When the midway point of the first half arrived Saturday afternoon and SPAL was already dropping all 11 players on the field behind the ball, you kinda got the feeling that Juventus was going to need a moment of magic to break the deadlock.
Luckily, Miralem Pjanic is out here doing more tricks than Harry Potter these days.
For the second consecutive match day, a sublime Pjanic strike from outside the box proved to be the game-winning goal. This time, it wasn’t capping a second-half comeback or anything like that thankfully. But, taking things up a notch from his goal against Brescia midweek, Pjanic’s goal — combined with a Cristiano Ronaldo header — proved to be the difference in a 2-0 win over SPAL at Allianz Stadium that will be remembered more for what the opposing goalkeeper did against Juventus rather than the bianconeri’s ability to finish scoring chances.
Miralem Pjanić gives Juventus the lead with a fabulous finish!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 28, 2019
OK, so maybe a little bit of a deflection to throw off the goalkeeper just a tad. But, my word. Just go ahead and admire it. Watch it about 25 times in a row. I won’t blame you at all.
That was the moment of brilliance Juventus needed during a first half that proved to be a frustrating one in front of goal.
And, honestly, that proved to be the thing that really just allowed Juventus to take complete control — even more than the Italian champions already had as they dominated the possession numbers from pretty much the opening kickoff onward.
It was always going to be one-way traffic based on the fact that SPAL’s defense has been shaky all season long and the preconceived notion that most relegation battlers are going to be sitting deep whenever they visit Turin. That kind of situation only became more and more the case as time went on even with Pjanic finding the back of the net right before the halftime whistle was blown. (Seriously, what a deflating time to be scored against after walking the tight rope all of the first half.)
But after a game midweek where Juventus created plenty of scoring chances but couldn’t really take full advantage of many of them, the only thing Juve truly have to blame for only scoring two goals is the fact that Etrit Berisha had one of the best games of his career on Saturday. Save, after save, after save, after save and it was either still scoreless or Juve’s lead was kept at 1-0. Those days happen, and there’s sometimes nothing you can do about it.
The overall performance was better than what we saw a few days earlier in Brescia. It wasn’t like we were truly sweating and holding tight onto a one-goal lead in the final minutes, which was quite nice. Even when Juve was up 1-0, it wasn’t like they were having a whole lot of issues and allowing SPAL much of anything.
Basically, a solid day out when, knowing that it was a rather makeshift-y backline, there could have been some issues happening.
Three points, a clean sheet and solid overall team performance. Yeah, I’ll take that on the even of a Champions League fixture in a couple of days.
And hey, at least Juve knows Etrit Berisha won’t be in goal against them on Tuesday night.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Nine-hundred-and-three appearances at the club level. That’s a lot, Gigi.
- In the span of five days, Miralem Pjanic has scored two of the best goals Juventus will score all season. Take a bow, my friend. (And then buy Edin a present or two as well.)
- The underrated part of Pjanic’s goal: Sami Khedira laying it off with the simple pass rather than trying to force a cross back into the crowded penalty area.
- The underrated part of Ronaldo’s goal: The through ball to Paulo Dybala that Pjanic delivered. He’s certainly dialed in right now, isn’t he?
- With the kind of saves Etrit Berisha was making in the first half, I guess that was the kind of goal from Pjanic that was needed to finally beat him.
- I mean, really. That save on Aaron Ramsey’s header was just insane.
- Pretty much all of the saves that Berisha made were just insane. He is the single and solitary reason as to why Juventus didn’t win this game by four, five or even six goals. It was that kind of day for the Albanian goalkeeper.
- Meanwhile, on the other end of the field, Gigi Buffon probably got some quality reading in while he didn’t really have to do much of anything at all.
- I’m quite pleased that Paulo Dybala got an assist to show for the kind of effort he again put forth. Dare we say that Dybala is playing some of the best football he’s played in the last year or so? After a season that was mostly forgettable, playing for Sarri has seemed to breathe some new life into Dybala. Same goes for playing a role he’s much more suited for. Now all we need is for the guy to get himself a goal. He certainly deserves one with how he’s playing the last couple of weeks.
- That cross Dybala delivered to Ronaldo ... chef’s kiss.
- Speaking of Juventus players who had a good day: Matthijs de Ligt. I know it’s SPAL, and I know that it’s not the kind of attacking prowess that de Ligt is going to be facing in a couple of days when Bayer Leverkusen comes to town. But that was about as drama-free of a performance from de Ligt that he’s had since he took over for Giorgio Chiellini in the starting lineup. That’s a confidence builder — no matter who the opponent is.
- Juan Cuadrado playing right back — pretty solid.
- Blaise Matuidi playing left back — pretty solid.
- The downside of playing the 4-3-1-2 and not having a whole lot of width on the field: A lot of Sami Khedira runs down the right channel that result in cross attempts. Less than ideal.
- The upside of playing the 4-3-1-2 and not having a whole lot of width on the field: Aaron Ramsey gets to do Aaron Ramsey things from the opening whistle onward. He’s good!
- After facing three straight provincial sides, Juventus get Inter at the San Siro next weekend. Oh, that’s going to be tasty.