It didn’t take long to figure out the Juventus we were watching Tuesday night was far from the one we saw over the weekend against Cagliari. For as much energy and strength that one showed three days earlier, this Juventus was sluggish and only really had a chance of winning thanks to a left-footed thunderbolt from the dude who has scored more Champions League goals than anybody else in the history of the competition.
So, when stoppage time arrived and there was little sense of urgency, you figured Juventus were about to drop points against a Ferencvaros team they had no business dropping points against.
Well ... wrong.
Alvaro Morata came to the rescue off the bench, as his 92nd-minute game-winning header off of one of Juan Cuadrado’s few good crosses Tuesday night gave Juventus a 2-1 win over Ferencvaros at Juventus Stadium. Combine that with Barcelona’s win over Dynamo Kyiv and Juve were able to clinch a spot in the round of 16 with two games to spare — which, based on how this team has been up and down over the first two months of the season, might not have been what you thought would happen before the group stage began last month.
That’s Mr. Clutch doing Mr. Clutch things.
Something tells me Morata likes scoring in this competition. Let me check.
Morata: 5 gol in 4 partite di Champions.— Filippo Ricci (@filippomricci) November 24, 2020
Ah, yes. When you’re up there with Erling Haaland on the goal scoring charts, you know you’re doing something right. And, even with all the offside calls — and there was another one in this game even though I don’t really know what he was supposed to do about it — Morata has started this Champions League campaign about as well as Cristiano Ronaldo has started the Serie A season.
Let’s face it: Juventus needed these kind of moments of brilliance in this game. This wasn’t the free-flowing kind of game like we saw over the weekend against Cagliari. Juve were sluggish, they weren’t playing with all that much pep in the step like they ha1d a few days earlier, they had a ton of possession but didn’t create a whole lot of good chances with it. It didn’t help that there was a comedy of errors that led to Ferencvaros taking the lead in the first half, either.
But when Juventus looked like they were headed toward a headdesk-worthy draw against the worst team in the group, there were Ronaldo and Morata to supply a couple of really nice goals. Juventus needed their two best strikers at the moment to play like it, and they did. They needed Ronaldo and Morata to be the difference, and they were.
Is waiting until the 92nd minute against Ferencvaros — who, by the way, had some really nice away kits in the same way that Sassuolo’s kits are beautiful — something that inspires a whole lot of confidence? Definitely not. We all know we would have liked a game like Saturday night’s where the only real stress we had was when a potential Cagliari goal went to VAR and that’s about it.
In the end, though, Juventus got the three points (and help) they needed to get to the Champions League Round of 16 with plenty of room to spare. It wasn’t pretty outside of the two goals Juve scored, but we know this team has yet to truly find consistency so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised this was a grind.
I don’t know. I’m just glad they didn’t drop points and can now simply play for the top spot in the group from here on out. That will be nice.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- When you get beat 5-hole and your team allows the game-winner in the 92nd minute...
- I’d say I’ve been there before, but that would mean having to remember the last high school game I ever played and the result was one that pretty much resembled that of Ferencvaros. So, yeah, let’s not bring up 16-year-old memories that aren’t very memorable.
- I would try to rattle off what went wrong on the Ferencvaros goal, but so many things went wrong it’s hard to remember what actually happened and in what order. Cut me some slack, folks, because the year 2020 has zapped any kind of memory I have from a couple of hours ago.
- The fact that Juventus has a fair amount of players who are so reliant on their dominant foot makes what Ronaldo did on his goal all the more impressive. To generate that kind of power with his left just shows how much of an alien he is. You think Paulo Dybala could have done that with his right foot? (And Dybala almost scored with his right foot in this game!)
- Ronaldo has now scored in five of his last six games, and in that one game he didn’t score he got an assist. He’s scored seven goals over that span, and it really could have been more. I mean, how many of you thought Ronaldo WASN’T going to score that sequence where he dribbled around the keeper and then didn’t get a shot off? It has to be less than one.
- In a game where Juan Cuadrado’s passing and crossing wasn’t all that good at all, he ended up with assists on both of Juventus’ goals. Sometimes this game just makes you laugh.
- There was a moment in the second half where Rodrigo Bentancur tried to get his head on the ball as it was sent in from a corner kick and it went what felt like 30 feet high and wide and it just felt like that pretty much summed up his form both in this game and season. I will forever stan and be a leader in the Bentancur hive, but Juve really need him to get going or else the likes of Arthur and Adrien Rabiot are going to become the clear-cut choices to start in the middle of the 3-4-1-2.
- They cut to Paulo Dybala a couple of minutes after Morata came on for him and his expression pretty much said it all — it was another disappointing showing for La Joya. At this point, we know Pirlo is going to continue to back him and you would think Dybala is going to get plenty playing time because the next month is so hectic. This just feels like something where he needs a couple of good games in a row to shake it all and get the confidence going again. He’s obviously good enough to do it, he just needs to actually show it out on the field.
- The way Matthijs de Ligt has kept this defense together with everything going on the last two games ... damn, I can’t wait until he’s wearing the captain’s armband. He’s 20 years old and clearly one of the on-field leaders. The Ferencvaros goal aside, things are just a lot more calm with him out there doing awesome de Ligt things.
- I was quick to point out how Juve had two players with over 100 touches on Saturday, so I am required to point out that five players — Arthur, Cuadrado, de Ligt, Danilo and Alex Sandro — all had over 100 touches against Ferencvaros. It’s in a different kind of game, obviously, but that’s still A LOT. (Although I’m thinking you wouldn’t want all of your defenders in that group since it means a lot of passing throughout the backline.)
- Wojciech Szczesny touched the ball 19 times.
- Aaron Ramsey completed more passes in 10 minutes of game time than Szczesny did over the course of the entire game.
- We are officially done with Ferencvaros. I am glad because that means I will rarely have to write out Ferencvaros the rest of this season.