There are only three letters that you need to sum up Saturday afternoon’s game between Juventus and Sampdoria at Allianz Stadium.
It’s not the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo scored a pair of goals to end his tally for 2018 on 49 and lead Juventus to a 2-1 win over Sampdoria. It’s not that a player on loan from Juventus, goalkeeper Emil Audero, was absolutely fantastic in the first game he’s ever played against the club he grew up at. Nope, not of that will be the leading headline grabber this time around when we see the day’s sports pages Sunday morning.
It will be about VAR and what a huge role it played in Juventus setting a new Serie A record with 53 points amassed in the first half of a season.
You had VAR’s ruling that Emre Can played the ball with his arm in the box, which led to Fabio Quagliarella scoring from the penalty spot to even the score at 1-1 midway through the first half.
You had VAR confirming the initial penalty call in the Sampdoria box that allowed Ronaldo to get the backend of his brace from the spot to give Juventus the lead once again.
And, to top it all off, there was the stoppage-time ruling that seemingly came out of nowhere that said Gregoire Defrel was offside after Riccardo Sapponara turned a terrible Mattia Perin pass out of the back to tie the game at 2-2 and shock just about everybody wearing black and white at Allianz Stadium.
Three incredibly huge rulings in their own right. But to have all of them happen within a two-hour span in the same game is just something we haven’t really seen before in a Serie A match involving Juventus.
We can go back and forth about the accuracy of each call — both what was called in the moment and what ended up being the final verdict through VAR. I think if you’re looking at which calls were the right ones, it gets more and more obvious which ease use of VAR that took place in Saturday’s game. It’s always going to be a tricky issue with the calls we thought were the right ones — like Can’s supposed handball in the box, which was not really argued at all by any of the Sampdoria players around the play — now having a different kind of twist to it all because there’s going to be somebody taking a look at it beyond what the referee sees in the moment.
That’s the era we’re in these days. It’s a very VAR-centric kind of way that refs are calling matches because they know they have the video backup coming to help them whenever there’s even the slightest bit of reason to question it.
So, in a game where Juventus really did play well for basically the entire match outside of the final 15 minutes or so of the first half after Quagliarella tied it, we’re going to be hearing about VAR — and a lot of it — over the coming hours. Why? Because VAR will always be a huge talking point, good or bad, whenever it comes into play.
Also: Samp mad. Very, very mad.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Forza Ju-VAR?
- Just thinking about what the anti-Juve crowd will be saying about Juventus directly getting three points because of a last-minute VAR call. You know there’s people out there doing it.
- If that save that Audero made on Blaise Matuidi early in the second half isn’t on YouTube highlight videos with questionable music by the end of the weekend, I will be disappointed. That was an absolute rocket of a shot and a simply fantastic save by the 21-year-old Juve loanee in goal.
- If that Save Audero made on Ronaldo about 15 minutes into the second half isn’t on YouTube highlight videos with questionable music by the end of the weekend, I will be disappointed. (You heard me correctly.)
- In conclusion, if Audero ever is to return to Juventus and be in contention for some playing time — it’s obviously a very crowded position these days with Wojciech Szczesny and Mattia Perin — I would be totally cool with it. He’s developed into such a solid keeper the last couple of years.
- Paulo Dybala had three really good scoring chances where he had was only left to have that classic kind of head-tipped-back-in-frustration kind of thing going on. In a1 season where he’s not scoring many goals, you just wish he can get one of these golden chances he’s had the last couple of weeks just so that some folks stop talking about how few goals he has.
- Here is something I’ve said before that needs to be repeat: Holy crap, Giorgio Chiellini is having one hell of a season. It’s like wearing the captain’s armband has just taken his game up to another level where even though he’s officially in his mid-30s that he’s playing like he’s in his mid-20s.
- The Chiellini-Daniele Rugani partnership in the center of Juve’s defense was pretty damn good overall, I thought. Pretty good showing from Rugani, who finished with a team-best seven clearances, seeing as he’s had all of three starts since the month of November started.
- Here is something else I’ve said before that needs to be repeat: Holy crap, Mattia De Sciglio is having one hell of a season. He’s stepped in for Joao Cancelo — who himself was having a fantastic season before undergoing knee surgery — and really not missed a beat. They’re different kinds of fullbacks, but even De Sciglio seems to be getting forward more than he did during the early days of his Juventus career. Good for him because he’s proved to be such a valuable piece to have on this roster.
- It’s like Ronaldo decided to hit his PK in the exact same spot where Quagliarella sent his, but do it just that much harder. Even Audero’s fantastic showing couldn’t slow down Serie A’s top scorer. (That’s 14 goals in league play for Ronaldo, by the way.)
- To close out the game, Max Allegri had Dybala, Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa playing behind Ronaldo. Can’t accuse Max of being conservative this time around, folks.
- What a freakin’ game, man. I’m going to bed.