As they say, Benevento is basically a top-five or -seven La Liga side.
They say that, right?
Well, I’m pretty sure they say that. But all the same, Juventus needed two penalties from Paulo Dybala and an insurance goal from Douglas Costa to skip past the bottom-dwellers of Serie A. For the first 20 minutes or so it looked like a game in which Juventus were going to release all their Real Madrid-ignited anger and win 7-0 or something, but then the defense buckled and Cheick Diabate muscled past Alex Sandro to tie it for the Witches.
(The Witches! That’s their nickname! It’s amazing.)
But, Juventus won. And it was a pretty damn entertaining game, if you ask me. When the champions play anybody who’s not in the top seven — and sometimes even those teams! — the opponent tends to sit back, so I appreciate Benevento for not doing that. Their fans were brilliant, their team inspired, but Juventus in the end were too strong even in a game that must have been emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing wedged between the two Real Madrid fixtures.
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- Lots of great aperitivo moments during this extremely strange match, the best one of which was the brief moment in the first half when the camera panned to the Juventus sideline, where Gigi Buffon’s commanding figure was standing with little Douglas Costa in his arms, like a young baby animal, or a lover, or a teddy bear, and Gigi placed the gentlest kiss on top of the Brazilian’s head (more on this later) — it was a moment of beauty. Gigi the Gentle!
- “MARIO! MARIOOO!! MARIOOOOOOO!!!!” - Max Allegri
- I’m going to catch some flack for this, but ... I thought Claudio Marchisio was good, but not amazing. Please don’t kill me! He had a couple nice cheeky touches, the beautiful pass to Miralem Pjanic that led to, but I’m also wondering why, if Juve’s game control is perfect with Marchisio playing, the Bianconeri ceded so much possession and seemed OK with the home side bossing the movement of the game. I don’t know! I was just mildly impressed.
Onto the awards:
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
Anytime a player tallies a hat trick, they deserve the MOTM award in my book, barring something extraordinarily extraordinary from someone else — which I didn’t see. La Joya’s first goal was very nice, but, given his recent struggles from the penalty spot, I thought nailing back-to-back perfect penalties was pretty gutsy.
It’s all the gutsier when you consider (at least from my perspective) he played pretty damn well earlier in the week, got unlucky, and then all around had a pretty hard time of it. Good bounce-back game for La Joya, and maybe it stokes something special for next week.
Slash, he’s not playing next Wednesday. So there’s that.
Piazza San Carlo Award
For a potentially overlooked yet stellar showing.
Wojciech Szczesny’s save moments before Benevento’s first goal was one of the best Juventus saves of the season. If the Polish blocker proved anything (to me) in this game, it was (once again) that his reactions are clearly sharper than Gigi the Generous’ reactions at this point. I very much understand Buffon finishing out the season as the preferred keeper, but I think most of us (all of us?) really, really hope Woj is playing most every game.
Ivrea Orange Festival Award
For the player who takes something crappy and makes it beautiful.
The other day on the “On This Day” feature on my Facebook page, I happened across some photographs of myself on that fateful day now nearly seven years ago: me, drunk, covered in oranges and horse poop, kissing a pretty girl named Heather (and subsequently blabbering about it on the return train home and ruining the dubiously auspicious start I’d had with her, but that’s neither here nor there ...) — all the inspiration for this award, which is given to a player who creates something wonderful out of something crappy, just as Ivrea takes a horse poop-covered town and makes it wonderful. Or something like that.
Well, the poop-covered thing here was when, in the 82nd minute, Pipita sent a kind of poopy pass to a streaking Douglas Costa. (The pass wasn’t atrocious, but I need to work it into the metaphor.)
Then Flash took the ball, danced once, dance twice, and — wielding the power of Gigi’s kiss from earlier in the first half — he put power and curve onto a beautifully delicate parabola and sealed the win for the good guys.
Now just do that 12 times against Real Madrid on Wednesday and Juve will be heading to the Champions League semifinals once again!