A sign of how two games — and two victories, in this case — can be totally different: Juventus, coming off a 3-1 win over Udinese, actually had more possession on Wednesday night against Sampdoria than they did four days earlier during one of their more dominating performances of the season. In that game, Juve put Udinese to sleep before the halftime whistle sounded, but Wednesday’s trip to the Luigi Ferraris proved to be anything but as simple as the win before.
Thankfully for Juventus, two of the handful of scoring chances they did have were put away about as well we could have hoped for.
Two of the best goals Juventus will score this season were two of the biggest reason why the eight-time defending Italian champions were able to claim a 2-1 win over Sampdoria and go into this weekend’s Supercoppa with a little bit of wind in their sails. Paulo Dybala’s brilliant side volley got the scoring going, and then Cristiano Ronaldo’s towering header — he still might be hanging in the air for all we know — proved to be the game-winning goal against Claudio Ranieri’s scrappy Samp side that made things more than just a little interesting Wednesday night.
Just how interesting.
For as comfortable as the Udinese win was, this was far from the dominating effort regardless of what the possession stats may say.
Juventus, for all the possession they had, were actually outshot 14-11 by Sampdoria in the game. And while Gigi Buffon — who surpasses Paolo Maldini for the most appearances ever in Serie A — didn’t exactly have to be called into action in the kind of action that he did over the weekend, this wasn’t the kind of game where Juve’s opposition was simply peppering Buffon’s goal because the team in front of him took their foot off the gas.
Instead, in this game, Juventus bent rather than completely breaking as Sampdoria pushed forward trying to get a tying goal in the second half. Buffon was forced into just two saves, and it’s not like those were all too difficult at all. (You didn’t hear anybody making cracks about how old he is Wednesday night.)
Two different kinds of wins even though they probably should have had the same final score if Blaise Matuidi was able to put away that picture perfect cross from Dybala late in the second half.
But, even with that, it wouldn’t have been the same kind of dominant 3-1 win that Sunday was.
That’s fine, though. Why? Because we’re starting to see Juventus, even while giving up another stupid goal on this night, start to play some interesting football once again. It might not be consistently there just yet or the complete puzzle, but I can say I’m feeling better about this team now than I was a couple of weeks ago.
That’s progress — and that’s something we were hoping to see even with all of the struggles we saw through October and November. Progress is good. Keep it going.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- There will be a lot of attention on Ronaldo for the game he had — and rightfully so. I said over the weekend that, even with the brace he scored, he just still looked a little bit off. Well, I take that back now. This was as good as Ronaldo has looked in weeks, if not months, since the whole deal with his knee injury and the subsequent being subbed out in back-to-back games became a major talking point. Basically, if Juve want to do big things on multiple fronts this season, the Ronaldo we saw Wednesday night is going to have to be there on the big stage. (You know, like in the Champions League, a competition where he’s done a few things in.)
- Fun with stats: 2 — Cristiano Ronaldo had as many tackles as Merih Demiral.
- I learned in my beginning reporting class my freshman year of college that something happening a third time is considered a trend. Demiral just started his third straight game in all competitions. Is this now a thing? Because, while Demiral is talented and obviously a player with a bright future, I feel like there will be some terrible takes and/or horrible thinkpieces about Demiral and Matthijs de Ligt happening between now and the next time Juve plays a Serie A game.
- I really hope it doesn’t turn into a de Ligt vs. Demiral thing, but I fear that’s where we’re heading.
- Adrien Rabiot attempted 53 passes against Sampdoria. He completed 53 passes against Sampdoria. Not all of them were trying to fit the ball into a tiny window, but that’s still a good thing from a player still trying to work himself into form.
- Also on the passing stat front: Leonardo Bonucci completed 105 passes (out of 118) and was successful with 15 of the 24 long balls against Sampdoria. If you wanted a clear sign that Juve were trying to build out of the back Wednesday night, there you go.
- In case you didn’t know, Alex Sandro had assists on all three goals in this game. Congrats.
- Maurizio Sarri did Maurizio Sarri things and brought on two attacking players, Aaron Ramsey and Douglas Costa, when his team was trying to defend a 2-1 lead in the second half. Maybe it was just the usual Sarri aggressiveness. Maybe it was Sarri subbing out Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain with an eye toward the Supercoppa. Either way, it was interesting to see.
- Hot take: This season’s version of Paulo Dybala is quite fun. It’s much better than the version we saw last season, somebody who was constantly frustrated and not even close to the kind of player he’s showing to be this season. We like you, Paulo, and please stay a while.
- Cristiano Ronaldo: still flying through the air — probably.