It is still hard for me to believe sometimes that Gonzalo Higuain really is a contributor to this Juventus squad. I don’t know when that will stop being the case. Maybe in a couple of weeks, maybe in a couple of months once we’re truly in the grind of the 2019-20 season and Juve are getting ready to celebrate Christmas and preparing to compete on three fronts.
But, it’s a thing.
It really is a thing.
Juventus chose to keep Higuain around, and he’s continuing to make a difference.
The latest chapter in the Gonzalo Higuain Redemption Tour came Tuesday night, as Juventus’ former No. 9 who now wears No. 21 — still weird! — was the main man in attack that also just so happens to feature the greatest goal scorer the Champions League has ever seen. Higuain’s first-half goal opened the scoring, his (unofficial) second-half assist on Federico Bernardeschi’s goal wrapped up the game and Juventus didn’t do what it did against Atlético Madrid to open Champions League group stage play — blow a 2-0 lead. Instead, that two-goal lead held, and Juve went joint-top of Group D with a 3-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen at Allianz Stadium.
The first touch to control it.
The second touch to bury it in the back of the net with a clinical finish.
That’s a vintage kind of finish from Higuain right there, isn’t it? Yeah, I think so, too.
It’s a pretty good time to be an Argentinian forward on Juventus’ roster right now. Paulo Dybala is really starting to hit his stride again after a summer full of drama, and now Higuain is proving to be somebody that can contribute both on the domestic and European side of things.
That’s not exactly what you call a bad problem to have when you’re Maurizio Sarri.
Of course it’s easy to say that when Higuain has the kind of performance he did on Tuesday night against Leverkusen. When he’s the Higuain that’s struggling to find the target and visibly frustrated with himself, then it’s a little tougher to say that he should be the striker that Sarri should be going with.
But, when Higuain IS playing like he did Tuesday night, then he’s the kind of striker that can truly be the game-changing player that he was when he first joined Juventus and absolutely thrived under Sarri’s guidance at Napoli. And on European nights where Juve are obviously going to need — at least at first before the game became a bit of a one-sided affair — a little bit of magic, Higuain was able to provide.
And just like that, with one swing of Higuain’s boot, Juve are back on top of Group D.
That’s a much more welcome sight than seeing Juventus blowing a 2-0 lead in a game that should have never turned out that way. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Of course I write 400-something words on Aaron Ramsey’s early-season impact and how he could be a difference maker in the starting lineup against Bayer Leverkusen and then he’s not even in the starting lineup. You’re welcome, everybody.
- Juventus’ Twitter account said Sarri would use a 4-3-3 formation. Juve came out in a crystal-clear 4-3-1-2 formation. That’s some sneaky stuff there, Mister.
- Cristiano Ronaldo’s finishing in front of goal Tuesday night was ... not great until his goal in the final moments pretty much put the icing on the cake.
- Juan Cuadrado is the best right back that Juventus has on its roster right now. I’m sure Sarri will use Danilo more often than not when he does come back in that spot, but Cuadrado is proving to be so much less of a liability as a defender as he used to be.
- Wojciech Szczesny: Zero saves needed.
- The Leonardo Bonucci-Matthijs de Ligt defensive partnership is starting to find its stride. Juventus defended well as a team, obviously, but these two guys really do look like they’re developing the kind of rapport Juve need if they want to be successful on multiple fronts.
- Miralem Pjanic “only” touched the ball 87 times against Leverkusen. Slacker.
- Paulo Dybala’s assist on Ronaldo’s goal ... chef’s kiss.
- That’s the kind of second half that Federico Bernardeschi needed. He first half was rough, and it was kind of the 45-minute representation of what his season has been like to date. Hopefully getting a goal in a big game like this one is what kick starts things for him going forward because whether he’s’ going to be playing out wide or in the hole Juve are going to need him to start being the player he was this time last year.
- Props to Alex Sandro. This past week hasn’t been easy for him, and to come out and play an effective game with a heavy heart must have been incredibly difficult.
- Higuain got a standing ovation as he came off the field and was replaced by Dybala — and he deserved every single bit of it. That’s the kind of game that I’m sure Pipita wanted to have knowing just how long it had been since his last Champions League goal.