Andrea Pirlo made things crystal clear during his pre-match press conference Tuesday: Juventus were at the Mapei Stadium to win, and to do that his team would have to put what happened against Inter Milan three days earlier behind them for good.
Based on what Juve did in the Supercoppa on Wednesday night, Pirlo’s squad did just that.
Thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo — the 760th for club and country of his career — and Alvaro Morata and a pair of truly world-class saves from Wojciech Szczesny, Juventus secured their first trophy under the guidance of their rookie manager with a solid if not unspectacular 2-0 win over Napoli. It wasn’t perfect or close to it, but the issues that haunted Juve this past weekend were mostly gone for at least one night against an opponent that entered the game with nine goals in their previous two outings.
No goals were scored by Napoli players on this night. Some of that had to do with the fact that their captain, Lorenzo Insigne, shanked a penalty kick attempt that would have tied the game late in the second half. But Szczesny’s brilliance in goal with those two saves were the bigger thing that crushed the soul of Napoli.
Combine Szczesny’s saves along with the Insigne miss ... oh boy I’m sure glad that they worked in favor of my favorite team because I definitely would be feeling a different kind of way right about now.
But for Juventus, the breaks they needed to go in their favor did just that outside of the simple unluckiness of Weston McKennie being called for a PK when he obviously doesn’t have eyes in the back of his head. Juve were simply solid all the way around against a Napoli team that has the kind of characteristics that usually give Pirlo’s squad issues. Napoli trying to hit Juve on the counter — and we all knew they would try to do that coming into to Wednesday’s game — didn’t end up being the game-changing thing it could have been. Napoli’s speed, technical ability and overall offensive firepower didn’t trouble Juve as much as we were worried it might have.
There’s also this fact: Napoli average nearly 19 shots a game in their first 17 Serie A games this season.
On Wednesday night, Napoli had all of ... 8 shots.
Where Juventus needed to buckle down and truly get things done, they did. Juve’s midfield wasn’t a disaster. Juve’s defense wasn’t stretched time and time again like it was against Inter. Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci weren’t out of their depths because Napoli’s attack was giving them issues from the opening whistle to the final kick of the ball.
This was Juventus responding in the right kind of way, and they got the win to show for it.
I can’t really ask for much more than that. And no matter how you feel about this game and the meaning of it all, the players clearly cared about this and they celebrated it like it truly was an important thing for them. I gotta think that what happened with Napoli earlier this season as well as against Inter three days ago had a little extra meaning behind it as well.
Here is something we couldn’t say a few hours ago: The Supercoppa belongs to Juventus again, and for that we should be happy. Juve deserved this win just as much as they deserved the loss to Inter over the weekend. You play well and nice things usually come your way. That was the case Wednesday night, and now Pirlo has his first trophy as a manager. That’s pretty cool, if you ask me.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- You need all of one finger to count how many clubs currently hold the Super Cup in Serie A and Serie A Femminile. Sorry, but that’s just how we roll around here.
- Holy smokes that Szczesny save on Chucky Lozano from point-blank range in the first half. That’s picture perfect goalkeeping. And definitely not picture perfect man marking by Danilo. He might owe Tek a beer or two for bailing him out on that one.
- Holy smokes that Szczesny save on Chucky Lozano from point-blank range in the second half. I think Lozano might be happy he’s done seeing Szczesny for a few weeks before Juve make the trip over to Naples next month.
- Controversial take, but I think the Mexican writer we have on staff here at BWRAO was perfectly OK with Juventus winning the Supercoppa thanks in large part to the Mexico international on Napoli’s roster having two goals snatched away from him by Szczesny.
- Juventus attempted 12 crosses in the first half. They didn’t complete a single one of them.
- At the point where I stopped counting things, Juventus’ crossing had “improved” to 2 for 17. That’s not great!
- Do Napoli get credit for an assist on Ronaldo’s goal? Asking for a friend.
- OK, so I think we can say that, as of this very moment, Weston McKennie is Juventus’ most important and crucial midfield. You compare this game with him playing a full 90 minutes to how much Juve’s midfield absolutely struggled without him starting and it was so vastly different. It’s not just the work rate or the defensive abilities he brings to the table. But, as was pointed out a few times in the BWRAO writers’ Slack channel by a certain fellow Texan, the runs he is now making are becoming important to what Juve does. He’s pretty good!
- Is that one of the most unlucky penalties that you can be called for as a player? McKennie was simply winding up to clear the ball as far as he possibly could and then all the sudden there’s a player’s foot making contact with his boot rather than the ball. It was the right call, but that was just so completely tough based on how it all went down.
- And then Insigne missed the PK and all was forgiven. Good times.
- Credit where credit is due: Arthur and Rodrigo Bentancur were solid all game long. There’s obviously so much more to do with this midfield, but it’s pretty easy to see that this team is a competitive one when the midfield isn’t a complete dumpster fire.
- Giorgio Chiellini, starting back-to-back games for the first time in I don’t even know how long, played damn well and led Juventus with six clearances. That’s the Chiellini I know.
- In conclusion, Andrea Pirlo has more trophies in five months as Juve’s manager than Antonio Conte does at Inter. Them’s the facts, folks.