For most of the summer, we wondered what Juventus were going to do to replace the anticipated return to replace their No. 9 for the past two seasons, Alvaro Morata. He, of course, always had the chance to return to Real Madrid, a scenario that was always going to hang over his head because buy-back clauses are basically the devil. That meant that not only was there going to need to replace him, but replace him in relatively quick order.
Well, as it turns out, Juventus’ current No. 9 is proving to be a pretty acceptable replacement. Yeah, he’ll do just fine.
Gonzalo Higuain pulled a classic David Trezeguet — quiet for pretty much the entirety of the match except for one defining and memorable moment. It was Higuain’s first-half goal that gave Juventus a 1-0 lead over Roma and then turned into the game-winning goal, as the five-time defending Serie A champions extended their lead at the top of the league over Roma to seven points.
This wasn’t a pretty game. Roma seemed to walk a fine line between having two players sent off because of all the yellow cards they got and giving Juventus’ players fits in the final 20 minutes or so. As much as we wanted Juventus to get a second goal and ease some of the pressure off both the defense and our collective blood pressure, that never arrived. That meant it was a grinder the rest of the way.
Luckily for all of us, Juventus’ defense has been playing pretty well lately.
And what do you know? In a record-breaking 25th straight Serie A win at Juventus Stadium, it was a 1-0 win — Max Allegri’s favorite kind of result, remember? — with a shutout and the summer’s big signing proving to the be guy who made the difference in the scoreline.
Yep, Higuain scored the goal, and Juventus got the win because of it. What do they say about big players making big plays in big games? It certainly wasn’t Higuain’s best game in a Juventus shirt, but he certainly came up big in one of the biggest moments there was on Saturday night.
7— Massimiliano Allegri (@OfficialAllegri) November 26, 2016
I don’t care if that tweet is from a few weeks back. After the Roma win, there’s only one number that matters to me. It’s seven, and that’s how many points Juventus are up thanks to Higuain’s goal and some really, really good defending.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Gonzalo Higuain is so good at this game oh my god.
- Really pleased with what Tom Selleck has been able to do in the Juventus goal his last couple of appearances. Especially at his age, you know? Underrated signing, IMHO.
- East and fast knee-jerk reaction: Daniele Rugani is my Man of the Match. If it were up to me, I’d tack on another seven or eight years on that new contract of his because he has been absolutely fantastic since he stepped into the starting lineup. His clearances were timely and fundamental in Juventus holding onto the lead — especially in the second half. Along with Giorgio Chiellini, Rugani just played a huge role in shutting down one of the hottest goal scorers in Serie A and maybe Europe as a whole. That’s the latest sign of just how good Rugani is despite being 22 years old still. (SERIOUSLY, RUGANI IS 22 YEARS OLD, YOU GUYS.)
- Easy and fast knee-jerk reaction: This was one of Stefano Sturaro’s best games since he was flying through the air to deny James Rodriguez in the Champions League semifinals a couple of years ago. He’s never going to be somebody like Miralem Pjanic on the ball, I think everybody can see that by now. But this was the kind of game where Sturaro could thrive in — brute force, lots of physicality and lots of running around defending needed. He did all of that, and did so pretty effectively. Sturaro proved Allegri’s continued faith in him to be the right call on Saturday night.
- If it wasn’t for Wojciech Szczesny, Sturaro has a pair of goals, he is a much bigger part of this post-game thread and Juventus wins 3-0, not 1-0.
- Mario Mandzukic, again, proved why he’s one of the best defenders in Serie A. That’s funny because he’s listed as a striker, yet how many times over the past month have we been sitting in front of our televisions and/or laptops applauding Mandzukic for something he did in the defensive half of the field. He’s in some kind of form right now, and it’s helping pretty much every aspect of his game.
- As good as Rugani and Sturaro were, it was the exact opposition for Juan Cuadrado after he came on for Pjanic in the second half. Good thing Roma weren’t able to do anything while playing up a man for such an extended period of time.
- Juventus finished with 100 points in Serie A in the 2016 calendar year. Let me check if that’s pretty good...yeah, that’s pretty good.