Minutes before kickoff on Monday night, Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny headed over to just in front of the tunnel and accepted his award for being the club’s most valuable player in the month of December. As it turned out, that little jog from one goal to the midway line — as well as the warmup drills he went through before the game — was the most activity Woj had to do all day.
That usually means good things have happened for Juve.
That’s exactly what happened. Douglas Costa’s 16th-minute goal ended up being the difference as Juventus recorded an uneventful yet not-all-that-dominating win over Genoa to begin their post-winter break run of games at Allianz Stadium.
And just like was the case before the winter break, Juventus has again cut Napoli’s lead atop the Serie A table down to one point once again.
It was far from a quality showing from Juventus, who had chances to double their lead on more than just a few occasions after Costa’s opener. But what was case was instead of completely pushing forward and trying for a second and then maybe a third with plenty of verve and vigor was a Juve side that seemed relatively content to sit on the 1-0 lead, let Genoa have much more of the ball than it saw in the first half and protect the advantage it did have.
It obviously didn’t come back to bite them in the backside, but even against a Genoa side who’s leading scorer started on the bench and has just three goals on the season, walking the tightrope can be a somewhat dangerous proposition.
I’ll put it to you this way...
Genoa didn’t have one single shot on target on Monday night. In a game like, you’d want Juventus to truly step on the opposition’s throat when going forward and put the game to rest so that the final minutes aren’t all that meaningful at all. Instead, what Juventus got was Genoa throwing players forward in hopes of getting the game-tying goal and a valuable point as they look to stay comfortably above the relegation zone as the second half of the season goes on.
Three points and a clean sheet.
Coulda been better. Coulda been worse. (Like, you know, being Liverpool and losing 1-0 to last-place Swansea City after ending Manchester City’s lengthy run of domination in their previous league game.)
I’d much rather Juventus be one point behind Napoli after this game as compared to four points behind the league leaders. I just wish there was a little more substance going forward in attack on Monday night, that’s all.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Pre-game lineup thought No. 1: I thought Mattia de Sciglio was going to start over Stephan Lichtsteiner at right back. I dedicated a good chunk of the match preview to it. I was, um, wrong.
- Pre-game lineup thought No. 2: I thought Douglas Costa was going to start over Federico Bernardeschi at right wing. I dedicated a good chunk of the match preview to it. I was, um, right on that one. (Sure, the pun can be intended, too.)
- In case you’re counting at home: That’s a clean sheet in seven of Juve’s last eight Serie A matches.
- Gonzalo Higuain has just two goals since the start of December, with his last Serie A goal coming on Dec. 1 against his former club in Naples. That comes after a run of six goals in five games in all competitions. That’s basically the complete opposite of streaks immediately after one another. And it’s not exactly how you want Higuain to be playing with Paulo Dybala on the sideline for another month and some pretty important games coming up on the schedule during that same timespan.
- It wasn’t just Higuain that left a lot to be desired in front of goal on Monday night. It was just about everybody. Outside of the goal — an absolute thing of beauty between Costa and Mario Mandzukic — Juve’s finishing was pretty crap. I mean, out of the 15 shots Juventus had in the game, Mattia Perin had to make four saves, with only one of them being all that difficult (Miralem Pjanic’s first-half free kick).
- Douglas Costa is fun to watch.
- Mario Mandzukic is a complete monster and I am so glad he’s a Juventus player.
- Anybody else get a little bit of a sinking feeling when Sami Khedira was subbed off in the second half and went walking right on down the tunnel? Hopefully it’s nothing, but whenever it’s Khedira involved there’s always the possibility of it being something.
- Even with Genoa pushing numbers forward late in the second half, Szczesny finished the game without having to make a save. That’s something we’ll take every time.
- Giorgio Chiellini had 12 clearances against Genoa. Not only did no other Juventus player have a double-digit total in that category, the second-highest total was ... three (Higuain and Medhi Benatia). That’s just about as Chiellini of a game as you’ll get.
- That’s all that needs to be said about that game. Onto the next one against Chievo before the schedule really starts to get busy again.