It wasn't close to pretty in pink, but Juventus' defense certainly rose to the occasion when it was needed.
Juve needed every bit of its two-goal lead after 50 or so minutes. Not only did Sampdoria make it a game, but came within inches of tying the game milliseconds before the final second blew. But, thankfully for us, Daniele Rugani and Giorgio Chiellini are Juventus players, with the two defenders making huge plays in stoppage time to keep their team in front and allow them to win their ninth consecutive game in Serie A.
Was it Juventus' best performance after they got up 2-0 thanks to goals from Paul Pogba and Sami Khedira? Nah.
Should Juventus have put the game away when they had the chance in the second half? Yes, absolutely.
But guess what? Juventus is now in second place and just two points off the pace behind new league leaders and winter champions Napoli. Did you think that was possible at the end of the first half the way Juventus started the season? Man, this has been quite the eventful season already. And we still have five more months to go.
This is how Juventus' season has gone, though. Those grim and gloomy early-season moments are far, far, far into the past by now. Even though they only happened four or so months ago, that Juventus team isn't even close to being on the same level as this Juventus team. That one wasn't able to close out games, or even get the lead very often for that matter. This one,
It isn't easy, and they're winning games different kinds of ways, too. They've blown teams out, they've had to grind out wins and they've held on for dear life like they did against Sampdoria. That's how they did it last season in Max Allegri's first season, and they're doing again now. The cast of characters may be a little different, but Juventus is still being Juventus — and now that they've shaken they're early-season struggles, that's all we can ask of them.
Then again, here's a quicker version of the game summary if you want visual evidence.
Random thoughts and observations
- You want Álvaro Morata's season in a nutshell? That's what his missed header was early in the second half. It's just that kind of run for Morata. He's struggling on the field, he's struggling with confidence.
- What were we all worried about? Simone Padoin played, Juventus won. These two things go hand-in-hand. It's simple, simple science, folks.
- It's crazy how routine Paulo Dybala makes the incredible look sometimes. He made that assist to Khedira look so easy, but it wasn't easy at all. If you want the definition of threading the needle to pick out a teammate, then watch Dybala's fifth Serie A assist of the season over and over and over again. The importance of this 22-year-old striker nicknamed 'La Joya' can't be understated at this point of the season.
- Gigi Buffon made one save. It was important. Water is also wet.
- You need to look no further than the muck and dirt and who knows what all over Khedira's uniform to see the kind of effort he put in against Sampdoria. It might not have been the prettiest of games, but he certainly earned his paycheck Sunday night. And Juventus needed that with Claudio Marchisio watching the game back in Turin.
- It's not a surprise to some considering how highly he is rated, but Rugani has proven he can hang with the big boys. He's not going to rack up huge tackle totals because that's not his game. But man, his positioning and instincts are already so good and so smooth. And to see him doing this in a three-man defense, too, that's impressive.
- It's fun watching Chiellini when he's not doing stupid things. I mean, whenever he goes bumbling forward into the attacking third is kinda funny, but when he's the hard-nosed and badass defender who is preventing teams from doing much of anything on his side of the field, that's fun.
- Hernanes ... meh. That's all I gotta say about that.
- One more thing before we sign off for the day, I just want to say this: Hi there, Inter. There just seems to be a little company in second place as we hit the second half of the season next week. Good times.