late run and got to the ball first, just prodding home past Leali. What a way for Il Principino to celebrate his 200th appearance in a Juve shirt.
There weren't many other chances in the first half. The last one of meaning came in the forty-forth minute; a counter attack for Juve started and ended by Pirlo resulted in a shot just wide of Leali's upright. 2-1 to Juve at the half.
The second half didn't kick off with the same frenetic pace as the first but Cesena again started on the front foot. Defrel blew past Ogbonna but his dangerous cross missed everyone. Another sweeping move by Cesena resulted in a chance for Brienza, but his shot went high and wide of the near post. Cesena were enjoying more possession in this half and were growing in stature. They eventually made this pay off in the seventieth minute. A cross from the left was nodded on by Djuric for the wide-open and increasingly dangerous Brienza, who volleyed home from the edge of the area. It was no less than Cesena deserved, as they had pegged Juve back for most of the second half so far.
On 76 minutes, Djuric turned Bonucci — who continued his poor form from the first half - but his finish was poor, sending a bouncing shot straight into Buffon's arms.
With 10 minutes to go, it seemed like Juve were going to take all three points back to Turin. Llorente controlled a cross in the box with his back to goal, but his overhead kick was blocked by the outstretched arm of Lucchini — penalty to Juve! Cesena were incensed with this, and their coach Mimmo Di Carlo was sent to the stands for his protests. It seemed a pretty clear penalty to me, but what do I know? Vidal stepped up to the penalty and sent Leali the wrong way. .. but dragged his penalty well wide, much to the delight of Cesena — and Roma fans — everywhere!
Buffon: 6 Was busier than he usually is against teams like Cesena, but barring the two goals conceded, he put in typically solid shift. Could not be faulted for either of the goals.
Lichtsteiner: 5 Caught out of position a few times in the first half, he picked up a typically silly yellow near the end of the first forty-five. Never really threaten offensively.
Bonucci: 4 A poor performance by Bonucci, who had been pretty solid for most of the season. Usually the better of the defensive partnership, Leo was regularly caught out of position in the first half and was at fault for a number of the chances created by Cesena. Had a very hard time containing Djuric in the second half.
Ogbonna: 5 His lack of pace was exposed on a few occasions by Cesena's flying Frenchman Gregoire Defrel. His performance was not as error-laden as Bonucci's, but he was not significantly better. Definitely did not make a strong case for permanently replacing Chiellini in the starting lineup.
Evra: 5.5 Possibly the best of Juve's defenders on the night — which, frankly, isn't saying much. He was more effective than Lichtsteiner going forward, putting in a few dangerous crosses. Was involved in both goals, supplying the throw in which led to the second. Was unfortunately mismatched and manhandled by Djuric on Cesena's second goal.
Marchisio: 6.5 A solid shift by Claudio on his 200th appearance. Ghosted in late to get his second goal of the season for 2-1. Unfortunate that it did not lead to all three points.
Pirlo: 5 One of Pirlo's poorer performances this season. His giveaway led to Cesena's first goal. Only slightly improved after that disaster.
Pogba: 5 Put in a sublime cross for Morata's goal, but did not do much else. Should have been hooked sooner if we're being honest.
Vidal: 5.5 Not a bad performance by King Arturo, but showing once again that playing behind the strikers probably isn't his best role. And, of course, blew the chance to give us the three points with his penalty miss.
Morata: 7 A goal and an assist, couldn't have asked for much more from young Alvaro. Still tries to do too much at times, but showing more and more why Juve spent €20M for Real's benchwarmer.
Llorente: 5.5 Not a bad performance by the big man, and won the penalty with an inventive overhead kick (that may have scored if not for the handball). Still, much improvement is needed in his game. He may get another start against Atalanta if Allegri's rests players for the Dortmund game, but unless he gives a MOTM performance in that game, it will be back to the bench for Fernando.
Pereyra: N/A Was on the field for 15 minutes, but really did not do anything worth rating.
Coman: N/A Replaced Vidal with only two minutes to go.
Pepe: N/A Replaced Llorente with only two minutes to go.
Allegri: 5.5 Allegri may not be to blame for Juve's poor start to the first half, but when Cesena took a foothold in the game in the second half, he took too long to make changes that could have got Juve back into the driver's seat. I can't help but think that Pogba should have come off earlier; while I understand he has been in great form lately and you would be reluctant to drop a player when he's hot, it just did not seem like his day today. Vidal playing behind the strikers is also not working, and it's time to change it up.
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