It’s the 59th minute. Federico Bernardeschi had just been fouled outside of the 18-yard box. The ball was off to the right of the goal, meaning the angle was nowhere close to being straight on. As is usually the case when Juventus play, two dangerous free kick takers stepped up to the ball, Bernardeschi and Miralem Pjanic.
The former Fiorentina winger took it.
And boy oh boy did he make most of those in attendance at the Franchi despise him even more than they did coming into the game.
Bernardeschi’s glorious second-half free kick that Marco Sportiello had absolutely no chance of stopping in his first game back in Florence since signing with Juventus gave his new team the lead over his former team and proved to be the difference in the Bianconeri’s 2-0 win over La Viola on Friday night.
As a few people noted as the second half went on, this time last season when Juventus visited Florence, Fiorentina would have loved a Bernardeschi free kick going into the back of the net. This time around, they absolutely hated it.
In a game that will be viewed as another instance where VAR showed its ugly-yet-still-kinda-confusing face again, it was ultimately Bernardeschi coming back to haunt the club he had been at since he was a 12-year-old kid. The first time around Juventus played Fiorentina, Bernardeschi played the role of late-game substitute, only getting about 10 minutes of game time in his first appearance against his former club.
I’m gonna go ahead and think that Fiorentina wishes he was a late-game sub once again.
4 - Federico Bernardeschi has scored four goals in his six Serie A games started with Juventus. Ex. #FiorentinaJuve— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 9, 2018
Throw in Gonzalo Higuain’s sixth goal in his last three games and you have a second-half performance from Juventus that totally made you forget about what they were — or, in this case weren’t — able to do in the first 45 minutes.
Juve had one shot on target in the first half. ONE SHOT, YOU GUYS. The last time that happened, it was two-and-a-half years ago and it didn’t end all that well. (Sure glad Miralem Pjanic, who scored in that game is playing for Juve now, by the way.)
But you could just see things click in the second half. Bernardeschi, even without the absolutely beautiful goal, was one of Juve’s best players on the field after halftime. He was more involved, he was making charging runs forward down the right wing and he was just playing like the player that looked more than up to this kind of game that had so much emotion for him and those in the stands riding with it.
And to see Fede star in a game at a stadium where he was whistled wholeheartedly by the vast majority of the people at the Franchi, it was just so damn enjoyable to watch.
I’d like to think that celebration felt pretty good, too.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Gianluigi Buffon has made two unbelievable saves since returning from his lengthy injury absence. He’s doing this at 40 years old, people. But I don’t think many people are surprised based on what he was doing in his late-30s.
- We’re now three games into Higuain scoring goals again. Is that enough time to scream to the masses, “GONZALO BACK!!”? If it isn’t, it’s awfully close to that, I’d think.
- Pipita getting hot and in form with the Champions League knockout stages right around the corner and some incredibly important games over the next month, that’s just perfect timing. Keep doing your thing, Gonzalo, and everything’s gonna be okay. (I hope.)
- There will be a lot of talk about VAR after this game, and rightfully so. I don’t have a problem with Serie A wanting to get the calls right and improving the overall quality of how refs are doing their jobs. The issues that come out of this is that, for one, it took five minutes for there to be a proper decision to be made, thus pissing off both Juventus and Fiorentina in the process. So as Fiorentina is setting up to take a penalty, we don’t really know what’s going on other than things are still being discussed between the referee and the VAR folks. Then, out of nowhere, the penalty is overturned. It’s just ... yeah, they’ve got some things to do and work on when it comes to actually letting people know what’s going on with VAR. A lot of things.
- Yet, with all of that being said, they got the call right.
- Seeing Claudio Marchisio make bursting runs forward as a box-to-box midfielder gave me flashbacks. As mentioned on Twitter, one of Marchisio’s best season — and most certainly his best campaign as a goal scorer — came when he was playing on the left side of Andrea Pirlo. It’s Miralem Pjanic now, but seeing Marchisio getting heavily involved in attack and doing things that we’ve seen before he started playing as a holding midfielder was great to see. And to see him out there again, putting in another good performance for 65 minutes of game time just shows that, as long as he stays healthy, he can contribute to this team over the final three months of the season.
- Gonzalo Higuain scoring against Napoli. Medhi Benatia scoring against Roma. Federico Bernardeschi scoring against Fiorentina. Y’all remember when the Ex Effect used to actually work against Juventus? Not anymore...
- Sixteen games, one goal allowed. I love that Juventus has a reliable defense again.
- Closing remark: Forza Lazio ... for this weekend only. Thank you and goodnight.