Based on what we saw in the opening 45 minutes, you would have thought the scoreline going into the break should have been 3-2 or 2-2 rather than a pair of zeroes up on the scoreboard. Juventus and Cagliari were putting on an end-to-end show, with the only thing missing being actual goals being scored. (Although, I’m glad Wojciech Szczesny had something to say about all of that.)
Yet right as the broadcasters on beIN Sports here in the United States started talking about how the Scudetto race would be impacted if Juve drop points in Sardinia, a goal finally came our way.
And it was the team we wanted to score said goal, too.
Substitute Douglas Costa put former Juve legend Simone Padoin in the mixer and then found a wide-open Federico Bernardeschi in the six-yard box. It was an easy finish to give Juventus a 1-0 lead in a game that was far from easy to find the back of the net — and pretty much figure out all together — even though there plenty of scoring chances to be had.
Throw in a likely hamstring injury to Paulo Dybala, a probable concussion to Sami Khedira after Szczesny crashed into him while trying to punch away a corner kick and this was about as odd and strange as a 1-0 win could very well be.
I’ll say this, though: I’d much rather be back to one point behind Napoli than being three or maybe even four points behind the current Serie A leaders.
Sometimes you gotta win ugly. Sometimes you gotta have a little luck on your side. And sometimes you just need a moment of really good play like they got from Costa and Bernardeschi as Cagliari protested a no-call on the other end of the field.
But it’s funny to say that Juve got ultra-lucky on Saturday night seeing as their best scoring chances in the first half was a Dybala free kick that rung the crossbar and Bernardeschi’s audacious curler from the right wing that stung the left post. It was looking the complete opposite of lucky for the first 45 minutes when Juve’s best scoring chances were being denied by the goal itself rather than Cagliari’s goalkeeper.
Good thing Fede bailed everybody out.
I hope that old Italian adage holds: Wrap up Chiellini's head, wrap up 3 points.— Vittorio Pazzini (@vittoriopazzini) January 6, 2018
Tradition is tradition. Good thing Juve didn’t mess that tradition up. That would have made for a pretty rough winter break knowing that the Chiellini head wrap streak had been ended because of what took place Saturday.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- The schedule is relatively low-key before Juve face Tottenham in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie in the Champions League. So, if we want to have a prayer circle for Dybala every single day until Juve play Spurs, I’m totally cool with that.
- As much as I want to say “Juventus are winning and the timing of this holiday break totally sucks,” the timing of this holiday break is probably coming at a good time based on what we saw take place on Saturday. We are all going to be stressing about how long Dybala is out for. Khedira is going to need time to get healthy. Claudio Marchisio is also on the mend after picking up a knock against Torino in the Coppa Italia win midweek. Gigi Buffon is still out — although Szczesny’s form these days is making it rather easy for Juve’s No. 1 to take his time getting healthy.
Basically, Juve are banged up and the winter break will do a lot of their players some good. Rest up, fellas, because there’s some important games once the second half of the season truly gets rolling at the end of the month.
- Seriously, Szczesny has been fantastic the last couple of weeks. The two first-half saves he made were about as good as it gets. About as pure of reaction saves as reaction saves get. How he was able to get his fingertips to the ball on the second point-blank save and have it clang off the post, it’s just fantastic. He’s starting to truly show that he’s ready to be the main man in goal come this post-Buffon era in Turin.
- Chiellini, Medhi Benatia and Andrea Barzagli combined for 22 clearances against Cagliari. I’m not math major, but I’m going to say that that’s pretty good.
- Gonzalo Higuain did some things well on Saturday, but he really struggled with his decision making in the final third. Whether it was taking one too many touches or not making the right pass when he needed to — I still don’t know why he didn’t dish it to a wiiiiiiide open Costa bursting down the right wing — it was just that kind of frustrating night for Pipita.
- Filippo Romagna might not be officially on Juve’s books anymore, but I’d like to think that is the kind of game where his performance spoke to the potential he has. And maybe the kind of performance where Beppe Marotta sat there thinking about re-acquiring the young defender down the road.
- This was Max Allegri’s 100th Serie A win with Juventus. Based on how he was screaming at his players in the final minutes of regular time, I’d say he might have preferred it to be a little less stressful. Or maybe not. We all know how much Max has talked about how much loves 1-0 games in the past.