Juventus recorded 15 shots in the first half of Saturday afternoon’s trip to Lecce. Based on that simple fact, it was frustrating, sure, but also could have been taken as a sign that the second half was going to be more of the same, if not the kind of 45-minute stretch where it was just Juve racking up chance after chance after chance.
And that notion didn’t change when Paulo Dybala gave Juventus a 1-0 lead thanks to a penalty kick early in the second half.
But as said second half went on — and Lecce scored on its own PK attempt — the well dried up. Same goes for Juve’s chance to extend their lead atop the Serie A table for at least a couple of hours.
Now, thanks to Juventus’ 1-1 draw against Lecce — I Salentini’s first point recorded at home this season — Antonio Conte and and Inter have the chance to jump back over the Bianconeri and into first play later in the day. (As it turned out, Inter ended up drawing with Parma as well, so all of this might be a moot point.) And if Saturday’s showing at the Stadio Via del Mare was any kind of indication of the current state of Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus side, it’s a total combination of unluckiness, some fatigue and just simple trouble consistently breaking down sides no matter how much possession they have.
The easy narrative will be that Juventus couldn’t get it done without Cristiano Ronaldo, who stayed back in Turin because Sarri decided to rest him and not have him travel. The announcer on my stream made sure to remind everybody of that fact, too — which was obviously something that isn’t necessarily true seeing as Juve’s previously won this season without Ronaldo in the squad.
The truth be told, Juventus could have easily had three or four goals in the first half, which was obviously the better of the two periods from Sarri’s side based on the simple fact of the volume of chances they created. The second half was much more of a struggle even after both of the penalty kicks took place. Having Miralem Pjanic go off injured — the beginning to a sentence that I really don’t want to write again this season — certainly didn’t help. Having Lecce pack things in after tying the game at 1-1 also didn’t help.
But as time went on and the scoring chances dried up, not taking advantage of things in the opening 45 minutes just became more and more glaring.
There will be days like that — especially when you’re a tired squad that is playing a lot of games in a short amount of time. (This was the third game of the seven-game stretch within three weeks.)
For 45 minutes Juve looked good. It just so happened that they could find the back of the net during that first half. That’s football, folks. But that also doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Juventus didn’t drop points in this game because Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t playing.
- Juventus dropped points because, for a good portion of the match, the decision making and execution in the final third of the field was rather questionable.
- Yes, I’m looking at you, Federico Bernardeschi. I love you and your love of your bulldogs, but when you have THAT kind of chance with THAT wide open of a goal, you’ve got to put the ball in the back of the net, not off the side of the near post. That wasn’t just a summation of Juventus’ visit to Lecce, but pretty much Bernardeschi’s season as a whole.
- There will be more anger thrown at Matthijs de Ligt because of his handball in the box leading to Lecce’s equalizer. But I just want to ask this one question: What, exactly, is de Ligt supposed to do in that kind of situation? The ball into the box was deflected, and de Ligt was simply in a defensive kind of stance and had virtually no time to react to the ball. The spotlight is on him because of who he is, how much Juve paid for him over the summer and how inconsistent his season has been to date, but it’s not like de Ligt could have done of anything different on that. It was just an unfortunate deflection that resulted in the ball hitting off de Ligt’s arm and a PK being called.
- Was it just me or did some of the offside calls against Juventus actually be whistled down about two minutes after they actually happened? It wasn’t just the VAR reversal of Higuain’s goal (which was the correct call after they finally showed the replays).
- I don’t want to sweat a Miralem Pjanic injury, but here we are.
- Prayer circle for Miralem Pjanic. Feel free to invite young Edin Pjanic, too. He’s a good boy.
- I have no idea if Gonzalo Higuain suffered anything other than a really bad cut on his head after the collision with Rafael, but he sure did look to be shaking some cobwebs out in the minutes after and as they tried to wrap his head to stop the bleeding. The elbow Higuain caught was not intentional at all, but man that was about as violent of a collision we’ve seen between a Juventus player and a goalkeeper in a good amount of time.
- Rodrigo Bentancur, who himself seemed to be battling some kind of injury to his ribs late in the second half, has played as a trequarista, a No. 6 and now a regista in the past two games. That’s an interesting development, don’t you think?
- Juventus had 69 percent possession.
- Lecce had 69 percent pass succession.
- I miss Juventus recording clean sheets more often than not. I’m sure you feel the same way.
- I’m still not convinced of Danilo being the best option Juve has at right back. I never knew I would be #TeamJohnnyCuadrado based on how he’s frustrated me in the past, but here we are, folks.
- Don’t forget your participation in the Miralem Pjanic prayer circle, everybody.
- Seriously. Don’t forget it. We need Mire healthy.