For the better part of the last six weeks, Juventus has been playing with fire. Juve’s form has, for the most part, been in the tank, with the only thing bailing them out has been individual moments of brilliance and the simple fact that they can grind out one-goal results better than just about anybody in Europe.
The problem is, walking that tight rope can come back to bite you.
And it nearly did for Juventus on Saturday in Bergamo.
But, like so many times before — especially during this monthlong run of unimpressive form — the Italian champions essentially pulled a black and white rabbit out of their hat and somehow came away with three points come the final whistle sounding.
Led by a Gonzalo Higuain second-half brace, Juventus kept its near-two-decade-long unbeaten streak against Atalanta in Serie A alive just when it looked like it was going to be in serious jeopardy. Juve, again, needed late-game magic from one of their talented attackers, and Higuain was the man to do just that, scoring twice within eight minutes to pull the Bianconeri ahead and then putting the icing on the comeback cake with a slick assist to Paulo Dybala in stoppage time to clinch the 3-1 victory on a rainy night in Bergamo.
It was the kind of 3-1 win that didn’t look possible entering the game’s final 20 minutes.
Nor did it look like it was even going to be a win before Higuain’s game-tying goal with 15 minutes to go.
It’s the kind of recipe we’re so used to seeing Juventus roll with that it’s pretty much old hat at this point. It doesn’t matter if it’s Max Allegri or Maurizio Sarri on the sidelines, this is what Juve does — and, obviously, it’s something that this team does extremely well, suffering for long periods of games yet coming out victorious when it’s all said and done.
Essentially, if you were to compare how the two teams, it would certainly be Atalanta who were much more deserving of winning than Juventus. The Italian champions were being pushed back onto their heels for a large chunk of Saturday’s game, with Atalanta feeding off the atmosphere in Bergamo.
And, as a result, this one had a little bit of everything.
You wanted to see a penalty call go against Juventus once again? You got it ... only for Mussa Barrow to blast the subsequent PK off the crossbar.
You wanted some controversy? You definitely got that — and we’ll certainly hear about it from the Atalanta side of things in the following hours as the Italian press does their interviews.
You wanted to see a 20-year-old Dutchman grit through the pain while playing with a likely separated shoulder? You got that.
And, as we’ve seen a lot this season, you wanted to see Pipita’s Revenge Tour continue? Well, as the Atalanta defense found out, that’s not slowing down any time soon.
With so much talk entering the game being about how Juventus would be without Cristiano Ronaldo, leave it to the guy who was loaned out because of CR7’s arrival last summer to fill the goal-scoring void once again. Higuain might not have been lighting up the nets this season, but we do know this: When Higuain plays against Atalanta, there’s a pretty damn good chance of his scoring.
8 - Atalanta are the team against which Gonzalo Higuaín scored in the most different Serie A games (eight). Verdict. #AtalantaJuve— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) November 23, 2019
Ownage is ownage, folks. And I think it’s safe to say that Higuain likes playing against Atalanta no matter what number he has on his back. (It’s still weird to see him in the No. 21 jersey, but that might just be me.)
It’s also safe to say that, once again, we’re sitting here after a Juventus game saying “points are points.” Could be worse, I guess. And there’s no chance of Inter jumping over Juve into first place in a couple of hours, either, which is pretty nice to say.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- That atmosphere at this new-loook Atalanta stadium — absolutely fantastic.
- It’s amazing how Juventus’ play improved once Sami Khedira was subbed out. It’s like some massive coincidence that I just can’t seem to put my finger on. Or maybe I just did.
- I, like Pierluigi Gollini in Atalanta’s goal, was fully prepared for Paulo Dybala to go far post with one of his classic left-footed benders. Instead, Dybala went near post and Gollini had no chance. That’s the sniper part of Dybala’s game that we all know and love.
- If anybody knows the whereabouts of the Miralem Pjanic from September, please let him know that we miss him and want him to come back soon.
- In his last two games, Wojciech Szczesny has recorded two of his highest single-game save totals since becoming Juventus’ starting goalkeeper. Outside of de Ligt, Szczesny was probably the biggest reason as to why Juve weren’t losing at halftime.
- Speaking of de Ligt, we just saw his best game in a Juventus jersey — and that’s before you throw what he was dealing with most of the second half into the equation. I think it’s safe to say that we just found out what our young man’s pain tolerance is because I highly doubt a lot of players could have dealt with that as well as keeping his game at an extremely high level like de Ligt did. He was great, plain and simple.
- Just in case you were wondering, de Ligt led Juventus in the three main defensive statistics on Saturday, with 3 tackles, 4 interceptions and 5 clearances. He also had two blocked shots, with the first one a big reason why Atalanta didn’t score in the first half. So, yes, he was really, really good — both with the eye test and on the stat sheet.
- Please feel better soon, Federico Bernardeschi. Nobody likes injuries.
- He was better in the second half, but this was one of the first games in quite a few weeks where Juan Cuadrado looked a little exposed at right back. Papu Gomez was a threat all game long down the left wing, and Cuadrado was struggling to keep up with him. The assist on Higuain’s game-winner makes up for the first-half struggles a little, but this is what we get sometimes when playing a winger at fullback.
- Speaking of Papu, can somebody explain to me why it was Barrow and not Papu taking that penalty kick? I’m obviously totally fine with the end result, but just curious why it wasn’t him.
- God bless Argentina. Go ahead and sing its national anthem tonight if you want to.