Around the 68th minute, I logged onto the good website known as WhoScored for the first time all day to see just how much of a possession advantage Juventus had over Olympiacos. I knew it was a lot, but exact numbers are interesting to see and try to digest. And when I saw Juve’s possession percentage was in the high 70s, the first thought that popped into my head was something along the lines of “Man, it sure would be nice if they did something with this...”
About 10 seconds later, Gonzalo Higuain was celebrating a goal.
(I will be taking no credit for this, I swear.)
Higuain’s heroics off the bench — with major assists from Mario Mandzukic and Alex Sandro — helped Juventus shrug off their struggles in the attacking third for the majority of Wednesday night’s group stage tie against Olympiacos in Turin.
It was looking like another one of those Champions League nights. You know, one of those games where we’re left ruing the chances that Juventus did have
Thanks to Higuain and Mandzukic giving Juventus a nice lead after the 69th minute, it was at least salvaged to a certain degree and they got three points as a result of it.
Was it as pretty as the Derby della Mole win on Saturday? Of course not. You compare that game to this game and it was night and day for the most of it. The Torino win was arguably Juve’s best showing of the season, while Wednesday night’s win was an absolute grinder where they were routinely trying to break down a Olympiacos defense that had every single outfield player sitting behind the ball in the defensive third.
It wasn’t pretty.
Not even close to it, really.
But, come the final whistle sounding at Allianz Stadium, Juventus won 2-0 and got their first three points of this Champions League campaign. They got a goal from a striker who had been struggling to truly kick his season into gear. And they didn’t let this game become one of those games.
Oh, and I like when Juventus win.
Juventus still need to do more in this sort of game. Can't always rely on a bounce here & there. But 3 crucial points after the first loss.— Luca Cetta (@l_cetta) September 27, 2017
There is nothing wrong with this. And I’m not just saying that because I’m Twitter friends with Luca. Juventus needed to do more even though they won. But they won and got three points because of it. They needed three points — and I’ll take that over another group stage loss any day of the week.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Pre-game thought No. 1: What the hell has Daniele Rugani done to suddenly not be in the starting lineup for Champions League games?
I said it after the Barcelona game and I will say it again here: To leave your best central defender not named Giorgio Chiellini on the bench for the entire 90 minutes was not a good look.
- Pre-game thought No. 2: I guess Gonzalo Higuain’s day of rest over the weekend wasn’t actually a day of rest.
- Pre-game thought No. 3: Stefano Sturaro at right back again in Europe ... ehhhhh.
- NOBODY MAKES GIORGIO CHIELLINI BLEED HIS OWN BLOOD. NOBODY.
- Gianluigi Buffon had to make two saves. They weren’t all too difficult for a keeper like him. He got a clean sheet because of it. Some nights are easier than other for San Gigi. And after having to try and single-handedly try and keep his team in the group stage opener against Barcelona, he deserved a low-key European night like this one.
- Rodrigo Bentancur was thrust into a starting role at the last minute thanks to Miralem Pjanic picking up an injury in pre-game warmups. He went on to complete 93 percent of his passes and be one of Juve’s top-rated players, according to WhoScored. I’m not saying he’s world class right now, but the boy is pretty damn good already.
- Max Allegri subbed on Medhi Benatia for Sturaro late in the second half and my whole “Where is Daniele Rugani in Champions League games?” thought process continued to be absolutely confused as hell.
- Let us hope this is the start to the reinvigoration of Higuain’s early-season form. It sure would be fun to see Pipa start scoring goals like we know Pipa can again.
- Seriously, though, that little flick from Mandzukic on Higuain’s goal was a thing of beauty. Alex Sandro might not have even had a chance to get a cross off if it wasn’t for Mandzukic trying to show the people of FIFA18 that he’s got some flair to his game, too.
- And suddenly, with a 2-0 win, Juve’s group stage goal differential is starting to look not as bad as it did after Matchday 1.