For the vast majority of the first half Wednesday night, it felt like the old Bob Dylan song. Juventus were knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door, only to see Federico Marchetti become the world's greatest goalkeeper against them again. Shot after shot was being hurled toward the Lazio goal, only to see Marchetti save it or the ball go whizzing by without testing anybody.
Then, seven minutes before halftime, Mario Mandzukic put Juventus ahead.
Then, Lazio saw Patric sent off and went down to 10 men.
Then, Paulo Dybala happened, and the flood gates opened up shortly thereafter.
Once Juventus cracked the code when it came to scoring goals against Lazio, it was full steam ahead. Throw in the fact that Lazio didn't do much of anything going forward in the second half — a lot of that because they were down to 10 men about two minutes after halftime — and you have a recipe for what ended up happening for Juventus.
The first half was a bit different, of course. Lazio actually looked dangerous. The tempo was high and at times it was end-to-end stuff with both teams having chances to grab the game's first goal. But Mandzukic's goal, his nine in Serie A this season, seemed to do a couple of things beside . For one, it allowed Juventus to settle down a bit and not try to force the issue with Marchetti doing what he was doing between the sticks. And, maybe more importantly, they were able to slow Lazio's roll a little bit with a goal less than 10 minutes before halftime.
The Lazio team that was there before the goal and after the goal was on opposite ends of the equation.
It allowed Juve to not just take the lead, but put a foot down in the second half. Because of it, the lead atop Serie A is back to plus-9 with now five games to go. Only four more points before No. 34 is officially in the hands of Juventus.
This team is so much. It has so much potential. And it's games like this one, no matter if the opponent has 11 men or 10 men on the field at any given time, that continues to remind you of that. Good times, good times.
Random thoughts and observations
- Since he's now forced to sit out for the next six months or so, Claudio Marchisio has become one of us. Not just a fan of his favorite team, but also one who livetweets about it during games. Just like us, Claudio is a Paulo Dybala fanboy. Not that it should surprise anybody.
- Dybala and Paul Pogba are just a couple of DBZ nerds.
- So am I going to pat myself on the back for mentioning in the match prewview that Dybala has been struggling with his goal-scoring form in his last handful of appearances and then Paulo subsequently going out and grabbing a brace? Of course I am. You're welcome — again.
That makes 16 Serie A goals this season for La Joya. He trails only one player when it comes to the league leaderboard, and that's Gonzalo Higuain. I'm pretty sure that Dybala won't be getting any stupid red cards in the next few games, too.
- Oh, and one last Dybala tidbit: His second goal against Lazio was the first time he's scored a goal with his right foot in Serie A. It wasn't a bad finish, either, so bravo on that, Paulo.
- Think about all the really good saves Marchetti made and then
- Allegri, as expected, played Stephan Lichtsteiner against Lazio. So does that mean he will play Juan Cuadrado against Fiorentina over the weekend? Max might be trying to hit the Ex Effect jackpot right now.
- Alex Sandro against Lazio: Four tackles, three interceptions, seven crosses sent in.
God, he's so much fun to watch. And when you talk about players that have so much potential, I think it's pretty clear that Sandro is in that group of future building blocks.
- Gigi Buffon had one save to make, then he pretty much took the entire second half off against Lazio. He's got another clean sheet at home to his name. It's almost so many in a row that it's hard to keep track of at this point. (It's nine straight in case you're curious.)
- Sami Khedira is good, and I like when he's healthy and playing well. He's such a stalwart in the midfield for this team.
- Did Hernanes pull a Marchisio and have a quiet but effective game? I can't seem to make up my mind on this one right now.
- Plus-9 is cool. I'll leave you with that.