I know it’s Brescia. I know it was a Brescia team that played with 10 men for the better part of the final 60 minutes of game time on Sunday afternoon. I know that Brescia was probably always going to be up against it since that’s usually how it works for relegation battlers whenever they make the trip to Allianz Stadium.
But dammit, Juventus’ 2-0 win was, while not perfect, rather refreshing.
Why? Because for all the frustration and grumbling and relatively bad football that Juventus has played over the last two or three weeks, beating Brescia and having a little bit of style to go along with it was a much-welcomed change for the better. Juventus needed it in terms of the title race, but also just to maybe have us think that all of the “We’re on the right track” talk that the players have been dropping ever since the loss to Napoli last month could be true even though the results haven’t been there.
And it always help when your No. 10 is Paulo Dybala, a guy who has been known to hit a free kick or two quite well with that left foot of his.
Free kick QUALITY by Paulo Dybala ✨ pic.twitter.com/bPT17h9LFe— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 16, 2020
With Dybala leading the way, Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo-less attack certainly kept Brescia’s defense — one that played pretty much the entire game both in its own third of the field as well as with the third-choice keeper in goal — quite busy from the opening kickoff onward. Juventus’ finishing in front of goal left something to be desired, sure, but when you compare it to what Juve actually created against Milan and Hellas Verona before that, this was a vast improvement. Not only were they quality chances, but they were ones that actually — wait for it — made Juve look like a team that was being managed by Maurizio Sarri.
The Dybala-Gonzalo Higuain was clicking maybe as well as we’ve seen all season long. The way they connected on multiple occasions was something that Juventus hasn’t exactly shown a lot of this season — and not only because Sarri has been hesitant to throw the Argentinian combo on the field together at the same time.
There were a few nervy moments. Some of Juventus’ passing at the back during the somewhat rare moments where Brescia applied some pressure was less than ideal. And, like I said, Juve’s finishing in front of goal left a lot to be desired and kept things at 1-0 for a lot longer than it should have been before Juan Cuadrado’s goal — AND BLAISE MATUIDI’S BACKHEEL ASSIST — doubled the lead and put the game away for good.
This was a must-win game simply because of who the opponent was, where they are in the standings and what is at stake knowing that Inter Milan and Lazio play each other a few hours from now as this post is being written.
Juve, to their credit, really tried to take it to Brescia early. There was no measuring of the opponent and then a couple of scoring chances later they suddenly realize that they’re far and away the better team. It was foot-on-the-gas mode early, and that’s how it should have been.
And, hey, don’t you forget that about two seconds before the final whistle sounded, Cuadrado and Higuain were going on a full sprint trying for one last scoring chance.
We’ve had plenty of Juve wins this season when they were hanging on for dear life come the final whistle this season. This was a pleasant change. It might not have been perfect, but compared to what we’ve seen recently, I will take what Juve did against Brescia every single time no matter the context of the win.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- GIORGIO CHIELLINI BAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!
- I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that was quite happy — and, honestly, a little surprised — to see Chiellini back on the field, but also incredibly nervous since this was the first time that a 35-year-old defender with a history of injuries who is coming off major knee surgery made his return. Chiellini, thankfully, didn’t have much defending to do in his cameo on Sunday, but it was pretty awesome to simply see him out there and then get right up in on Mario Balotelli in the closing minutes.
- The moment you knew Chiellini was truly back? It wasn’t when he put the captain’s armband on. It was the instance when he tried to thread a long pass through the Brescia defense and then a few seconds later tried a semi-overhead kick with nobody around him.
- This very Juventus-centric day started with the Juve women beating Inter 5-1 in the second Derby d’Italia of the season. Wins are always fun. Wins against Inter are better. And 5-1 wins against Inter? Oh, that’s near perfection.
- I mentioned a few nervy moments at the back, and my son Rodrigo Bentancur had one of those in the first half. However, as the game went on, Bentancur got better and better. And one of the things that I really liked about Bentancur’s game on Sunday was that he unleashed a few absolute rockets for shots off his right foot. If he does that more often, he’s going to become just that much more dangerous of a midfielder on top of leading the team in assists like he currently is.
- In hindsight, Miralem Pjanic had no business playing in this game based on how many minutes he has already logged this season. Then again, I was thinking Pjanic shouldn’t see the field at all this weekend even before he got on the field and then, not all that long after, got injured with what looks like a groin injury. Time to sweat out another Juventus training session recap that has a medical report attached to it.
- Some of the passes that Higuain and Dybala played in this game ... wow.
- This was definitely one of those “He deserved a goal for how well he played” for Higuain. And if he wasn’t oh-so-slightly offsides on that second-half free kick that he headed home, he would have gotten his goal. Oh well.
- You know what the best games are? When the opposing team attacks so little for much of the game that you completely forget that Danilo started at right back for Juventus.
- Aaron Ramsey led the team in tackles?!?!?!
- Aaron Ramsey led the team in interceptions?!?!?!
- Giorgio Chiellini came on in the 77th minute and led the team in clearances. So on brand.
- Paulo Dybala’s final WhoScored rating: 9.17. Holy crap. You don’t see that often.
- What would your reaction have been if Dybala was able to finish that first-time volley off Bentancur’s pass over the top of the Brescia defense? I know it’s currently pouring rain outside, but I might have sprinted around the block.
- In conclusion, Paulo Dybala is good.
- You should be jealous of Silvio. We all should be. Silvio forever.
- OK, that’s all from me. I’m going back to bed seeing as I’m almost completely out of coffee and I’m exhausted. Feel free to turn this into a Inter-Lazio game thread in a few hours. Forza Not Inter as always.