When Andrea Pirlo went to the bench in the second half Wednesday night to try and get something going against Barcelona, there weren’t many viable options at all. And, as a result, the end result was something that pretty much resembled the penalty that was called against Federico Bernardeschi — a tumble to the finish line rather than a game-changing impact.
Pirlo’s changes went much, much better Sunday afternoon.
And it always helps you can turn to one of the game’s best ever, too.
Cristiano Ronaldo marked his return from a 19-day absence due to COVID-19 with a second-half brace off the bench that got going all of two minutes after stepping onto the pitch, leading Juventus to a much-needed 4-1 win over Spezia. Another one of Pirlo’s substitutes, Adrien Rabiot, scored Juventus’ other second-half goal, dribbling right on through the box and finishing off a run that I’m guessing a lot of us would love to see from the Bianconeri’s midfield much more often over the course of the next few months.
But with Ronaldo on the field for the first time in three weeks, things went from looking like another one of the potential slip-ups against a team Juve had no business doing such to a game that they were winning with room to spare. Spaces opened up, things looked a lot more lively and Juventus got the spark that they needed to avert further disaster against a potential relegation battler.
Hard to believe that Alvaro Morata finally having a VAR call go his way isn’t mentioned earlier, huh?
Imagine that, too!
With Juventus, all you wanted to see was more of what the second half looked like as compared to the opening 45 minutes. Not that the second half was perfect because before Ronaldo and Rabiot came on, it was very much the kind of performance that showed the current ills that this Juventus team is dealing with. That defense was stretched, the midfield was struggling to make its mark and, well, Juventus was tied 1-1 with a team that had never been in Serie A up until a couple of months ago.
But, with more players working their way back into the squad, that means Pirlo now has more options to turn to. Remember, against Barcelona, the first move Pirlo made was to bring on Weston McKennie and then Bernardeschi a couple of minutes later. This time around, Pirlo could bring Ronaldo and Rabiot off the bench — and the impact they made was a whole lot better than what we saw from the first couple of substitutes midweek.
Because of that, there’s no 1-1 draw against Serie A opposition again.
Instead, Juventus got a win on its 123rd birthday. Which, compared to what we have been seeing from this team in recent weeks, is much better than the alternative.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- It took a little over two minutes for Ronaldo to score in his return from coronavirus — what the hell took him so long?
- ALVARO MORATA HAD A VAR DECISION GO HIS WAY THIS IS NOT A MISTAKE.
- And then, of course, he saw a potential goal taken away because of an offside call. It was basically the ref letting things play out more than anything, but it’s just hilarious how so many of his potential goal scoring moments are now forcing us to have delayed reactions because of how things have gone the last couple of weeks.
- That assist on Ronaldo’s goal that Morata had was a pretty sweet dime, too.
- Leonardo Bonucci went 10 for 13 on his long ball attempts against Barcelona. He then went 4 for 12 on his long ball attempts against Spezia. You could tell he was trying to get things going with his long-distance passing Sunday, but things were just completely off from the start.
- Federico Chiesa did next to nothing for much of Sunday’s game. Then he goes and delivers a sweet pass to Rabiot on his goal and draws a penalty with a nice run into the box. Better late than never, right?
- My eyesight isn’t the best — just ask my eye doctor about my current prescription for my glasses — so having Weston McKennie and Juan Cuadrado playing next to one another in the midfield was always going to be an adventure. Turns out, it was.
- There was no mistaking who had the assist on Morata’s goal, though. That was sweet from McKennie both to have the awareness to see Morata as well as get the pass off while trying to avoid the on-rushing goalkeeper. Pretty sweet play for assist No. 1 at Juve, my man.
- As much as we talk about Ronaldo making an impact after a couple of minutes, Merih Demiral had a two-minute span where he is making a really nice play to prevent a Spezia goal scoring opportunity and then deflecting the shot that resulted in Spezia’s goal. Like we’ve been saying for the last couple of weeks, there are things he does well, but then there are moments when he reminds us how raw his skillset still is.
- I gotta think that Gigi Buffon saves that shot if it’s not deflected by Demiral ... right?
- But maybe the worst part of all was the work off the ball by Arthur and Rodrigo Bentancur to spot the run being made by Tommaso Pobega. Juve simply need better than that from their defense as well as their midfielders.
- Bentancur’s defense wasn’t all that great, but some of the long passes he played — especially in the second half before he was subbed out — were quite pretty.
- Ronaldo’s back, Morata keeps scoring goals and Paulo Dybala is struggling to get things going to start the season. The discussion has been about who Pirlo goes with if he’s forced to choose between the three of them. But right now, who the starting two strikers will be against Ferencvaros on Wednesday night seems pretty easy to figure out.
- I will never tire of hearing Buffon yelling at his teammates when there is an empty stadium. It’s booming. I obviously wish the current state of the pandemic was much, much better in Italy — don’t go look at the country’s current curve if you want to remain in a good mood — but hearing all of the communication that happens during a game is an interesting trade off because of all this.
- Of course Juventus were going to wear their orange kits the day after Halloween.
- We’re still waiting to see Juve’s blue away kits. Maybe against Ferencvaros. That would be cool because the blue away kits are pretty cool.
- It’s Spezia and I’m not going to get carried away with one win by any means, but it’s nice to at least have something relatively enjoyable to watch like much of that second half was. I mean, I don’t need to remind everybody here how the last handful of games went.
- Now try and make it closer to a 90-minute effort against Ferencvaros. That would be cool.