With every trick and flick in the first half of Tuesday night’s game against Atlético Madrid, you could tell that Paulo Dybala was feeling himself. The confidence was seemingly oozing from his No. 10 jersey, and while Juventus didn’t have a goal through the first 45 minutes, Dybala was easily the most player that was on the field.
Then Rodrigo Bentancur was fouled on the edge of the penalty area right by the touchline in stoppage time. Dybala stepped up, and you wouldn’t blame him for just swinging in a cross to one of Juve’s dangerous set piece targets.
Instead, Dybala decided to do it all himself.
And, from that tight angle, against that opposing goalkeeper, Juve’s No. 10 made some absolute magic happen.
In what is surely one of the best free kicks of his career, Dybala singlehandedly turned what was a offensive-starved first half on its head with a stunning goal right before the halftime whistle. It was the kind of free kick attempt from such an angle that only those who are so confident in their abilities will dare to try — and Dybala, with how he has played both this season as a whole and in recent weeks, is on that kind of level right now. The topper, of course, is that free kick from that angle gave Juventus the 1-0 win and was scored against a usually-air tight Atlético Madrid defense and against a goalkeeper in Jan Oblak who is considered the best in the game these days.
I know I say it a lot in post-game threads when a Juventus player does something pretty, but watching Dybala’s goal from this angle behind the ball and you see just how tight of a window he has to work with, it’s just absurd. Absolutely absurd. It not only takes a whole lot of skill to score that kind of chance, but it takes a whole lot of confidence to even try it.
And Dybala is certainly confident right now.
Confident Dybala sure is fun, huh?
Combine that latest piece of Dybala magic in the Champions League — it was just a few weeks ago that he bailed his team out against Lokomotiv Moscow at Allianz Stadium — and a rock-solid defensive effort from virtually the opening minute to the final whistle, and Juventus was able to lock up the top spot in Group D much in the same manner as they’ve been winning a whole lot of games these days.
For all the possession Juve had — it was in the low 70s percentage-wise for a good portion of the first half — it didn’t really materialize into much offensively. With all of 10 minutes to go, Juventus had six shots — YES, SIX! — in total, easily the lowest total a Maurizio Sarri squad has had since he took over in Turin. It was the definition of grinding out a result — and that was before Dybala’s piece of free kick magic.
But that’s also what made Dybala’s free kick so important. Juve just simply wasn’t able to do much offensively. Neither was Atlético Madrid, for what it’s worth, with Wojciech Szczesny only having to be called into action a couple of times in the game.
So now we know two things: Juventus will finish atop of its Champions League group and the trip to Germany to face Bayer Leverkusen won’t have much riding on it — and that’s perfectly okay with me.
Oh, and one more thing we know: Dybala back. That’s pretty good news, too. (But you probably already knew that.)
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- So, who’s happy that Juventus didn’t sell Pauli Dybala this past summer?
- I mean, really. Paulo Dybala is so, so good — and this season just seems to be one where Juve’s two Argentinian strikers are more than happy to embrace the revenge tours.
- There is only one person on the Juventus squad who could have scored that goal from that angle and his name is Paulo Dybala.
- I mentioned that it was a Bentancur run that allowed Dybala to even have the chance to try that free kick in first-half stoppage time. And, after a rough 15-20 minutes to start, it was really good to see Bentancur grow into the game. His runs forward added something that Sami Khedira doesn’t always bring to the table, and his defensive effort — he had a couple of really, really nice tackles — was what allowed Juventus to keep Atlético Madrid off the scoreboard.
- Can we declare Matthijs de Ligt officially settled in at Juventus? Because I think Matthijs de Ligt, just a couple of days removed from separating his shoulder, is settled in at Juventus. That tackle he made in the 83rd minute just when it looked like Atlético might tie the game up was a piece of absolute beauty. This boy, he’s good.
- One more de Ligt note: Did you notice with every de Ligt tackle in the second half the reaction from the Allianz Stadium crowd became louder and louder? They’re starting to feel good about our young Dutch son — and so should you.
- Juventus just recorded a shutout in the Champions League with Danilo starting over right back. All of those “I didn’t know I’d be yearning for Juan Cuadrado” thoughts when the starting lineups came out were put at ease a little bit, I hope.
- Juventus finished with six shots. SIX.
- Juventus had 60 percent possession.
- I really appreciate Secret Agent Alvaro Morata not scoring that goal right before the final whistle so that I didn’t have to re-do any of the first part of this thread. Thank you, Alvaro.
- Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t all that great in his return to the field. But I guess the encouraging thing is that he was able to play a full 90 minutes and the only real injury concerns we might have had about him came when he kicked — and broke — the corner flag in the first half. Other than that ... did you hear about his new hairstyle?
- In conclusion, Paulo Dybala is really good and I like that he’s on my favorite team.