Things have not come easy for Álvaro Morata this year. He's been played out of his natural position, he's battled arguably the longest and toughest goal-scoring spell of his young but accomplished career. It's been the exact opposite of how he played — at least when it comes to what he's done in front of goal — during the second half of his first campaign with Juventus.
Goal drought no longer.
Morata not only stomped out his goal-scoring slump, but announced his return in big-time fashion. Thanks to his brace on Wednesday night, Juventus were able to storm past arch-rivals Inter Milan 3-0 in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semifinal at Juventus Stadium. They now head into the second leg in March knowing that they've got one foot in the final where they'll be facing another Milan club or the storybook tale of the tournament out of Lega Pro, Alessandria.
And it was thanks to a classic kind of Morata game where he could have added a third before the final whistle was blown.
20 - Prior to tonight Alvaro Morata has not scored in his last 20 games (last goal against Bologna in October). Revive.— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) January 27, 2016
Or, for those of us who want an even more precise breakdown of how long Morata went without a goal...
Álvaro Morata: Morata's goal vs Inter tonight ends a baron run of 1,034 minutes without a goal for Juventus— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 27, 2016
That's a lot of minutes, folks. A lot of minutes to think about why things aren't like they were this time last season.
Yet even with the struggles, we've seen him continue to work his tail of no matter what kind of form he's in, so in that aspect, it's not surprising to see him dropping back into the defensive third and then go on storming runs forward. The only thing that was lacking in his game was what he did in front of goal and the confidence that surely comes with it.
He changed that with his first-half penalty — which was an absolute blast off his right foot, by the way — to give Juventus the lead they never relinquished. Then, with his spinning laser beam into the side netting to double the Juve lead.
This was the game he needed to get right. And when it comes against a team and defense that has allowed more than three goals in a game just once ALL SEASON, that has to do wonders for Morata's confidence. And as we learned about the young Spaniard last season, once one or two goals come, there's a good amount of them to follow.
Hopefully that's the case for Morata. Can you imagine an in-form Morata teaming up with Paulo Dybala as Juve's partnership up front in the not-so-distant future? Oh my god. Pray for every team Juventus will play.
Random thoughts and observations
- I wonder if Gary Medel played volleyball at any point of his childhood in Chile. He seemed decent at it in the first half on Wednesday night.
But don't worry, guys, it wasn't called a penalty. (That's a penalty all day, every day.)
- Juventus have won all six of their games in the calendar year of 2016. They've scored 14 goals in that span of time. They've allowed all of one goal (in the 2-1 win over Sampdoria). If you want a recipe for success, I would say that's a pretty good one to follow.
- Neto actually had to make a couple of saves against Inter. So much for just standing there and doing nothing like in his previous Coppa Italia appearances.
- Juan Cuadrado can be a frustrating player a good portion of the time. Cuadrado's skill set is what it is. But when he's flying down the right wing and burning opposing players like it's no big deal, it's pretty fun to watch. Max Allegri talks about how Cuadrado offers a special set of skills — no, not like the ones Liam Neeson talks about in Taken — that no other Juventus player has. He's got speed to thrill and give opposing defenses problems. So when Juve buy him this summer, I'm not going to be surprised.
- Here's the status of Inter's two starting center backs in the second leg come March 2...
Miranda? Suspended thanks to yellow card accumulation.
Jeison Murillo? Suspended thanks to a red card.
Throw in the fact that Andrea Ranocchia is about to head out the front door and over to Sampdoria when his transfer is completed in short order and, well, Inter is looking at a situation where Medel starts in the center of the defense come five weeks from now. That's exactly what you want to hear when you're down 3-0 after the first leg, right? (Nah.)
- Feelings. Lots and lots of feelings.
- Since we did it for Carlos Tévez on a regular basis, I guess we need to start doing the same thing for Paulo Dybala seeing as he's scoring goals EVERY DAMN TIME HE STEPS ONTO THE FIELD right now.
26 appearances in all competitions, 20 starts, 15 goals scored, 7 assists
God he's incredible.
- Not a bad way for Gigi Buffon to go into his birthday on Thursday. Happy No. 38, my friend.