On paper, this will look like a relatively simple 2-0 Juventus win over Milan to the untrained eye. One might think that Juve got the early goal, protected their lead, got some much-desired breathing room late and then cruised the rest of the way. Simple win, simple way to wrap up three points against an old rival at the San Siro.
This win was far from ordinary.
Very, very far.
Sure, Juventus held a 1-0 lead after all of eight minutes thanks to Mario Mandzukic’s hammer of a header off Alex Sandro’s near-perfect cross. But in between Cristiano Ronaldo’s fifth goal in his last five league games — and then shortly thereafter — it’s not like there was just a bunch of boring, boring football being played. Or, better yet, it’s not like there weren’t any game-changing moments that led to Juventus picking up their 11th win in their first 12 Serie A fixtures of the 2018-19 campaign.
We saw VAR overturn an original non-hand ball call. That led to Wojciech Szczesny, one of the more maligned players coming out of Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Manchester United, pulling off an absolutely brilliant save on Gonzalo Higuain’s PK attempt to keep Juventus in front.
There were near-misses. There was end-to-end counterattacks as Juventus tried to withstand a very legit punch from Milan to open the second half.
This was a very good win from a Juventus team that just four days earlier had a very bad loss with a late-game implosion.
You know, the kind of win that makes you feel about the exact opposite of how you were when you saw Jose Mourinho putting his hand to his ear as he did his usual mocking thing toward to Juventus tifosi.
The San Siro will always be a difficult place to play no matter what kind of form either of the Milan clubs are in at the moment. And Juve’s first trip to the Giuseppe Meazza this season put them up against a Milan side that was starting to find some success after a rather interesting start to the year.
As it turned out, Juventus passed this test with room to spare.
That sounds like a pretty good way to go into the international break to me.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Pre-game thought No. 1: BENTANCUR BENTANCUR BENTANCUR BENTANCUR BENTANCUR
- Pre-game thought No. 2: Maybe I should make a big deal about Sami Khedira potentially starting in match previews more often.
- Look at my son Rodrigo Bentancur absolutely THRIVING. Think about how good he’s going to be in a couple of years if you want to cheer yourself up on a bad day. Because he’s going to be SO GOOD.
- It doesn’t take a calcio expert to say to tell you that this was a memorable night for all the wrong reasons for Higuain. But when you see all the Juve players go try to calm him down after he got shown a red card, to see Giorgio Chiellini give him a massive hug both before game and then before Higuain went down the tunnel, it shows you how beloved Juve’s former No. 9 still is. I will never not love Higuain. He’s a great player, great person, great professional.
- (Unless he scores against Juventus, and then I will probably say bad words in his direction but not directly at him because we’ll be cool an hour or two after the game.)
- Alex Sandro was very good.
- Joao Cancelo was very good.
- Outside of the hand ball in the box, Medhi Benatia was very good.
- Giorgio Chiellini is just a wonderful, wonderful person and seeing him make these kinds of blocks on attempted crosses is just the best. At age 34, he’s still one of the very best in the business.
- Wojciech Szczesny took a lot of heat after Wednesday’s loss to Manchester United and then went out and played about as well as he possibly could at the San Siro. That’s exactly the way a goalkeeper has to be after a rough game like Woj had a few days earlier.
- If you’re looking for the homer view on Benatia’s hand ball in the box that led to Milan’s penalty, you’ll probably want to visit another Juve blog. VAR got it right.
- Mario Mandzukic dunked on Ricardo Rodriguez and I’m here for it.
- Paulo Dybala’s free kick in the second half that hit the outside of the post had so much bend to it, man. It’s just absurd what he can do from dead-ball situations.
- Paulo Dybala had more tackles than Giorgio Chiellini, according to WhoScored.
- Juventus’ leader in tackles, according to WhoScored? Miralem Pjanic.
- Blaise Matuidi intercepted a Milan pass in the second half where his leg seemed to stretch out 10 feet and it could have gone further. It was crazy.
- When it was all said and done, Juventus had nearly 60 percent of the possession at the San Siro. That’s pretty good.
- Just wanna ask everybody something: Is 34 points through the first 12 league games of the season all that good? I just wanna double check this out. (Yes, it’s record-breaking kind of good.)
- And then Juventus went into the international break with a six-point lead atop the table after, for the most part, not really playing all that consistently during the last few weeks. Sounds pretty good to me.