I always find it amusing when announcers say the halftime score and base how the game has gone solely on how many goals, if any, separate the two teams. In this case, a 1-0 game between Juventus and Inter Milan that on the scoreboard looked close was anything but that on the field. Juventus were not just getting outplayed, but they looked like a team that, despite having five more league games remaining, had visions of their post-season plans on sunny beaches across Europe.
Juve, basically, looked like a team that was clearly second best — and it wasn’t even close.
So, forgive me if I didn’t have thoughts of a grand Juventus comeback based on the first 45 minutes. It wasn’t just the fact that Inter had the bulk of possession — at one point in the first half, Juve had only seen about 22 percent of the ball — but the home side was absolutely taking it to the visitors. It was just another half to forget in a season where there has already been plenty of them stocked up in our collective memories.
Yet, here we are, after the final whistle has sounded and Juventus didn’t lose the second and final Derby d’Italia of the season. Instead, thanks to a thunderous left-footed strike from Cristiano Ronaldo just past the hour mark, Juve were able to escape an otherwise forgettable trip to the San Siro with a 1-1 draw on Saturday night, leaving the door open for some of Inter’s competition for a Champions League spot to take advantage of this result (or in Roma’s case already benefit from it).
Ha, this team.
Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 600 club goals in his career:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 27, 2019
Real Madrid (450)
Man Utd (118)
Sporting CP (5)
An absolutely bonkers record. pic.twitter.com/vJ8sfXQ0H8
It was, to Juve’s credit, an improved second half. Although, with that being said, it’s not like they had to do all that much to get the bar raised from where it was in the first 45 minutes, an opening half that saw them fall behind 1-0 on a swerving Radja Nainggolan goal that Wojciech Szczesny will probably tell you he should have saved 10 times out of 10 regardless of the movement on the ball.
And, even with little riding on the result from Juve’s point of view, it was nice to see at least a noticeable amount of improvement in the second half. (Hey, they could have just kept coasting like they were in the first half and getting run out of the stadium, but that didn’t happen.)
That meant what looked like a sure-fire loss after the first half wasn’t that come the final whistle.
At least Juventus didn’t lose.
And on a day where Juve didn’t have much to at all to play for Serie A standings-wise and their opposition most certainly did, the eight-time defending Italian champions were able to muster just enough to make Italy’s race for Europe just that much more interesting.
Seeing as it impacts Inter directly, too, I’ll take it ... horrendous first half and all.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- The sign of a quality goalkeeper? Being able to quickly dispose of a frustrating moment and then snap back into focus. That’s exactly what Szczesny was able to do Saturday night. Pretty much every one of his ensuing five saves were really, really good at the very least. And if you want to look at arguably the biggest reason as to why we’re talking about a Juventus draw rather than a loss to Inter, I think it’s pretty safe Juve’s No. 1 is it.
- The curva at the San Siro used their pre-game choreography to mock Juventus’ Champions League exit at the hands of Ajax. I guess they’re living 10 years in the past and have forgotten their club hasn’t won any kind of hardware in nearly 3,000 days. Oh well. At least they’ve got a choice as to which one of Juve’s eight straight Scudetti they can admire from afar.
- Just go ahead and stash that away for Inter’s visit to Allianz Stadium next year. Maybe that choreography can feature some kind of Europa League reference?
- That said, it was good to see Beppe Marotta attending a Juventus game again. Of course it was a little weird to see him flanked by people other than Andrea Agnelli, Fabio Paratici and Pavel Nedved, but it’s good to see the dude who’s played such a huge role in Juve’s rise back up to being Italy’s gold standard.
- Giorgio Chiellini tried a right-footed volley in the first half. I laughed. Glad to have you back, capitano. During a first half like that was, we needed a bit of a chuckle.
- Max Allegri said that he will use these last five games of the season to experiment a little bit. We also saw him basically use — give or take — 100 different formations over the course of the game against Inter. Juve announced things as a 4-3-3, which was what it looked like they started out in. It quickly shifted to a 3-5-2. By the time Moise Kean came on just before Ronaldo’s game-tying goal, Allegri was in full-on 4-4-2 mode. Tinkering was a constant for Allegri in this one — and nobody is going to deny that.
- At some point, I hope that Allegri realizes that Federico Bernardeschi isn’t exactly meant to be a supporting striker like he’s been deployed as the last couple of games. I love Fede as much as the next guy, but it feels like he’s been wasted and a little out of sorts in that position.
- Matheus Pereira came on late for Bernardeschi late in the second half, lights things up with a fancy-as-hell first touch and then almost scores the game-winning goal. Not bad, kid.
- Moise Kean again got a nice chunk of playing time off the bench Saturday night. But just like in the second leg against Ajax when he came on at halftime, Kean saw very little of the ball, getting all of six touches in his 30 minutes of game time. As explosive of a talent he is, he’s gotta be able to see the ball to be able to do something with it.
- Derby d’Italia one weekend, Derby della Mole the next. These games might not have any Scudetto implications riding on them, but you can’t say that the Serie A schedule makers didn’t make the final month of Juve’s fixture list a completely boring one.