What a rollercoaster week of emotions it has been. From one furious and emotionally-triggering debacle in Rome to a polar opposite experience of joy and celebration just a few days later in the same stadium, it really has been an eventful week for Juventini. With the record-breaking Coppa Italia in the bag, it was time to sew things up in the league at home against minnows Crotone, who themselves are still valiantly fighting relegation in a fascinating end-of-season rundown.
It was finally to be for the Bianconeri, though. It was finally time to bring home the goods, as Mario Mandzukic and a pearl of a free kick by Paulo Dybala secured a 2-0 victory against Crotone and, most importantly, a remarkable and record-breaking sixth straight Scudetto.
Crotone kicked off the game in this gloriously sunny and warm Sunday afternoon at Juventus Stadium hoping to pull off a miracle in their bid to stave off relegation. As expected, they bunkered down in their own half and looked to counterattack in the few opportunities that Juventus would grant them.
To be fair, they looked decent on the break but nothing extremely dangerous. Juventus, on the other hand, would open the scoring in the 13th minute courtesy of birthday-boy Mandzukic. The ball broke to Juan Cuadrado on the right who spotted the far post run of the Croatian
winger defender striker and delivered a phenomenal driven cross to him. Mandzukic outmuscled Aleandro Rosi to get to the ball first and bundle the ball into goal for the opener: 1-0! An early goal to put any potential title-jitters at ease and put the Bianconeri on course for the title!
Just a few minutes later, Juventus had a strong penalty shout waved away after Dybala deftly nutmegged Gianmarco Ferrari and sped past him. The defender seemed to hustle and bustle the Argentine away from the ball illegally, but the referee was having none of it. The home side were looking absolutely irresistible in attack, though, passing the ball from side to side with ease and watching Dybala exploit the freedom of the space between Crotone’s defense and midfield with all the joy in the world. They almost secured the second goal as a lovely Dybala cross seemed destined for Higuaín to convert, but Ferrari produced a fantastic clearing header for the corner. Crotone just couldn’t keep Juventus at bay, as Dybala doubled the Bianconeri’s lead in the 39th minute after curling a wonderful free-kick past the rooted Alex Cordaz in goal: 2-0!
Juventus looked to seal the deal in the second half by getting that third goal quickly. In the 47th minute, Cuadrado burst into the area and forced a good save from Cordaz after unleashing a stinging shot at the Crotone goalkeeper. Credit to the away side because they came out in the second half with real fire in their bellies as they valiantly looked to battle the beast of relegation. Juventus, however, looked to kill the tempo of the game and reduce the game to a calm stroll as they knew it wasn’t necessary to expend too much energy at this stage of the game.
The second half continued without too much of a fuss, although Pjanic almost slid in the third goal after Higuaín mis-controlled a Dybala pass inside the box but the Bosnian’s effort went wide of the effort. Finally, after a bit of a drab second half, the third goal went in to seal the deal: Dybala whipped a corner onto the head of Alex Sandro, whose smashing header was pushed onto the inside of the bar by Cordaz and bounced off the line. Goal-line technology was there to confirm that the ball had crossed the line, allowing the Brazilian to wheel off in celebration for the 3-0!
It was almost a fourth for the partying Bianconeri in the dying minutes of the game as Mandzukic almost pulled off a Beckham by trying his luck with an effort from the halfway line, but Cordaz just about managed to tip the ball over the goal and avoid some real embarrassment.
No matter what, though: Juventus secured a record-breaking sixth consecutive Scudetto thanks to a 3-0 victory against Crotone!
BUFFON N/A – Had that one tidy save in the 92nd minute. For the rest, enjoyed the hot late-spring sun at the Juventus Stadium.
SANDRO 8.5 – Smashing header for the 3-0 that wrapped up the game and another typically brilliant performance by Sandro at left back. A joy to watch.
BONUCCI 8.5 – Some irresistible passes from the back by Bonucci. He enjoyed showing off his vision as his defensive duties were very light today.
BENATIA 8 – I don’t know how on earth he didn’t get booked this game after quite persistent fouling. Nevertheless, still a good outing for the Moroccan.
DANI ALVES 8.5 – Another rampaging performance by Dani. Arguably the MVP of the second half of the season, he was again proactive in attack and sharp in defense.
MARCHISIO 8.5 – Tidy, simple, and effortless. A typical Marchisio performance and was surprisingly active in attacking moves as well.
PJANIC 8 – Like Marchisio, very tidy in midfield. I gave Marchisio a bit more because I liked his offensive contributions today but that doesn’t take anything away from the elegant Pjanic.
MANDZUKIC 7.5 – Good goal for the birthday boy and a typically hard-working performance by the Croatian. Wasn’t too active in attack though, but that was no big issue given the easy victory.
DYBALA 9 – Ah, how he enjoyed the freedom of the pitch today! Roamed freely in the danger zone between Crotone’s defense and midfield and scored an exquisite free kick to cap off a lovely afternoon.
CUADRADO 8 – Inch-perfect cross for the first goal and generally played quite well on the right.
HIGUAÍN 7 – Quiet afternoon for the big man. Some disappointing efforts from the few chances he did get today, but I’m expecting to see him rested against Bologna next week.
BARZAGLI 6.5 – Nice and easy performance by Barzagli as he come on with 20-minutes to go in the second half.
LEMINA N/A – A short 15-minute cameo for the Gabonese midfielder.
RINCÓN N/A – Played for a few minutes late on.
ALLEGRI 9 – Steadied the ship after the blip against Roma with two swaggering performances in the space of four days. Now he’ll have all the freedom to experiment and rotate against Bologna in anticipation of the big one in two weeks…
Note: I really wanted to just give the entire team a 10, but I thought I shouldn’t entirely shirk on my writing duties just because of our victorious afternoon!
Tactical Analysis – Let’s party!
WHO CARES ABOUT TACTICS, WE WON THE LEAGUE, RAGAZZI!
Just kidding. Again, don’t wanna shirk too much on my writing duties.
Crotone set out in a counterattack-ready 4-4-2 that left an awful lot of space between the lines for Dybala to exploit. It was a recurring theme throughout the match as Dybala roamed and roamed around the pitch. This “problem” for Crotone grew more pronounced as the game wore on and the visitors were forced to take more risks in a valiant attempt to salvage something from the game.
Juventus were irresistible in attack because of their numerical superiority in the center of the pitch. Credit Crotone for pushing their strikers to press Benatia and Bonucci though, but it was a problematic strategy given the space this would leave behind them for the trio of Marchisio-Pjanic-Dybala to exploit. Teams like Atlético do this so impressively because the spaces between the lines are so extraordinarily airtight (I’m sure Ray Hudson has some kind of cute poetic metaphor for this one. Unfortunately, I’m not Ray). Crotone couldn’t quite get this right as they got pulled up and down and from side to side by an imperious Juve side.
Another year, another domestic double.
This team, this club, is utterly incredible.
I’m sure it has been said before, but if there’s one thing that supporting Juve has taught me it’s that you can absolutely never underestimate the power of mentality. Yeah yeah, I’m sure we’re not the only team in Europe that has this type of mentality, but witnessing it first hand is remarkable. It’s something that I’m trying to transmit to my personal life as well because it is such a difference maker. Having that mental edge, that mental sharpness and the hidden, darker anger that drives you to succeed no matter what; this is something you must experience yourself because it simply cannot be explained in words.
Long live the power of the winning mentality that allows the extraordinary power of the collective to shine above all.
Fino alla fine.