Gonzalo Higuain heard the cheers from the stands all of a couple of milliseconds after he got up off the bench to warm up for the first time on Saturday night. Juventus Stadium was certainly ready for the €90 million man to make his official Juventus debut no matter when he did get the chance to step onto the field.
It didn’t take long for those cheers to be turned up more than just a few decibel levels.
Just a mere eight minutes into his first game at Juventus Stadium as a Juventus player, Higuain proved to be the difference-maker that so many expect him to be for as long as his career in Turin may last, scoring the game-winning goal in Juve’s 2-1 win over Fiorentina to open the 2016-17 season. It was the immediate response that Juventus needed after seeing Fiorentina convert on their one and only true goal-scoring opportunity of the 90-plus minutes. And it was the goal that said, despite all of the cheeseburger and pizza jokes over the last couple of weeks, that Higuain can do exactly what Juventus brought him in to do.
Goal No. 1 is out of the way.
May there be many more from where that came from.
It was the response that Juventus needed after not only seeing their level of play dip off a bit following a dominant first half, but also after Fiorentina evened things up on their first — and what proved to be the only — shot on goal all game. All of those “Here we go again...” thoughts were on Twitter, lurking in the back of everybody’s mind and pretty much the general feeling with Juve pretty much allowing Fiorentina to hang around even though the difference between how the two teams were playing Saturday was far and wide.
Then came Higuian’s first heroic moment as a Juventus player.
It sure was what the doctor ordered. Juventus got a deserved win in the season opener. For at least one weekend we can say that this season’s start is sooooo much better than what we saw this time 12 months ago. (I feel pretty safe in saying that nobody wants to see that kind of start again, by the way.)
Just like how last season ended, Juventus is atop the table. Feels good, man.
You might not have been on the field for very long, Gonzalo, but you definitely played a pretty big role in Juventus making sure they didn’t stumble in the season opener for the second straight year.
Random thoughts and observations
- Juventus obviously did few things wrong against Fiorentina, but I have one question: Out of all the great central defenders Juve have, why was it Alex Sandro who was marking Kalinic on Fiorentina’s goal? I mean, Sandro is very good, but there are better — and taller — options.
- There were a lot of positives to come out of the season opener, and one of the biggest was the performance of Kwadwo Asamoah. How many times did we say during the Antonio Conte days “Gee, I wonder what Asamoah would be able to do in this team if here was playing a more central role...”? Well, obviously the context of things are completely different now compared to when he first arrived, but Asamoah’s showing against Fiorentina resembled that of a guy who’s trying to prove a point. He’s not a lock to start anymore, and with Claudio Marchisio still injured, there’s playing time to be had. If Asamoah continues to play like he did on Saturday, then he’ll be in the starting lineup more often than not.
- That leads us to Mario Lemina, who is another one of those midfielders who is going to be vying for playing time in Marchisio’s absence. Just like Asamoah, Lemina was easily one of Juventus’ best players Saturday night. Simply because of his injury and who was ahead of him in the pecking order last season, we didn’t get to see him play as a deep-lying midfielder all too much. With Miralem Pjanic not 100 percent to play, Max Allegri chose to go with Lemina in front of the defense — and it worked wonderfully. That’s the kind of talent and performance that makes you think Lemina should stick around this team for years to come. No wonder Juve have reportedly taken him off the market. (If he ever truly was...)
- It’s still pretty amazing that Juventus were able to sign Sami Khedira on a free transfer last summer. Watching him play, you can clearly see why he’s one of the best around. His goal, coming off a Giorgio Chiellini cross (!!!), was perfectly executed. Just everything about Khedira’s game was on point against Fiorentina. As he likes to say, “Good, very good.” Well done, pool boy.
- Anybody else notice how often Leonardo Bonucci was using his left foot against Fiorentina? He can be such a showoff sometimes. (Never change, though, Leo.)
- New Juventus goalkeeper kit power rankings: Black, green, orange. Then again, Gigi Buffon — who had next to nothing to do sans Fiorentina’s goal — can pull off any of them. He’s pretty stylish regardless.
- This season’s first game > Last season’s first game. That’s the kind of expert analysis you’ve all come to expect from us at BWRAO.