When Dejan Kulusevski and Alvaro Morata combined to put Juventus up 2-0 within the first 23 minutes of Wednesday night’s Coppa Italia Round of 16 tie, you thought maybe, just maybe, things were going to result in the kind of game we haven’t seen much of this season.
You know, a relatively comfortable win.
But, since this is Juventus in the 2020-21 season, common logic is thrown out the window and a 2-0 lead when you’re playing well to begin a game suddenly becomes a liability.
Juventus both failed to extend the early two-goal lead and then watched the 2-0 advantage disappear and result in extra time in a game that should have never gone past the 90th minute and stoppage time. Yet, in stoppage time, Juventus had an unlikely hero show up in the form of one of their second-half substitutes. No, not Cristiano Ronaldo, but Hamza Rafia, who scored the goal right before the first half of extra time ended that allowed Juventus to go back in front and claim a 3-2 win over Genoa as the Bianconeri advanced to quarterfinals of the Coppa Italia in a little more interesting fashion than we thought they would a couple of hours earlier.
Just like we all predicted.
Say what you want about the Coppa Italia, but that’s gotta be quite the thrill for a 21-year-old kid who just so happened to be making his Juventus debut after joining the Under-23 squad a year and a half ago.
Good on him, right? But when it comes to Juventus and their ability to hold a 2-0 lead against Genoa in this game, well, I don’t really know what to say about all of that.
It might be hard to forget because it was about 75 or 80 minutes of game time that passed after Juve’s best moments of the game, but they really did start this game well. They weren’t just up 2-0, but they were playing some absolutely nice and free-flowing ball where the scoring opportunities were being created right and left. The problem was, after it became 2-0, Juventus’ ability to finish — or complete lack of it — went out the door and suddenly any kind of early-game momentum they had was absolutely sucked out of the Allianz.
Kulusevski, for as good and a major threat going forward as he was for large parts of this game, should have had more than one goal. Morata could have had a couple of goals. Adrien Rabiot saw a close-range header saved right off the goal line. But, the thing is, once Juve got on ‘2,’ it took muuuuuuuch longer than it should have to add another goal to their tally.
Because of that, Genoa was allowed to hang around and then eventually tie the game in the second half.
That, unfortunately, is quite the lingering thing that happens this season (and longer than that if we’re being honest). As smooth as things were going in the first 30 minutes or so, then went back to the same kind of issues we’ve seen in weeks and months prior.
At least they didn’t completely come back to haunt Juve in this game.
And I guess we have Hamza Rafia to thank for that.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- ... at least Inter had to go to extra time in their Coppa Italia fixture this week, too? Sure.
- If you had to pick: Juventus’ dark blue away kit or Genoa’s dark blue away kit?
- It was very fitting that in his first start in what felt like months that Giorgio Chiellini was fouled within the first few minutes and then went rolling and rolling and rolling. We missed you, capitano.
- I want to assume since he didn’t looked pissed off when he got subbed out in the 64th minute that Chiellini coming off was all part of the plan. I mean, let’s be honest, there was no way he was going to be able to play a full 90 minutes — and, as we came to find out, 30 extra minutes because Juve can’t hold a lead — because his body is so fickle these days. Who knows if he’s got a role to play in this weekend’s Derby d’Italia, but it was nice to see Chiellini out there for one game at least.
- Juventus had two goals called back for a player being offside in the first half ... and neither of them saw Alvaro Morata being offside. Imagine that.
- I know he leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to his range of passes, but it still is pretty impressive to see Arthur work with what seems like no room at all and defenders all around him. Somehow, he is just able to keep the ball so close to his feet and rarely loses possession. Now if only he did more to impressive us other than that.
- OK, so he also headed a would-be goal in extra time off the line, so we appreciate that as well.
- Sure, I’ll say it: Juventus may well be looking for a fourth striker, but Dejan Kulusevski showed that he is more than capable of playing that kind of role.
- Let’s be serious for a second: Would you rather Pirlo played Kulusevski as a makeshift striker or have him out on the right wing as a wingback?
- The way Kulusevski and Morata were playing off one another — especially in the first half where they had so many combination sequences — is another reason why playing the young Swede in a more attacking position should be a legitimate option going forward. (No pun intended.)
- Alvaro Morata worked his ass off in this game. His jersey was essentially a completely different color by the time the game ended because he was tackled so many times. I know my man has a newborn baby in his house, but boy does he deserve about 18 or 20 hours of sleep after this one.
- Radu Dragusin — pretty solid.
- Wesley’s defending — not all that solid.
- Juventus will get either Sassuolo or SPAL in the quarterfinals. Seeing as one of those teams is a contender to finish in the top six in Serie A and the other is five points off the lead in Serie B, I think I know which team Juve will be facing barring any kind of serious upset.
- Hamza Rafia. Seriously. Good on you, No. 50.