We knew the situation that presented itself. It wasn’t that hard to see that, if Juventus wanted to enter the month of February and the second half of the 2020-21 season with much of a shot of considering themselves title contenders, then taking advantage of the cards that flipped in their favor less than 24 hours earlier would have to happen.
More dropped points against a team that Juve shouldn’t drop points against would have been deemed the latest setback in a1 season already full of them.
But there would be no dropped points at Allianz Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Indeed, the weekend’s lunchtime kickoff proved to be, despite a few nervy moments to open the second half, a victorious afternoon just when Juve needed it most.
Thanks to goals from Arthur and Weston McKennie, Juventus was able to prevent any more shenanigans against mid-table opposition for at least one weekend and claim a 2-0 win over Bologna. And no, I’m not pulling your leg — Juve’s midfield, the same group that we were sitting here saying not-so-nice things about all of seven days ago, scored both of the team’s goals on Sunday and that is something that you can’t take away from them. It should also be something we should be quite happy about seeing as it doesn’t happen all that often.
But, more importantly: Juventus now trails AC Milan — which lost 3-0 at the hands of Atalanta on Saturday night — by seven points in the Serie A standings.
This was the opportunity that Juventus needed to take advantage of — and they did just that.
That’s what needed to happen. Thankfully it did. And, even though this was far from a runaway kind of game — even though it could have been if Juve were more efficient in front of goal — Juve were able to hold off any kind of Bologna upset bid that resulted in more dropped points. That would have been the last thing any of us wanted to see knowing that both of the Milan clubs started the weekend with beneficial results.
There were moments in this game where Juve’s bad habits from the early goings of this season would show their faces once again. The opening five or 10 minutes of the second half had Juventus looking like the team that was losing, not the one that had a pretty dominant first half in terms of possession and chances created. But, with a little bit of help form their in-form fella in goal, Juventus weathered Bologna’s early second-half rush and found their footing.
That’s where McKennie came in, and put a little bit of breathing room between Juve and Bologna before doing a little bit of sword play after scoring his third goal of the season.
Weston McKennie has equalled his record for most league goals in a season.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 24, 2021
Three goals in 15 Serie A games now for Juventus. pic.twitter.com/dso4X3TVXr
It’s hard for me to get upset with how this team played knowing that the most important thing was simply winning. They could have cracked when Bologna had their best spell of the game to begin the second half, but they didn’t. They could have cracked when their finishing was far from something you would consider effective, but they didn’t.
There’s some good to come out of this game without a doubt. And the most important part is that Juventus won in the same round where Milan and Inter didn’t. That’s always good to type, and hopefully it’s not the last time that happens over these next few weeks.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- There were 16 fouls in the first half. If you were have told me there were upwards of 30 I probably would have believed you. Hard to truly get going when the game is being stopped so many times as that first half was.
- With that being said, Juventus really should have been up by at least two or three goals in the first half. Whether it was the chances that produced the double save from Lukasz Skorupski or the Juan Cuadrado odd-man counterattack that never got on goal, Juve’s finishing was lacking in the opening 45 minutes without a doubt.
- Federico Bernardeschi’s decision making ... I got nothin’ for you, folks.
- Wojciech Szczesny’s best save of the game just so happened to be on a header from one of his teammates. I don’t think Szczesny, who has been in fine form lately, expected that header from Cuadrado to come anywhere close to him, yet there he was making a point-blank save to keep Bologna off the scoreboard even though they had nothing to do with it.
- At least he could smile about it afterward.
- And how nice is it to see Juve posting a shutout in back-to-back games. I’ll take it.
- I wonder what was going through the Bologna players’ heads when they knew they needed to throw bodies forward to try and get some goals and then Andrea Pirlo goes to his bench to bring on ... Matthijs de Ligt. As if seeing Giorgio Chiellini wasn’t even, right?
- Speaking of Giorgio Chiellini, he looked rather spry out there even though this was his fourth straight start in less than two weeks. I’m guessing he’s on the bench come the midweek Coppa Italia fixture against SPAL, but this is definitely a good thing to see Chiellini’s body holding up with all these minutes suddenly on his plate.
- Rodrigo Bentancur looked like he might have to come off the field injured within about 30 seconds of game time in this one. It took him more than just a couple of minutes to get treatment and come back onto the field, and even then he was hobbling out there. Ninety minutes later and Bentancur was putting in one of his better shifts lately. That might be a low-ish kind of bar, but this midfield setup seems to be one that is working well for him.
- But it will take a lot for Bentancur to be considered Juve’s best midfielder going these days simply because Weston McKennie continues to impress the hell out of just about everybody. Say what you want about the workrate or the energy that he brings to the table, but we’re now seeing so many different instances where he is becoming a crucial part in Juve’s best movements forward. He’s become such a weapon for Pirlo and he only seems to be getting better as the season goes on. What a freaking bargain he is turning out to be.
- I’m not quite sure what to think of Dejan Kulusevski’s performance in this game. On one end, there were some good things — his contributions defensively that started counterattacks, the strong runs he made that either created chances or, at the very least, a couple of free kicks. But, there’s still times where he tries to do a little too much or tries to get a pass through a window that is about the size of my big toe. The best thing going for him is that he’s still young yet getting chances to prove himself at this level consistently.
- I, for one, am happy Juventus won this game for the simple fact that it started at 3:30 in the morning and I can barely see what I’m tying right now even with my new glasses on. Goodnight.