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Juventus 1 - Roma 0: Initial reaction and random observations

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Mario Mandzukic was doing Mario Mandzukic things again.

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

We have seen Roma goalkeepers take over matches against Juventus in recent memory. There will always be memories of Alisson making crazy save after crazy when facing Max Allegri’s side, keeping Roma in games where Juve would have otherwise runaway with the scoreline. And in that sense, it was another one of those games Saturday night at Allianz Stadium.

Except it wasn’t the Brazilian Don Draper in goal for Roma.

It was a giant Swede pulling off massive save after massive save.

If not for the effort Robin Olsen put forth in goal for Roma and each and every one of his five saves being damn good, the scoreline would have been a whole lot more flattering than just a 1-0 Juventus win over their rivals from the Italian capital. In Juve’s eighth straight home win over Roma, Olsen was far and away the biggest reason as to why Roma’s shaky defense didn’t get totally torn apart on the final stat sheet.

Juventus peppered the Roma goal time after time after time — especially in the first half. It seemed like the only scoring chance that Olsen didn’t stop was the one that ended up deciding the game, with Mario Mandzukic playing the role of Mr. Big Game once again to put Juve in front with a powerful header that the Roma keeper had absolutely no chance of stopping.

I don’t know about you guys, but that’s a pretty decent list of teams to have goals against. For every SPAL there’s at least three or four goals where Mandzukic has decided the outcome in a fixture that you would definitely call a big game.

Seriously.

He got two against Napoli.

He got one against Milan.

He got one against Inter.

And now he’s got one against Roma.

And they look a lot alike, too.

There were portions of this game that Juventus dominated, and the shot total pushing 20 is proof of that. They weren’t hoofing long shot after long shot toward Olsen in goal, either. These were nicely-worked scoring chances, and Juve’s quality of play — and passing — was really looking good for a large portion of Saturday’s game.

It was just a good win. A very good win against a Roma side that did play with a sense of desperation.

Even in a game that probably shouldn’t have finished 1-0 — thanks, Olsen; thanks, VAR — Juventus were never really in trouble of giving up their lead. Roma’s weaknesses and issues were on full display against Juventus on Saturday night. There’s no way around it, and it will be quite interesting to see just how much of a leash Eusebio Di Francesco now has with his squad dropping all the way down to ninth place after the weekend’s slate of games.

But for Christmas, Mr. No Good brought us all three points and handed Roma another loss. The more things change — like Roma’s ever-revolving roster — the more things stay the same when these two teams play against one another in Turin.

RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS

  • Claudio Marchisio has come back from Russia for the holidays and good on Juventus for letting him get a moment to shine before kickoff. He deserves it before every game while he’s back in Italy, honestly.
  • Of course Max Allegri would talk about Leonardo Bonucci possibly getting the weekend off and then actually play Bonucci instead. Max gonna Max — especially with his starting lineups.
  • There was a point midway through the second half, probably around the 65th minute, where Mandzukic — you know, the guy who scored the game-winning goal — was at the top of the Juve box making a tackle to prevent one of Roma’s many second-half forays forward. Seeing Mandzukic back defending isn’t anything new to us, but just seeing him basically playing as a center back for a minute or so just brought a smile to my face.
  • Three of Juventus’ best scoring chances in the first half came from Alex Sandro. Yes, Juve’s left back that just extended his contract through 2023 could have scored a goal or two AT LEAST in the first half if not for the job Olsen did in goal.
  • Juventus’ other fullback on Saturday, Mattia De Sciglio, was great once again. That through he played to Cristiano Ronaldo that led to Douglas Costa’s VAR-eliminated goal was just perfect. The guy is really taking advantage of the playing time he’s getting with Sandro and Cancelo both dealing with injuries the last couple of months.
  • This was one of Paulo Dybala’s best games of the season. There, I said it. I don’t care if he didn’t have a goal — and you know there will be people out there harping about how little he’s scored this season — but he was all over the place and playing the role of provider pretty damn well. His four key passes were twice as many as any other Juve player and nearly as many as Roma had as a team. If Dybala keeps playing like he did against Roma come the new year, Juve’s attack is going to be creating a whole lot of scoring chances.
  • Blaise Matuidi ran about 90 or 100 miles on Saturday. Rough estimation, but I feel confident in saying that it’s close to being the exact total.
  • Douglas Costa’s goal that wasn’t a goal should have been a goal. There, I said it.
  • On the scale of difficult saves he will make this season, Wojciech Szczesny’s final save of the game won’t be up there. But knowing how the game went — both in terms of what the score was at the time and what the score ended up being — that flying effort to his right to snag a ball heading for the top corner proved to be pretty damn important.
  • Rodrigo Bentancur’s day: 91.7 percent pass completion, EIGHT tackles, two clearances. You think he was raring to go after missing out on the Turin derby last weekend? That rest did my son some good.
  • I’ll leave you with this: Juventus’ lead over Napoli is back to eight points. The distance between second-place Napoli and Inter in third is eight points. Juventus is 16 points ahead of Inter and it’s not even January yet. That’s good, right?