Well, that’s going to have people talking.
Barely a week and a half after the city of Naples exploded after Juventus was awarded a pair of penalties, the red half of Milan has already similarly immolated itself after a close match between Juve and AC Milan was decided on a controversial penalty deep into stoppage time. Contentious as it was, referee Davide Massa was probably correct in awarding a penalty when Stephan Lichtsteiner’s cross deflected off the arm of Mattia De Sciglio. It was a close-range hit, but De Sciglio’s arm was definitely in an unnatural position, so the call was 100 percent correct. Hay will also be made about the added injury time. The penalty incident occurred 90 seconds after the minimum of four minutes that had gone up on the board, but a few injuries and a substitution in stoppage time probably caused Massa to let the game run for those vital seconds.
It was a crazy end to a game that looked like it was going to end in Juve’s second consecutive 1-1 draw. Medhi Benatia had put Juve ahead on the half hour from close range, but was canceled out two minutes before the half when Carlos Bacca finished off a strong counterattack.
Until then the story of the game was Gianluigi Donnarumma. The 18-year-old goalkeeper (it’s outrageous that this kid is going to be a teenager until the season after next) was in incredible form, making save after save after crazy save. When he turned aside a vicious volley by Gonzalo Higuain in the fifth minute of stoppage time, it looked like the cherry on top of the cake that kept Milan the point. But the ball didn’t get clear, and Lichtsteiner put in the final cross.
Juve’s performance was certainly an improvement over Sunday’s destitute performance in Udine, but there were still some wobbles. The passing at times was wonky, and there were some dangerous counters that Juve only managed to break up at the last moment. It didn’t help that Mario Mandzukic was a late scratch from the lineup after coming down with flulike symptoms.
The controversial result puts Juve 11 points up on Roma pending the giallorossi’s Sunday match with Palermo.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Benatia erased a lot of the good he did with his goal on Bacca’s equalizer. Why he stopped running and started squaring up Gerard Deulofeu while Bacca was still running is beyond me. He’s made some real howlers this season when he’s been on and Daniele Rugani really should be playing ahead of him at this point.
- Speaking of Bacca’s goal, using Andrea Barzagli as a right-back was interesting but ultimately a failure. It worked early last year when Massimiliano Allegri tried it for the Champions League game against Sevilla, but that formation modulated from 4-3-3 to 3-5-2 depending on the situation. As a straight full-back in this 4-2-3-1, it doesn’t work. He can’t keep up with wingers like Deulofeu at this point in his career. It was smart of Allegri to swap him for Stephan Lichtsteiner at the half.
- Gonzalo Higuain was more sprightly than he has been in the last few games, but he looks tired. One of the big worries about the 4-2-3-1 is the lack of depth at forward, and it looks that’s starting to show. Maybe more thought should have been put to keeping Simone Zaza until the summer after his move to West Ham fell through.
- Speaking of tired, Sami Khedira needs to put up his heels for a few games. His usual injury problems haven’t popped up this year, and he’s probably not used to playing so many games.
- Staying on the subject of Khedira, this game was screaming for Claudio Marchisio in midfield. He should’ve gone in for the German around the 65-70 minute mark. Allegri kept his subs too close to the vest today.
- It was fun seeing Moise Kean on the field even if he didn’t get a touch.
- For someone who scores so many goals, Higuain passes when he should shoot quite a lot. There were several times in this game where he could’ve been more selfish.
- How about Marko Pjaca? Throw in to the starting lineup literally within an hour of kickoff, he easily had his best game in a Juventus shirt. He matched Cristian Zapata for both pace and power, created a couple of chances and had a few near misses, both on target and off. He needs to build off this match—given Juve’s lack of depth at the front four he could be a critical component.