It wouldn’t be Juventus in the Champions League without an emotional roller coaster. And you can bet your you-know-what that Wednesday night’s group stage opener against Valencia in Spain was about as topsy-turvy as it could probably get.
Let’s just take what happened in the final 20 minutes of the first half as an example, shall we?
- Juventus’ new Champions League hero and the competition’s all-time leading scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, was shown a straight red for apparently patting a defender on the head and pulling his hair a bit after he clearly embellished a clash between the two.
- While it earned Juventus a penalty, Valencia midfielder Daniel Parejo put his studs right into Joao Cancelo’s face and was only shown a yellow card.
So there was that, for starters.
But there was also this: Juventus, thanks to Miralem Pjanic’s 44th- and 51st-minute penalties, survived their trip to the Mestalla and claimed a 2-0 win over Valencia.
That’s the kind of response you want from your team.
That’s also refreshing to see from a referee who completely bottled the Ronaldo call to get both of the penalty decisions completely spot on. Maybe not the whole not giving a red card for this...
...but at least when there were penalties to call, the penalties were called.
It’s impossible not to applaud Juventus for what they did after Ronaldo was sent off. With all of the emotion that not only Ronaldo himself showed in the moments following the red card coming out of the referee’s back pocket but also the absolute buzzing crowd since a player that haunted them for years was just sent off, Juventus could have just lost their head and seen Valencia reap the rewards of the man advantage.
Instead, Juventus really only continued to be the better side like they were when they started to take control of the game right before Ronaldo was sent off.
Sure, you can say that Juventus scored both of their goals from the penalty spot and they didn’t get anything from open play. But when you consider that Max Allegri could have easily packed up shop and tried to play for the point away from home, seeing Joao Cancelo and Alex Sandro continue to bomb forward despite being down a man was a pleasant change from what the general “Let’s try and think like Max” game we like tp play in these types of situations.
Juventus were starting to show that they were the better side before Ronaldo was sent off, and they proved to be the better side after Ronaldo left the field an emotional wreck.
Just an average night in the Champions League for Juventus, right? Well ... at least they got three points.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- At least Ronaldo will be rested up for Frosinone at the weekend, right?
- Juventus’ defense absolutely defended their asses off Wednesday night. They deserve every single bit of that clean sheet.
- If this is the Joao Cancelo that we’re going to get more often than not, that big €40 million transfer fee Juve forked over to Valencia is going to look more and more affordable. Cancelo was just an absolute terror down the right wing all game long and was once again Juventus’ leader in tackles. This, from a player who was seen as a possible defensive liability when Juve first signed him. Keep teaching him up, Max.
- Juventus’ midfield with Emre Can is a better one as compared to one without him.
- Wojciech Szczesny played about as well as he’s played all season. You could probably nitpick a couple of things, but Woj was busy and he answered the call every time.
- He also saved a penalty on a penalty that shouldn’t have been a penalty. Ball don’t lie.
- Knowing how prone to crucial mistakes Juventus’ defense has been so far this season — and, let’s face it, in years past as well — defending the way they did against Valencia was very much an encouraging sign.
- Maybe it’s just recency bias, but I can’t remember Federico Bernardeschi having the same kind of work rate he is showing us right now last season. He just runs his tail off, and is obviously capable of being one of Juventus’ most creative players on the field when he’s out there. He’s earning the minutes that he’s getting, and that’s pretty damn impressive considering who he’s competing for playing time with this season.
- It’s the 86th minute and I hear on my stream “You know who’s at the left back position? It’s Mandzukic, isn’t it?” #ThatsSoMario.
- When it came to the battle of players wearing pink-ish boots, I’m quite happy that Pjanic won over Neto both times. (Not sure they exactly won with the boot color, though.)
- Eat it, UEFA.
- In closing: This game was absolutely terribly officiated.