After eliminating the giants of Barcelona from the Champions League on Wednesday night, Juventus returned to domestic action in their bid to capture yet another Serie A title. Max Allegri made six changes to the side that played during the week, with the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Alex Sandro left out. One player who wasn’t rested, however, was Paulo Dybala. The in-form Argentinian was selected to play in his favoured role just behind his international compatriot Gonzalo Higuain, who also started despite playing the majority of the game at the Camp Nou.
There was a slight hint of fatigue from Juve for the opening 20 minutes, as the dreaded European hangover looked to be setting in. Genoa were easily beating the high press, and were comfortable in possession in midfield. Giovanni Simeone had a half chance to open the scoring inside three minutes following a Leonardo Bonucci slip but he scuffed his shot. For the Bianconeri, they were slow and without direction on the offensive side, with them relying on Dybala to create something out of nothing. The midfield continuously looked for the in-form attacker to get on the ball, as he moved between the opposition’s back four and midfield to find space. He was fouled a couple of times and kicked hard the others, resembling that of a man with a target on his back.
Genoa knew all too well the threat that Dybala posed to their chances of escaping Turin with a point. Even his set-pieces were dangerous as two of his free kicks could and almost did lead to goals. Higuain should have nodded in from one, but missed from point-blank range while in the second half Bonucci’s header did find the back of net after a Dybala free kick. The referee, however, pulled it back for infringement and the goal was disallowed. It’s an underrated aspect of Dybala’s skill level.
Most people view his trickery and quick turn of speed as his most impressive qualities, but even with a dead ball situation, he can create opportunities for Juve. It’s another reason why he’s arguably the most valuable player in the side.
As the Serie A leaders began to grow into the game, Dybala was the focal point of attack. He almost opened the scoring with a long range shot early in the first half after he dropped his shoulder, turned and shot just wide of Eugenio Lamanna’s goal. It wasn’t a successful attempt by Dybala, but it was still a warning sign of what was ahead for Genoa. After Ezequiel Munoz’s own goal gave Juve the lead on the 17-minute mark, Dybala would double that lead just a minute later. Good play by Higuain saw Dybala control the ball neatly in the box before a one-two with Sami Khedira set him up nicely for a left footed strike that found the bottom of the net. The Juventus Stadium howled in awe of another piece of magic from their number 21, but in all truth, it’s what they have come to expect of the magician.
Dybala completed four dribbles, had four shots and made 51 passes, with most of them coming in the final third, per whoscored.com. He also led all midfielders and attackers with 68 touches, a clear sign of the offensive responsibility handed to him.
In the second half, with Juve 4-0 up and strolling to another three points that pushes them ever closer to the league title, Dybala refused to rest on his laurels. He took down a long ball forward beautifully with his left foot before laying off a pass for Kwadwo Asamoah. It barely troubled Lamanna, but that deft touch from Dybala was succulent. A while after, he raced past the tiring Genoa midfield, before seeing his effort skim past the post. The shot was a clear sign that the energy exhausted between this game and the one in Barcelona only four days prior had started to affect the 23-year-old.
He completed the full 90 minutes, perhaps somewhat unnecessarily, but the home crowd won’t complain at being able to witness such a superb performance for the longevity of the match.