There were plenty of reasons as to why Juventus were thought to be overwhelming favorites over Sassuolo during Sunday afternoon’s lunchtime kickoff. Juve entered the day still unbeaten on the season, while Sassuolo was going through a rough stretch due to injuries and its continuing struggles defensively. And, as we came to find out an hour before kickoff, Sassuolo had to turn to its primavera goalkeeper to make his senior level debut at a stadium where the club had never picked up even a single point in six attempts.
Well, the favorites certainly didn’t play like favorites.
And I guess we know now why Maurizio Sarri called Sassuolo’s visit to Turin such a dangerous game.
Sassuolo and its 18-year-old debutant in goal made a wee bit of history on a rain-soaked Allianz Stadium pitch Sunday afternoon, with Juventus making two huge blunders defensively to enable the visitors to pick up a point in a 2-2 draw. Juventus, which led for all of about two minutes and change before Sassuolo tied the game after Leonardo Bonucci’s opener, only were able to level the game thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty kick after Paulo Dybala was brought down in the penalty area.
Other than that, I don’t really know what exactly to say.
Juventus weren’t great by any means even if the final shot total of 29 makes them look like a dominant force against a potential relegation battler. And while it’s true that if not for a couple of really, really good saves by Stefano Turati in the second half then Juventus probably would have won, but this is simply the kind of game against the kind of opponent where Sarri’s side has no business doing anything other than getting three points.
Juventus has walked a fine line for a lot of this season. They haven’t played with the lead all that much this season and have had to rally to pick up points on plenty of occasions already — and it’s just barely December. This is a different kind of suffering as compared to the Max Allegri years where Juve gets up early and then maybe adds another goal in the second half while pretty much easing into another three points on cruise control. It’s not necessarily organized chaos, but plenty of times this season Juventus has proven to be its own worst enemy.
And that was on display again Sunday afternoon.
The weather sucked. For most of the game Juventus sucked. And, credit to Sassuolo, this wasn’t a lower-table team that let Juve come to them; Sassuolo went right at Juventus, and pretty much did so from the opening kickoff until the final whistle. This was far from the kind of frustrating Juventus result where all they did was fail to break down the opposing defense because they had so many numbers back behind the ball.
Instead, Juve ended up drawing with Sassuolo because of two preventable defensive errors and the inability to finish against a completely unproven goalkeeper who was making the biggest start of his young career.
So maybe Inter goes in a few hours.
And if that happens, we’ll know why.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Juventus’ starting goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, is turning 42 years old in just under two months and is inching closer and closer to the Serie A record for most appearances.
- Sassuolo’s starting goalkeeper, Stefano Turati, is 18 years old and made his senior level debut on Sunday.
- Buffon made his first Juventus appearance on Aug. 26, 2001.
- Turati was born on Sept. 5, 2001.
- That second Sassuolo goal was not totally on Buffon. Juan Cuadrado played his part in it. So did Matthijs de Ligt. But when was the last time we saw Buffon make a mistake that bad in a Juventus jersey? (And it also caused the ESPN+ announcers to pretty much talk about how Buffon shouldn’t be playing at this age for the rest of the game, so there’s that, too ... which was awful.)
- There was a point in the second half, probably with about 15 or so minutes to go, when Sarri was screaming at his team to press higher up the field and some players — most notably Rodrigo Bentancur — just looked like they were running on empty. This wasn’t the Sassuolo side of years past that just sat back for 90 minutes, so you could see why players who have logged a lot of minutes the last eight days might not have had as much as their manager wanted them to have.
- For me, Bentnancur was probably Juve’s best player outside of Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain. At this point, all of the playing time he’s getting is completely deserved, and you can see just how much more dangerous things are down the right wing when it’s Bentancur combining and making runs alongside Juan Cuadrado rather than Sami Khedira. Are there things he needs to improve on? Yes, but there’s room to grow and areas to get better — which, obviously, is something we can’t say about Khedira because he’s 32 years old and kinda washed at this point.
- Ronaldo, still not 100 percent fit, played a full 90 minutes for the second time in five days. I’m sure that’s what we all want to hear while waiting for him to get back to his best.
- But hey, at least Ronaldo put a really good free kick on frame — which was brilliantly saved by Turati — so we’ve at least got that going for us.
- Then again, Dybala had what looked like it was taken away from him because Roanldo just couldn’t get out of the way of his teammate’s shot. (This isn’t the first time something like that has happened.)
- Emre Can really struggled in his 50 or so minutes. I’m sure we’ll hear — again — about how unhappy he is about the current situation at Juventus before the week is over.
- Did you notice how much better Juventus played once Can and Federico Bernardeschi were subbed out for Dybala and Blaise Matuidi? Yeah, me, too.
- Thank goodness this team doesn’t have a midweek fixture because some of Juventus’ most important players need a little bit of a rest. And after this kind of result, they just need a break period.