As is pretty much protocol for both this season under Maurizio Sarri and back when Max Allegri was screaming his head off on the sidelines in a nicely-tailored suit, where a domestic opponent sits in the standings will far from dictate just how the game will actually play out. We’ve seen it in recent weeks, recent months and recent seasons.
Sunday night at Allianz Stadium was no different, even though a Milan side that is just a handful of points out of the relegation zone rolled into town a shell of its former self.
At least on paper, that is.
In what will likely go down as one of Milan’s best games of the season, Juve’s November struggles in terms of overall end products continued. Luckily for Sarri and his squad, Juventus’ first-year manager was able to bring somebody like Paulo Dybala off the bench, with La Joya again being a game-changing sub by scoring the game-winning goal in Juve’s 1-0 win over Milan to leapfrog Inter in the Serie A standings once again.
And in case you’re thinking that Dybala scoring against Milan has been somewhat of a frequent thing since he moved to Juventus, you’re right.
7 - Paulo #Dybala has netted 7 goals against Milan in #SerieA (vs no team he scored more goals in the competition): he scored 6 goals in his 6 home league games played vs the Rossoneri. Victim. #JuveMilan.— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) November 10, 2019
And if you thought that a one-goal margin of victory is a rather common occurrence — especially when Juventus plays at home — you’d be right. In Juve’s six Serie A matches at home this season, these have been the final scores:
- 4-3 win over Napoli
- 2-1 win over Hellas Verona
- 2-0 win over SPAL
- 2-1 win over Bologna
- 2-1 win over Genoa
- 1-0 win over AC Milan
Throw in a 2-1 win over Lokomotiv Moscow on Oct. 22, and all but two of Juventus’ home matches this season have been decided by a single goal. That is far from impressive, sure, but it’s also just the cliché as hell kind of notion that Juventus just knows how to get it done — especially when the Italian champions are playing at Allianz Stadium.
This was another one of those poor performances from Juventus where a mid- or lower-table side had more than a fighting chance to come away with points.
Case in point, Part I: Juventus was outshot by Milan 6-4 in the first half, with three of those six shots forcing Wojciech Szczesny into really, really good saves.
Case in point, Part II: Juventus was outshot by Milan 13-12 in the game, with Szczesny being forced into seven saves, easily one of his highest single-game totals since taking over the No. 1 shirt for Gigi Buffon.
The better chances came from the visitors. Juventus, instead, looked about as ineffective in front of goal as it has in a good amount of time. At least in previous games Juve players were creating scoring chances and racking up shots like they were going out of style. On Sunday, we saw a lot of giveaways, a lot of passes just out of the reach of Gonzalo Higuain as he made runs into the box and just a general lack of cohesion in the final third.
But once Dybala came on for an injured Cristiano Ronaldo, things at least improved, and Juventus looked a little bit more dangerous going forward as a result.
Dybala’s latest goal against Milan was that individual moment of brilliance that Sarri continues to talk about being the difference in Juve’s wins as of late. This time, with his right, Dybala delivered the moment that Allianz Stadium was desperately waiting, with the previous 10 to 20 minutes being filled with a nervous tension that was palpable to anybody watching.
With the fake to his left and the shot on his right, tension relieved.
And because of it (as well as all of those pretty Szczesny saves), Juventus was able to claim another three points in a game where it might not have been completely deserved.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Every time I checked the live stats tab on WhoScored, Wojciech Szczesny’s match rating was going higher and higher. This was one of his best games as Juve’s starting goalkeeper. And if he’s not your Man of the Match, he better be the first runner-up. He was fantastic.
- Wojciech Szczesny won as many ariel duels as Alessio Romagnoli.
- Was this Matthijs de Ligt’s best game in a Juventus shirt? Because it feels like de Ligt’s best game in a Juventus shirt — which was so good to see after he missed the midweek trip to Russia because of a minor ankle injury he picked up in the Turin derby. Ankle looks good to me, folks.
- Not healthy: Cristiano Ronaldo, and it’s going to be pretty interesting to see just how long this apparently knee injury is going to linger and give him issues. We know that he’s been struggling in recent weeks, but this was the game where it was truly highlighted how much the injury is impacting his game right now.
- if not for a Gigi Donnarumma save late in the second half, Paulo Dybala would have scored a pair of goals with his right foot. This is a big development seeing as we’ve barely seen Dybala even attempt shots with his right foot since he signed with Juventus. But if Dybala now as some confidence in his right and won’t be so left foot dependent, watch out now.
- Gonzalo Higuain, who always works his ass off whenever he’s on the field, just seemed to be everywhere in the final third even though he didn’t have a goal to his name and Juve was far from effective when it came to creating scoring chances. Higuain again recorded the assist on what proved to be the game-winning goal, which now gives him three assists in the last three games and four assists in all competitions this season. Bet you didn’t expect that when you came to the realization that Higuain was going to be a Juventus player past the summer transfer window this year.
- Oh, and Higuain also had four key passes on Sunday night, which is more than anybody else on either team. That’s pretty good.
- Juventus’ subs made quite a difference in the second half. Milan’s subs ... didn’t do much of anything noticeable.
- Is it me or has Miralem Pjanic cooled off a little bit since his early-season performances? He’s definitely not been as involved as he was, with his final count of 82 touches being somewhat surprisingly high based on the fact that Juve didn’t dominate possession.
- Juan Cuadrado, back in the starting lineup, had a game-high 99 touches. That’s a lot for a right back.
- In conclusion, that game wasn’t pretty at all, but Paulo Dybala’s goal and Wojciech Szczesny’s saves were. Now we had to the international break, which will be boring outside of wondering just how injured Cristiano Ronaldo and Blaise Matuidi really are. Fun, right?