As Juventus and Porto kicked things off on Tuesday night, the announcers on Fox Sports 2 here in the United States (who clearly weren’t Americans) said one very important statistic: “No team has ever advanced in the Champions League after losing the first leg 2-0 at home.”
As Porto passed the ball around in the 14th minute on Tuesday night, the announcers on Fox Sports 2 here in the United States (who clearly weren’t Americans) said one more very important statistic: “Thirty-six times that Juventus have won the first leg in UEFA competition, they’ve never gone out, they’ve always progressed.”
Neither of those two statistics are going to be changing.
Just as was the case in the first leg, a red card completely changed the landscape of the game. This time, Maxi Pereira’s best Gigi Buffon imitation resulted in a straight red and the subsequent Paulo Dybala penalty kick was finished as cool as can be, as Juventus finished off Porto with a 1-0 victory at Juventus Stadium to take the two-legged tie with a final 3-0 aggregate scoreline.
That’ll do just fine.
In the grand scheme of things, it won’t go down as a classic Juventus performance. There were scoring opportunities missed and a second half that didn’t really resemble Juventus having a man advantage. There wasn’t the kind of overall ruthlessness that a lot of us were hoping to see knowing that Porto had the potential to make this a pretty interesting tie if they had gotten a goal and cut the aggregate lead in half.
But, did Juventus have much trouble with Porto after the red card happened? Maybe on a couple of occasions in which they looked like they switched into a complete malaise in the second half and allowed Porto to get close to scoring their first goal of the two-legged tie.
It could have been worse, it ended up being pretty okay and Juventus are through to the Champions League quarterfinals. That’s fine with me. Would I have liked Juve to be better? Sure, but I also like that Juventus are still in Europe’s premier club competition.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- (tries not to comment on the whistles that were right next to the crowd microphone through the entire damn game)
- Something the announcers told me that I did not realize, but it’s pretty impressive: Higuain has played in 37 of Juventus’ 39 games this season. I know not all of them are starts and not all of his starts are games in which he has played the entire 90-plus minutes, but that’s still impressive. Long gone are the days where people are sitting here and stressing about what kind of shape Higuain is in.
- Dybala’s goal will be an obvious turning point in the game that people will talk about. But overall, Paulo showed up to play against Porto on Tuesday night. He didn’t waste much time, either. While a lot of Juve’s players were struggling to make much of an impact early on in the first half, Dybala seemed to be their one true danger man.
Dybala talked about how he likes the new role he’s playing in now that Max Allegri has gone to a 4-2-3-1 full time. And hey, when Dybala plays like that, good things are bound to happen no matter what position up front he’s being utilized in.
- Even down a man, Porto could have had a goal. It’s not like Juve’s defense was air-tight despite having the numerical advantage.
- Smart move by Allegri to sub Juan Cuadrado out at halftime considering he was on a yellow card. A livewire like Cuadrado who can be known to not exactly do the smartest things on the field from time to time didn’t need to be risked and potentially send Juve down a man as well. And I’m not also saying this just because I wanted to see Marko Pjaca get a serious amount of playing time in the second half.
- Okay, I wanted Marko Pjaca to get some serious playing time in the second half.
- I love the guy, but it wasn’t exactly the greatest of games from Claudio Marchisio. His role is different in a 4-2-3-1, but he pretty much resembled what he’s been since coming back from his knee injury late last calendar year — a guy who’s struggling to regain his best form.
- While we’re at it, didn’t hear Sami Khedira’s name called much on Tuesday night — and that’s not because of the whistles that annoyed the living hell out of us.
- Some of those crosses that Cuadrado, Dani Alves and Alex Sandro sent in during the opening 30 or 40 minutes ... my goodness. That’s the kind of service you want to give players like Mario Mandzukic and Higuain. You give them enough opportunities and the big boys will eat them all up. (And no, that’s not a Higuain fat joke.)
- “Juventus, Champions League quarterfinalist” does have a nice ring to it.
- But I want more. “Champions League semifinalist” sounds even better. Greedy, I know.