I was ready to praise whatever it was Maurizio Sarri said to his team at halftime. The second Blaise Matuidi scored goal No. 2 on the night and spread his arms like he wanted to fly even though he was laying stomach-down on the ground, I was ready to fill this space with nothing but praise.
It was the 65th minute. Juventus had taken complete control of both the game as a whole and the second half. It was, basically, the aggressive and ruthless kind of Juventus that we didn’t see for one second over the weekend against Fiorentina.
Even the opposition felt like it was over. Or, at least, the opposing fans thought it was over after Matuidi’s hammer of a header off a perfectly-placed cross from Alex Sandro.
2-0. Ballgame. Matuidi from Alex Sandro, again on the counterattack.— Into the Calderón (@intothecalderon) September 18, 2019
As we came to find out, it was the end of the game by any means. And that had a lot to do with the fact that Juventus, under Sarri, have both shown a propensity to aggressively look to add onto its lead and, pretty much at the same time, prove to be quite vulnerable when they go up by multiple goals.
We saw it right before the international break against Napoli when a 3-0 lead quickly became a 3-3 cluster-you-know-what.
And we saw it against Wednesday night when Atlético Madrid both quickly answered Matuidi’s header to make it a one-goal game and then absolutely stole a point with a stoppage-time header of its own to grab a 2-2 in the Champions League group stage opener for both teams and the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid.
So, for all that praise that we were ready to heap onto Sarri and the second-half adjustments he made, we again see both the good and bad sides of Juventus. The good was that Juve clearly had an answer to what went wrong in the first half when the overall product was just OK and nothing really more than that. The bad, obviously, is that after getting up by a couple of goals the team clearly switched off.
Oh, and that no matter who the manager of this team is, they still can’t mark properly on set pieces and/or corner kicks.
So, you can spin this for the positive and say that Juventus, at full stretch for most of the second half, looked pretty damn good and scored two goals against a team that few teams score two goals against. (Even as Atleti’s defense is evolving in a post-Diego Godin world.) Sarri’s halftime adjustments worked perfectly — for most of the second half, at least — and the result was a team that looked a lot more dangerous than it did during the opening half.
Or, you can spin this as a negative because, with the way most of the second half went, Juventus should have come away from its Champions League group stage opener with three points and be sitting atop the Group D standings. But, because of Juve’s continued efforts to prove that marking on set pieces is going to be an issue no matter if it’s Antonio Conte, Max Allegri or Maurizio Sarri on the sidelines, we’re sitting here after four games in all competitions and talking about Juve blowing a multi-goal lead in two of them.
Because of that, the team leading Group D after one group stage game is ... Lokomotiv Moscow. Yep, Lokomotiv Moscow.
Just like we all though would happen.
Maybe Juventus blowing a 2-0 lead was easier predict. Unfortunately, it’s close to becoming a regular thing to start this season — which, I gotta say, isn’t what you would call a good thing ... or anything close to it.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- If you sat at your computer at the beginning of the summer transfer window and predicted that Sami Khedira, Blaise Matuidi AND Gonzalo Higuain would all be starting Juventus’ first Champions League game of the season, I suggest you go and ride that hot hand.
- And it’s just hit me: We’ve reached the point in Juventus’ season where having more Brazilians than Italians in the starting lineup will be a regular thing.
- That one Italian, Leonardo Bonucci, was arguably Juventus’ best player on the night. It’s these types of games that Juve will need from their new stand-in captain while Matthijs de Ligt continues his adjustment to Italian football.
- And man, that outlet pass Bonucci made to start the counterattack that led to Juan Cuadrado’s goal. It was a thing, an absolute thing.
- Matthijs de Ligt had nine clearances. NINE! That’s a lot.
- Like the good and bad sides of Juventus as a team, we also saw the good and bad sides of Cuadrado in this game. His first half was marred by bad turnovers and questionable decision making. His second half was highlighted by an absolutely beautiful goal and a whole lot of danger created down the right wing.
- I posted on Twitter at halftime about how little of an impact Higuain was making and that Paulo Dybala needed to come out at some point in the second half. Then Higuain goes and makes that kind of run to be on the receiving end of Bonucci’s counterattack-starting long ball before assisting on Cuadrado’s opener. I’ll eat that crow. Don’t forget the salt.
- Anybody else notice that both of Juventus’ blown leads have come after Sami Khedira gets subbed out? I’m not saying, but I’m just saying.
- So if Cristiano Ronaldo scores that golden chance that just went wide of the far post in stoppage time, do all of the blowing-a-late-game-lead shenanigans be forgotten? Asking for a friend here, folks.
- The Adventures With Danilo in defense are going to drive a lot of people mad this season — and I don’t blame them one bit.
- Poor Atalanta.