When Martin Caceres equalised for Hellas Verona exactly two-thirds of the way into the game, the beIN Sports commentators put Juventus in the same hypothetical circle as Roma — a side who, earlier that day, had toyed with its prey for too long, a penchant for sadism that bit them in the end when Sassuolo tied the game at Stadio Olimpico.
Granted, the similarities were there: Serie A giant versus bottom-table dweller, a first-half goal the only thing lifting the former over the latter for much of the game.
But whereas Roma couldn’t put away the final blow — well, they did in one sense, but had two goals called back ... long live VAR! — Juventus emphatically did not allow the same to happen.
Paulo Dybala made sure of that — twice.
Of course, the brace came at a heck of a time for the Bianconeri’s No. 10 — transfer rumors, “personal issues,” “fitness issues,” shoe issues, all sorts of issues. For one night, at least, the young Argentine put all of the rumored issues to rest.
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- Did anyone actually play poorly for Juventus? Gonzalo Higuain played extremely well, but didn’t score. I know, I know, he’s a striker and should be scoring those chances ... Rodrigo Bentancur certainly wasn’t Miralem Pjanic, but wasn’t dreadful by any standard of measure. It was a good game!
- Advanced statistics tell me Blaise Matuidi ran exactly 456.78 miles against Hellas Verona, and he earned himself another goal for the Energizer Bunny-like buzz he always brings to the pitch. But like Medhi Benatia at times, Matuidi committed a somewhat grievous gaffe, and Juve’s almost single defensive blunder led to a goal (unlike against Roma). Ah well, it turns out the players are only human.
- Milan earned a point! Good for them.
Onto the awards:
For a notable demonstration in both grit and flair.
I have decided to give Stephan Lichtsteiner the Lingotto award — pretty appropriately named, given Juve’s FIAT ties — for two reasons.
The first is because I have long ragged on the Swiss Menace for his sup-par play, and although he has deserved a fair amount of criticism for his consistently “meh” play, I also have probably unfairly released some repressed rage vis-a-vis Juve’s general fullback situation on him. Or something.
The second is for his assist on Dybala’s first goal. Sure, the pass was nice, but what was really nice was what happened just before the pass. When the ball trickled to the top of the box, Lichtsteiner, who had just made a run, hustled his ass off to get back onside and take the elegant through-ball from Sami Khedira — he lives! — and then he subsequently created the assist.
So many times, you see players not hustle, not get back onside. It’s infuriating every time, and I’m sure there would have been more goals scored in the universe if players hustled as much as good old Stephan Lichtsteiner.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
The second goal needed exactly two human beings to get the ball from one end of the pitch to the back of the net on the other end.
Giorgio Chiellini made a roving move forward, and launched a pretty damn nice pass straight to Dybala.
La Joya received on his chest, took a few brilliant touches, and pushed with pace forward. His head down, Paulo was going for goal the entire time. But even without his eyes up, Paulo seemed to know exactly where each defender was, where the goalie was, and what everyone was thinking: if he gets it on his left foot, we’re finished.
Instead of using his left foot to shoot, he used it with a dramatic deke to guide the ball to his right foot — he has one! — with which, quite improbably, he scored both goals of his well-earned brace.