As it turns out, facing the guy who started this Juventus dynasty back in 2011 has brought the best out of the current-day Bianconeri.
And just so happens to come at a time where Juventus, previously, looked about the complete opposite of how they played before the coronavirus-centered two-week break from Serie A action.
For the second time this season, Juventus handed arch-rival Inter Milan a deflating kind of defeat in its quest to turn the tide in Serie A under the watch of Antonio Conte. It wasn’t the late-game gut punch like the early-season visit to the San Siro, though. This time around, with no fans allowed in Allianz Stadium, Juventus not just beat Inter, but beat its black-and-blue rivals with some room to spare, getting second-half goals from Aaron Ramsey and Paulo Dybala to record a 2-0 win on Sunday night.
I do have one question, though: Can you imagine the kind of reaction a packed Allianz Stadium would have had the second this goal hit the back of the net?
Touch ✅— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 8, 2020
Paulo Dybala did it all on this one pic.twitter.com/tuXkH8VrjP
I mean, that’s just not fair. As much as we want to see Dybala show some kind of development with his right foot, who cares when he can create that can of magic when he is exclusively on his left. Gonzalo Higuain’s game-winner was the dagger in the first meeting, and that Dybala work of art was a magical nail in the coffin. It punctuated a very complete and sound Juventus performance — the best that we’ve seen from this team in quite some time and really nothing even close to where they were the last time we saw them play a competitive match both domestically and in Europe.
There might not have been anybody in the crowd to salute that performance, sure.
But you know just about everybody who sees things through black and white glasses watching at home let out the same kind of emotion as if they were sitting in the curva.
It was the kind of performance we’ve been waiting for from Maurizio Sarri’s side. He talked about recently how his team needs to move the ball better and faster, play with a higher kind of tempo and, during in interview on Saturday, just that this unexpected break has turned out to be good for the players.
As it turned out, Juventus looked both fresh and the kind of team that Sarri wants to see more often than not. The starting lineup was probably a little different than you might have thought it would be going in, but the end result was about as good as we could have hoped for.
Juventus didn’t shoot itself in the foot. (Outside of Mattia De Sciglio doing Mattia De Sciglio things right after coming on for Alex Sandro in the second half, of course.)
Juventus did a whole lot of things right as compared to the complete opposite that has taken place over the last couple of months.
This was a performance that Juve can build on even though Serie A is heading into some uncertain times based on what we’ve heard in the press in recent days. We’ve said it before, but we will say it again: The hope is that this is the start of something rather than a 90-minute flash in the pan that will see Juventus return to how its played most of the season the next time it takes the field.
But, at least for one night with no fans in the stadium, Juventus looked pretty damn good. And, even with uncertainty ahead, we can be happy about that finally happening.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- There are obviously very logical and defensible reasons as to why this game was played behind closed doors. But one of the more enjoyable parts of it — outside of Juventus kicking Inter’s ass again — was hearing the reaction to the players when something didn’t go right. You know, the audible frustration when an Inter player mishit a pass and it goes five yards behind a teammate. Or when Inter had a clear scoring chance and then the shot goes flying well over the Juve goal. We don’t like why the match had to be played behind closed doors and hope that something positive can happen soon, but the unique situation an empty stadium provided made for some interesting moments.
- And as a friend pointed out on Twitter, why have rules about not shaking hands when you know full well the team is going to mob each other whenever they score a goal — especially like one that Dybala scored.
- Speaking of that Dybala goal ... chef’s kiss.
- Speaking of a chef’s kiss ... Rodrigo Bentancur’s performance on Sunday was fantastic.
- Speaking of Rodrigo Bentancur’s performance on Sunday ... look how much better Juventus’ midfield looked when they were playing the ball quickly and had a regista in Bentancur that did just about everything asked of him correctly. Who knows how long Miralem Pjanic will be on the bench, but Bentancur showing he can play a deep-lying role about as well as he does everything else these days should be giving Sarri some decisions to make.
- OK, enough of the cheesy intros. Onward.
- Was this Aaron Ramsey’s best game in a Juventus jersey? He got the game-winning goal. He got the assist on Dybala’s work of art. His movement allowed plenty of good things to happen. That’s the kind of performance Juventus hoped would happen more often than not when Ramsey signed last summer. It’s been an interesting road to get to this point, but here we are. And, as always, if he can stay healthy, the hope is that Ramsey can keep on doing just what he did against Inter on Sunday night.
- Romelu Lukaku had 14 touches. FOURTEEN! That’s what happens when you spend most of the match in Matthijs de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci’s pocket. (Or get absolutely no service from your teammates, but let’s just roll with the joke.)
- Just for a comparison, Wojciech Szczesny had 42 touches. Yes, Juve’s goalkeeper he three times as many touches as Inter’s star striker.
- One more Szczesny note: He had one save to make, and god it was a good one. For as many shots as Inter had (13), this was far from a busy night for Juve’s No. 1.
- In conclusion: Beating Inter is always fun. Beating Inter to probably put an end to their Scudetto hopes makes this win all the better. That was fun ... a lot of fun.