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Captain Mandzukic, Ronaldo lead Juventus past SPAL

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Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo found the back of the net as Juventus shut out SPAL to extend their unbeaten run in Serie A this season.

Juventus v SPAL - Serie A Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Coming out of the most recent international break, high-flying Juventus were tasked with disposing of a SPAL side that is near the relegation zone. The last time we had seen Juventus play, it was in a well-rounded 2-0 win against AC Milan at the San Siro. Back at Allianz Stadium, Juve got another 2-0 shutout victory, getting goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic on either side of halftime as they cruised to three more points.

Max Allegri decided to give rest to many of the usual suspects from Juve’s usual starting lineup. Paulo Dybala, Giorgio Chiellini, Joao Cancelo, Blaise Matuidi and Wojciech Szczesny all got the day off as Allegri went with a 4-4-2 formation as a result. Mattia Perin got a start in goal, with the defense in front of him consisting of Mattia De Sciglio, Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Bonucci, and Alex Sandro. In the midfield, Juan Cuadrado started on the right, Douglas Costa on the left, and Miralem Pjanic and Rodrigo Bentancur in the middle. Up top was the attacking duo of Ronaldo and CAPTAIN Mandzukic, with the armband looking quite good on him.

The beginning of the match started without much of a bang, as Juventus felt out their opponent and SPAL tried to figure out how to absorb the incoming pressure. The first real opportunity would come in the ninth minute when De Sciglio found himself on the edge of the 18-yard box, unleashing a shot that sailed over the goal. Ten minutes later, Douglas Costa had his own attempt saved by SPAL keeper Alfred Gomis, as the shot stopper dove down to get to the shot.

SPAL didn’t have much luck with the ball, but in the 21st minute had a chance arise when Rugani committed a foul, giving Jasmin Kurtic a free kick opportunity. The Slovenian missed slightly to the right of the frame, keeping the match at 0-0. This would be a recurring theme of the day, as SPAL missed most of their chances without placing them on target.

Shortly thereafter, however, Juventus found themselves with a free kick. Pjanic was be the man who put in the ball — and what a ball it was, beautifully arching over the entire SPAL defense before finding an unmarked Ronaldo, who slotted home a one-touch shot to put Juve up 1-0. (I can easily listen to the crowd yelling “SIIII” along with Ronaldo on loop, by the way.)

Juventus v SPAL - Serie A Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Right before the halftime whistle, SPAL got another chance at a goal, with Kevin Bonifazi having a shot from outside the box saved by Perin. That proved to be Perin’s lone save on the day, and took the match into the half, 1-0 in favor of Juve.

After the break, Costa yet again found himself as the danger man, curling an audacious attempt at goal from an incredibly tight angle, only to have it bounce off the post. Had it gone in, it would have been one of the goals of the season for Juventus so far, no doubt.

When SPAL made their first change of the night around the hour mark, they had a rare bit of pressure, as they won a free kick and had a shot go wide by Andrea Petagna. A minute after, however, a long ball over the top from Bonucci found a streaking Ronaldo on the left, who, after controlling the ball, laid it off to an oncoming Costa. Cutting in on his left foot, Costa fired a shot from outside the box that was saved by Gomis. But the rebound was parried far enough out of danger, and Mandzukic was right there to double Juventus’ lead.

Juventus v SPAL - Serie A Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Ronaldo had two more chances to add to his tally, as in the 69th minute he played a one-two with Costa on the edge of the box that was saved. In the 82nd minute, Juan Cuadrado started a counter attack, playing Ronaldo in on the right, but pulled his shot too wide left and missed the target.

LE PAGELLE

MATTIA PERIN- 6.5. Didn’t have much of anything to do on the day, as he only had to record one save. SPAL squandered the rest of their chances and missed the target, keeping Perin’s day quiet.

MATTIA DE SCIGLIO- 7. Played well defensively, as he was tasked with giving Cancelo a needed rest. Had a shot on goal early on.

DANIELE RUGANI- 6.5. Dealt with little pressure all day. Came up with two aerial wins and had a 93 percent passing rate from the back.

LEONARDO BONUCCI- 7. Just like his central defense partner, he had little to deal with. Launched the long pass forward to Ronaldo that started the lead up to the second goal.

ALEX SANDRO- 7.5. Had the biggest day of the defenders, compiling 5 tackles to go along with an interception and two key clearances.

JUAN CUADRADO- 7. Created a shot on goal and led the counter attack that almost resulted in Ronaldo’s second goal. Didn’t do anything too negative and played his role well.

MIRALEM PJANIC- 8. Mire tallied an assist for his perfect free kick over the top of the defense to find Ronaldo for the first goal of the match. Also had a 96 percent pass success rate to go along with 3 tackles. An all-around great day from the midfielder.

RODRIGO BENTANCUR- 7. Bentancur continued to provide stability in the middle of the park, totaling a pass rate of 93 percent, having 2 aerials won, and 3 tackles. Did accumulate a yellow card.

DOUGLAS COSTA- 8.5. By far the standout man of the match, even though he didn’t have a goal or assist to his record. Constantly dribbled through the defense, had 5 shots, 5 dribbles, and had the hard shot that made Gomis spill the ball for Mandzukic’s rebound goal.

MARIO MANDZUKIC- 8. Capitano Mandzukic got off on the right foot in his first ever start captaining the side, scoring the second goal. He and Ronaldo have really formed a great partnership and understanding, with them playing off of each other superbly.

CRISTIANO RONALDO- 8. Provided the first goal with a cool finish off of Mire’s sublime pass. Routinely tested the opposing goal with 5 shots, and could have had 2-3 goals all told.

SUBS

BLAISE MATUIDI- 6. Came on for Costa, who had been running around all day, to provide stability and extra effort in the middle to see out the match.

GIORGIO CHIELLINI- NR. Late match sub to see the game out.

MANAGER ANALYSIS

Allegri rotated quite heavily with an easier opponent coming into town and having matches with Valencia and Fiorentina coming up. The decision to start Costa was obviously the right one, and placing Mandzukic and Ronaldo up top together doesn’t go wrong.

The Mister gave Rugani a rare start, so it was nice to see some rotation at center back and give more experience to the young defender.

One substitution I wouldn’t have made was the one for Blaise Matuidi, as he needed the rest, especially as he is so important to the next two matches.

LOOKING AHEAD

Juventus have gotten to 12 wins in Serie A with this win, sitting in control on top of the table. Tuesday brings us a home match in the Champions League against Valencia, as Ronaldo will no doubt have much to say in this one.

Then on Saturday comes the first match against Fiorentina of the season, away from home. As always, the Artemio Franchi will be rocking for that one as tensions are always high when Juve go into Florence.