Piece of cake, right? Well, not really. Not anything close to it.
Juventus had wonderful scoring chances, but didn't take advantage of them as we continuously pounded our heads against the table. Monaco had quality scoring chances in their own right, but got stonewalled by rather legendary Juventus goalkeeper Gigi Buffon. The difference, as it turned out to be, was a second-half goal from the penalty spot courtesy of Arturo Vidal (which may or may not have been an actual penalty because of where the foul on Álvaro Morata took place).
.@chiellini: "Monaco defend deep and break on the counter. After a tough first 20 minutes, we then got into our stride and deserved to win."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 14, 2015
Juventus needed all of the patience Max Allegri talked about in the pre-match press conference simply because of how they started out the game. It was a struggle without a doubt, and Juve could have easily fell behind Monaco because of how dangerous the French side's counterattack was in the first half. Monaco was defending like madmen despite Juventus having a couple of very good scoring chances that Vidal and Carlos Tévez didn't take advantage of.
Monaco showed they belonged at this stage. They really did. They truly put Juve's defense under pressure on the counter, something they clearly set out to do from the onset.
That patience proved vital — and because of it Juventus are heading to France with a slim 1-0 lead on aggregate. Allegri's squad was able to recover after the shaky start that saw Monaco pepper Buffon's goal.
But Juve got Allegri's favorite result. Yep, a 1-0 win. There's just something about it that sits okay with me. Maybe it's the fact that Juventus have won most of those 1-0 games lately. (Don't say Parma over the weekend, that game never happened, remember?)
Random thoughts and observations
- That was a truly classic Arturo Vidal penalty conversion. It reminded me of his PK against Real Madrid a few seasons ago. When he strikes them well, the opposing goalkeeper has absolutely no chance. None.
- And, for that matter, it was a classic Arturo Vidal kind of game (outside of the scoring chances being skied into the stands, of course). I point to two instances in the second half with the ball in Juventus' defensive third as a prime example of that. Monaco is looking to get a cross off in the right corner as Stephan Lichtsteiner defends the ball. In comes Vidal, applies the pressure on defense, then picks the pocket of the Monaco player and starts a Juventus attack. It was essentially Vidal in a nutshell, the player we've come to love because of how hard he works during a game.
- Vidal is the Man of the Match for many, I'm sure, but it's hard not to give it to Buffon for the simple of the legendary keeper keeping Monaco off the scoreboard. His first save of the night came on what ended up being one of Monaco's best scoring chances.
I also like the little grin he got on his face after collecting an easy cross late in stoppage time. Almost like you could see the thought bubble and "You think you can beat me?" rising up above him at that moment.
- I laughed after the first half when the guy doing the halftime show here in the U.S. said Juventus were "dominating" Monaco because they had the vast majority of the possession. Sometimes misleading stats can be misleading. Just remember that.
- Vidal successfully converting the penalty kick eases the frustration a little bit, but Juventus sure did miss some wonderful chances, didn't they? It could have been much, much better than just a 1-0 win.
- This is where we talk about Andrea Pirlo and the up and down night he had.
My predicted lineup in the match preview was a 3-5-2 with the other Andrea, Andrea Barzagli, getting the start ahead of Pirlo. That's mainly because I have quite liked what the Vidal-Marchisio-Pereyra central midfield has been doing as of late. The pace and speed of that trio has been really, really good together, and the results in truly big games as of late back it up. Plus, it's a whole lot to put on Pirlo — regardless of his résumé — coming off a lengthy injury absence just to expect him to come in and be his usual self once again. And at times it showed. Pirlo's passing was off and the overall speed of Juve's game was different than those games during his absence.
But the pass he sent over the top to Morata right before the decisive penalty was called is why Pirlo is on the field. He's able to make a moment of magic with one of his slick passes and change the game a few seconds later.
- Patrice Evra had some huge tackles Tuesday night. He's quietly been a steady performer and far from the complete liability I worried he might be when Kwadwo Asamoah was ruled out for an extended amount of time earlier this season.
- Remember all of those Juventus players who were in danger of missing the second leg if they picked up a yellow card Tuesday night in Turin? Well, we're all good. Not one Juve player was shown a yellow.
- Alessandro Matri and Stefano Sturaro were two of Juventus' three subs used in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. Just like we all thought when this season began, right? Yuuuuuup.
- Dimitar Berbatov's substitute appearance reminded us all about how he kinda-almost-but-not-really-sort-of-then-didn't join Juventus a couple of summers ago. That was fun.
- Is a 1-0 lead the perfect thing to have happen in the first leg? No, but it definitely could have been worse because of all those nerve-wracking as Monaco came storming forward on the counterattack.