It became very clear very early on during Sunday’s trip to the Luigi Ferraris that Juventus was going to have to patient as hell if they wanted to avert disaster against one of Serie A’s worst teams. Genoa was dropping 11 deep, with it feeling at times that Wojciech Szczesny could put together a socially distanced cocktail party at the other end of the field at it really wouldn’t matter all that much.
The possession was plentiful, but the fruits of having so much of the ball wasn’t resulting in anything close to what you would consider Mattia Perin being busy in the Genoa goal.
Thankfully, Juve’s recent struggles against a packed in didn’t completely bite them in the backside.
Thanks to two Cristiano Ronaldo penalties after our old buddy Stefano Sturaro unexpectedly tied things up, Juventus was able to claim a 3-1 victory at the Marassi and mark the first time that they’ve won back-to-back games in Serie A this season. It took until December, and it took another grind-it-out kind of performance against a team in the relegation zone, but Juventus didn’t do what they’ve done a handful of times already this season — and that’s drop points against a team in which they had no business doing such against.
Not a bad way to for Ronaldo to ring in his 100th game as a Juve player, right?
(Scoring your 10th Serie A goal of the season in your 100th Juve appearance in all competitions does have a nice math nerd kind of ring to it. He probably planned it that way.)
There won’t be many style points to come out of this one. And, maybe with the way that Juve has played — and subsequently failed to win — against these kinds of teams through the first three months of the season, the most important thing is that they didn’t drop any points, allowing them to keep pace with the teams that are in front of them in the league table. Genoa’s offense has been truly awful ever since their season-opening win, so they were always going to rely on packing things in and trying to prevent Juventus from replicating what they were able to do against Barcelona midweek.
For large stretches of this game, it worked.
And as we know, teams sitting back and putting 10 or 11 men behind the ball is something that has given this Juventus team problems so far this season for a variety of reasons.
But even with Sturaro equalizing just moments after Paulo Dybala’s pretty opening goal, there was the right kind of response. It wasn’t the kind of last-minute scramble to salvage something against a team with only a few wins to their name. There was no need to try and get the win in stoppage time. Juventus, through the pair of Ronaldo penalties, were able to jump right back in front.
I’ll take that as compared to the alternative.
Don’t look now, but Juve officially have more wins than draws in Serie A to go along with the back-to-back wins. It only took until December, but that’s a little bit better than how things were going the first few weeks, right?
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- A minute’s silence just hits different when the stadium is completely empty and you don’t have the crowd starting to clap halfway through. Safe home, Paolo.
- Genoa rolled out a starting lineup with all of these players having ties to Juventus in one way or another: Mattia Perin, Luca Pellegrini, Stefano Sturaro and Marko Pjaca. And it probably would have been more if not for the club’s current injury situation. That’s a lot.
- Juventus’ marking on the Genoa goal ... yikes. Not sure how Alex Sandro is supposed to mark two opposing players even if one of them is Sturaro. Leo Bonucci, again, looked like he was simply slow to truly react or be aware of the player who was right behind him.
- But if Genoa’s goal went from Pjaca to Pellegrini to Sturaro, can it technically count for Juventus? Just asking for a friend.
- You think this is a guy who felt like a little bit of relief after scoring his first Serie A goal of what has certainly been a frustrating season to date? I think so, too.
- Dybala’s goal, his first in all competitions since his kinda-sorta-but-not-really brace against Ferencvaros a little over a month ago, was about as much of the kind of Dybala highlight that we’ve seen this season. The run, the cut inside on his left, the finish — that’s the Dybala we know. It wasn’t the kind of game where Dybala was involved in everything that we saw so many times last season even when he didn’t score a goal, but this is hopefully a start. Maybe now a little pressure is off and he can start to get back to his best. That’s the hope. All that’s left is the time to find out — and we all know there will be plenty of games on either side of the short holiday break for him to get the chance to play.
- Also, that flick from Weston McKennie on Dybala’s goal — pretty good!
- Seriously, that’s two goals and a sweet assist in his last three starts for McKennie. That’s not even considering all the work he does defensively and off the ball. Looks like McKennie’s becoming one of the players Pirlo is going to turn to in the midfield — and he’s earned that chance with how he’s played of late.
- I sure hope Matthijs de Ligt enjoyed his couple minutes of rest after being subbed off late against Genoa because I’m not sure if there will be another chance for him to rest before the holidays arrive. My man is gonna earn those days off.
- Juventus had three times as many completed passes as Genoa and outshot the home side 8-1 in the first half. Simply looking at that alone you might have thought they’d run away with this game. But of course it was scoreless at halftime because that’s just how this team does things sometimes.
- Plus, the corner kicks. Oh my god the corner kicks. So many of them!
- Final corner kick count: 10. And you probably thought it’d be closer to 30 with the way the first half was going.
- It’s been about two hours since it happened, but I’m still struggling to figure out why Adrien Rabiot got a red card two minutes into the game. That was just ... strange.
- Even though Juan Cuadrado didn’t get any assists in this game, of course he plays the key role in winning the penalty that allowed Ronaldo to score his second goal. That’s just the Johnny Square we know and love right now — he’s involved in something that results in Juventus scoring a goal. Could be worse, I guess.
- We’re down to the final few games of this crazy 10-game stretch, and what will arguably be Pirlo’s biggest test domestically awaits Juve next when Atalanta rolls into Turin on Wednesday. Judging by how Atalanta played earlier in the day in their 3-0 win over Fiorentina, I think it’s safe to say that Juve will have to play a little better if they want to make this a nice little win streak. At least we know that Atalanta will attack a little more than Genoa did, so there’s that.