Juventus had a pretty calm week by all intents and purposes. Sami Khedira's suspension being upheld was minor news and the team seemed to have been training calmly. Milan, on the other hand, is a different story. In the last five games, they had won one game, drawn three, and lost one. So, needless to say, Milan manager Sinisa Mihajlovic was under pressure to perform.
Based on these situations you would have thought that Juventus had the game in the bag, but this was not the case.
Max Allegri lined up with his tried and tested 3-5-2 with the usual suspects at the back, except for Daniele Rugani covering for the injured Giorgio Chiellini (BRB? BBR? what are we going to call them?). In the middle of the park Juventus had Stephan Lichtsteiner, Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchisio, Kwadwo Asamoah and Alex Sandro. The attack was led by Alvaro Morata and Mario Mandzukic. Allegri's choice in midfield was a little surprising to me, because it forced Pogba to play on the right, a side in which he hasn't played since the early Anotnio Conte days. Moreover, it paired Sandro with Asa for the first time ever (I am pretty sure). I thought it would have been Stefano Sturaro to take over from the suspended Khedira. This wouldn't have affected the Sandro-Pogba pairing, which I am really enjoying, and I don't think the Lichtsteiner-Sturaro pairing would have been poor.
Nevertheless, I don't get paid millions of dollars to make these decisions, so what do I know.
The game was really strange. In the first few minutes Juventus seemed to be pegging Milan back, but they were not being incisive enough. On the other hand, Milan seemed to create chances out of nowhere. Then it became clear that Juventus were not pegging Milan back, instead they were allowed to move forward up to a point in which Milan's pressing became relentless. This type of game really caught our players off guard, and Milan ended up having the best chances. And here is where the Gigi Buffon show began.
Buffon saved a cross from Ignazio Abate and a free kick from Mario Balotelli. Unfortunately, no matter how good Buffon was, he was unable to stop a powerful Alex header from a corner. I've watched the replays a few times and I don't know who to blame here. Rugani was the closest, but it appears as though Barzagli was covering Alex when the corner was taken. No matter what, it is unacceptable that five Juventus defenders cannot cover three Milan players.
Juventus started to press a little higher and had a couple good chances. Then, 26 minutes into the match, Buffon launched a ball forward that would make Andrea Pirlo proud, and after a couple of exchanges between our front men, Mandzukic was left alone in front of Gigi Donnarumma. The Croatian didn't miss and made it 1-1. Juventus had the better chances after that but couldn't score before the ref blew the whistle.
In the second half the team came out strong, but it was Buffon again who will save the day. After 50 minutes of play, Balotelli took not one, but two shots from close range. Superman was there to stop him. It took an outstretched arm for the disgraced Italian forward to put it in the net. Fortunately for us, the ref saw right through that. At the 60 minute mark Pogba took a great free kick, but was denied by the upright. Five minutes later, the Frenchman would celebrate his seventh Serie A goal.
The goal deflated Milan. The Rossoneri tried, but were too tired to do what they did in the first half, and Juventus would shut everything down that came their way. Now Juventus keep their lead against Napoli based on their 3-0 win over Hellas Verona on Sunday.
Buffon 8.0 He stopped almost everything today, some of those saves were double saves. If Neto wants a starting spot he better hand in his transfer request.
Barzagli 6.0 Pretty solid at the back but I can see him being partly at fault for the goal.
Bonucci 6.5 Didn't do anything wrong but also didn't do anything worth noting.
Rugani 6.0 Same thing as Barzagli.
Lichtsteiner 6.5 As always, he was solid defensively, but left something to be desired up front. His decision making could have been better a couple of times.
Pogba 7.0 Five tackles attempted, five successful tackles. Add to that the goal and it sounds pretty good. However, this game Pogba went missing for a whole half, and for that he looses a point in my books.
Marchisio 7.0 He did well covering the defense and organizing play. Elegant as always. He could have scored a goal from outside of the 18 yard box but Donnarumma saved it.
Asamoah 5.0 Terrible game from the Ghanian. He lost the ball, was caught out of position and didn't play well with Sandro. To top things off he got a yellow card for his troubles and walked off injured.
Sandro 6.0 He managed four tackles in this match but was really ineffective going forward. I think he has us so used to great displays that today he looked subpar despite having a decent game.
Manduzkic 7.0 After getting hit in the face, he played on and scored the tying goal. He seemed really bothered by that knock. Kudos to Alex who kept him quiet most of the match.
Allegri 6.0 Coaches live and die by their decisions and Allegri had one bad one — Asamoah. The experiment could have turned out great and Allegri could have received an 8, but instead it didn't pan out. Also, the team looked unprepared. He needs to make sure to keep the pressure high until the title is ours. Losing it at this stage would be ridiculous.
Things I think I think
- I have to say something about last week's headlines involving Sarri, Higuain, and Juventus. That kind of mentality can only hurt Serie A. If the tournament is a foregone conclusion for everyone then why watch, and most importantly why play the tournament
- Seeing Milan is like bumping into your friend from high school who is now a jobless alcoholic. Milan was one of the big teams that I really respect and I hope they come back at some point.
- Lichtsteiner has done so much for this shirt, being instrumental in every single trophy this team has won. With that being said, I think it is time to start looking ahead. We need someone else that has better crossing ability but take his defensive duties as seriously as the Swiss Express.
- Allegri is lucky that Milan did not punish Juve more with this starting lineup. Trying things like these in Europe can cost you the game.
- Juventus.com had a picture of the Buffon save from Balotelli's corner. The caption said, "Fill in the blank: Buffon last night was_______ . My favorite one was Buffon last night was himself.