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Juventus 2 - Dinamo Zagreb 0: Initial reaction and random observations

Juventus v GNK Dinamo Zagreb - UEFA Champions League Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

We haven’t seen Gonzalo Higuain celebrating many goals as of late. He’s celebrated his teammates’ goals, of course, but over the course of a 10-appearance span from the middle of October to this past weekend, Higuain’s only been able to find the back of the net all of two times.

That has since changed.

Higuain’s 51st-minute hammer of a shot after some fancy dribbling from Mario Lemina proved to be the difference maker, as Juventus wrapped up the top spot in Group H with a 2-0 win over the group’s last-place team, Dinamo Zagreb. It was the perfect timing after a relatively drab first half that saw Juventus create on a couple of scoring chances. But with Higuain at the ready, Juventus were able to shed any doubt about them locking up the top spot in Group H and coast to a win over a Dinamo Zagreb squad that didn’t score a single goal in their six group stage games this season.

Simply put, these are the kinds of games as to why Juve shelled out €90 million for him. Those are the kinds of goals that make the €90 million price tag look worth it.

There’s no a whole lot to say about a game where Juventus were on relative cruise control from the opening whistle to the very end. As much as this game had importance when it comes to where Juventus finish in the group, the relatively second-string lineup that Max Allegri fielded should have gotten the job done. Zagreb finished up the group stage with one of the worst goal differentials in the last decade. There wasn’t the massive amount of pressure like there was against Atalanta over the weekend. Sure, Juventus finished with 18 shots in the game, but I don’t know if a lot of people were sitting around say that the end product between the two games were all that comparable.

And thus is the beauty of having a player like Higuain on your team.

Lemina did a lot of the work and got a somewhat lucky bounce at the end of his dribbling, but Higuain making something out of something that was looking it might be nothing just speaks to his greatness. In just one movement, Higuain positioned his body perfect and unleashed an absolute bullet into the back of the net. That was exactly what Juventus needed — and probably eased a lot of nerves in the process.

Not a bad time to win your first game at Juventus Stadium in the group stage, I’d say.

That’s good, right? (Yeah, it is pretty damn good.)

  • Dinamo Zagreb had four teenagers in their starting lineup on Wednesday. During my 20 or so years as a Juventus fan, I can’t remember Juve ever doing that.
  • Claudio Marchisio wearing Juventus’ captain’s armband just makes so much sense. It’s one of those things that brings up lots of feelings. It’s not dusty in here, I swear.
  • Daniele Rugani is proving to be worthy of all the playing time he wants right before our very own eyes. The goals he’s scored in the last two games are just an added bonus, of course, but he’s just playing really, really good football overall. This is your reminder that Rugani won’t turn 23 years old until the end of July. That means that he’s still got a lot of room to grow as a player — which is a scary thought considering how good he already is.
  • I think it’s safe to say at this point that, based on the results right in front of us, that Lemina is much more effective in a Sami Khedira-like role in the midfield rather than being a deep-lying midfielder like Marchisio.
  • Paulo Dybala played all of about 10 minutes in his return to the field Wednesday night. He took three shots. I think it’s safe to say he had a little bit of impatience built up during his month or so on the sidelines. He also could have scored a couple of goals, too, which shows you just how ready to fire away he was.
  • And just in case you were wondering, yes, Dybala was sporting Marchisio’s shin guards against Dinamo Zagreb.
  • Just in case you were wondering, the last time Juventus played a Champions League game without Gianluigi Buffon starting in goal was back in 2008. The goalkeeper that night? One Alex Manninger.
  • (Insert joke about Sevilla and the Europa League here)
  • How about this for a relatively intense 24-hour stretch? Juventus travel over to their old stomping grounds at the Stadio Olimpico to face Torino in the first Turin derby of the season, then have the Champions League Round of 16 draw the very next day. A lot of things to happen over the weekend, that’s for sure.
  • Here are the seven teams Juventus can draw: PSG, Benfica, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Madrid and Porto. So, uh, yeah, please bounce around that salad bowl kindly, ping-pong balls.