Not even Cristiano Ronaldo’s Champions League dominance could save Juventus this time.
Nope, not when the rest of the team was running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off.
Juventus’ season that has put so much concentration — and financial prowess — on trying to end the club’s near-three-decade-long Champions League drought is officially over. Not only did Juve crash out in the Champions League quarterfinals in a 2-1 loss (3-2 on aggregate) to Ajax, but the kids who have quickly built a reputation as giant killers in Europe’s premier club competition did so in the kind of fashion that many of us wanted to see Juventus play for pretty much the entire season.
Ajax, with a roster filled with such amazing talents, didn’t just take control of the game right after halftime. They pretty much dictated every bit of how the second half would go, with Juventus’ midfield and defense absolutely stretched as far as it could be what seemed like every time Ajax pushed the ball forward.
Juventus had the possession edge for much of the first half. Same goes for the scoring opportunities.
The final total: Juventus had 50.8 percent of the possession, but Ajax created more shots (14). And, as we know from how busy Szczesny was, it’s not like a lot of those efforts were just flying wide of the goal.
The mad thing about this is that Ajax’s decision-making in the final third has been quite bad. Could be about 1-5.— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) April 16, 2019
The thing is, he’s not wrong. Ajax could have made things a lot, lot worse. And, on top of some of Ajax’s questionable decision making in the final third, if it was for Wojciech Szczesny, it most definitely would have been worse. Instead, what looks like a relatively close game with the final score was really anything but that.
And because of it, this ends Juve’s European adventure this season. We heard so much about how this was the season where they wanted things to change, They shelled out €100 million — as well as €30 million net in annual salary — in the summer for Ronaldo, the man who was supposed to lead them to Champions League glory. This season was about the Champions League. Juventus already had the best squad in Serie A even if Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala were the main two strikers available to Max Allegri. But the objective was Europe — and it’s why Juve made the moves they did.
Except they forgot to address the midfield. Or have a mentality change that made them more ruthless like the team they lost to on Tuesday night rather than just the usual defending a one-goal lead with two-thirds of the game to go.
As great as the comeback against Atlético Madrid was, this is the opposite of that.
This is the magnification of a flawed squad being exposed for what it is. It doesn’t matter how great Ronaldo is in the knockout rounds if you can’t get the ball out of your own net. It doesn’t matter how many times Allegri says he wants his team to play aggressive and all that if they don’t go out and actually do.
No, Juventus will now have to settle for an eighth straight Serie A title.
And that, my friends, is the ultimate letdown after hearing so much about how this season was going to be different in Europe.
Instead, the end is just like pretty much the last decade of Champions League football for Juventus — a bunch of disappointment. This time, knowing who they signed and how much they’ve put stock in the brand, it’s even more so.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- My god am I envious of how Ajax plays this game. It’s so fun to watch ... unless it’s against your favorite team.
- Ajax just punked Juventus ... in Turin. Let that sink in for a second.
- Over two legs, Ajax were clearly the better side. And if you think otherwise, then I don’t really know what to tell you.
- Of course it had to be a guy who Juventus are reportedly interested in signing who scores the game- and tie-winning goal. This Matthijs de Ligt kid, he’s pretty damn good. It’s going to take a long time to get the image of de Ligt soaring between Alex Sandro and Daniele Rugani to head home the game-winner out of my head.
- And yet it was a de Ligt “tackle” in the box that led to Ronaldo’s game-opening goal.
- Mr. de Ligt is going to cost somebody a whole lot of money this summer and it will all be worth it. He’s 19 years old and captaining a team into the Champions League semifinals. What were you doing at the age of 19? (I was sitting in a lecture hall taking terrible notes, probably.)
- Somebody grab the milk carton because Juventus’ midfield went missing Tuesday night.
- I feel bad for Paulo Dybala. He’s going to get some shade thrown his way. But when you look at how Juve was playing while he was on the field and then when he was subbed off at halftime due to injury, it’s night and day. Not saying Dybala being forced to come off the field is the reason as to why Juventus ended up losing this game, but it definitely didn’t help things at all.
- Moise Kean touched the ball 14 times in 45 minutes off the bench. It’s hard for him to potentially play the role of hero off the bench if he’s barely involved in anything going forward.
- As you could probably guess, a lot of Juventus’ passing — especially in the second half — left a whole lot to be desired. It’s pretty remarkable how this team still looked totally unprepared for Ajax throwing a ton of pressure Juve’s way.
- We were hoping for Good Joao Cancelo when he came off the bench. We didn’t get that.
- Good lord if Juventus don’t address their midfield outside of Aaron Ramsey this summer ...
- In conclusion: Gooddammit.