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Juventus 4 - Zenit St. Petersburg 2: Initial reaction and random observations

Well, that was rather unexpected.

Juventus v Zenit St. Petersburg: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Ah, yes.

This Juventus.

I remember this Juventus.

Not the one that is dropping points to mid-table opposition. No, no. This Juventus is the one that looks confident, looks dangerous and has more just a couple of moments where they are looking to not just beat the opposition, but absolutely crush them. It’s the one where Max Allegri lets them loose a little bit rather than keeping the leash tight.

We got that Tuesday night. Boy oh boy did we get some anger being let out.

In Juventus’ first game since going into ritiro after its week from hell to wrap up the month of October, Allegri’s squad responded in about as good of a way as they possibly could have. Juve didn’t just beat Zenit to get into the Champions League knockout rounds, but their 4-2 win over the Russian side was about the complete opposite of what we saw from the team just a few short days ago when they couldn’t do much of anything right in a loss to Hellas Verona.

This game, though, this was a change for the better.

Oh man was a change for the better.

Going into ritiro, for one game, seems to have worked. And now one of the first objectives that Max Allegri has laid out there — getting to the Champions League Round of 16 — is in his back pocket with two games to go in the group stage. The trip to face Chelsea in London, rather than a big deal when it comes to advancement in the competition, is now about having the chance to win the group. That is something, looking at the simple fact that the reigning European champions were in the same group, might not have even been a thought that was entertained when the group stage was about to get underway.

But here we are, on the second day of November, and Juve’s already qualified for the knockout rounds and could very well finish atop of Group H as well.

All the more impressive is the simple fact that Juventus went out and had this performance, one where they didn’t just settle for a goal and then try to absorb Zenit’s pressure for the next hour or so, coming after all the B.S. of the last week. You could tell that Allegri had his team focused, had them prepared and they went out and did something they haven’t done much of so far this season — win with some room to spare.

It was a pleasant change.

It was the right kind of change.

And simply seeing something other than what we had seen a few days earlier in Verona was about as pleasant of a surprise as any of us could have asked for before kickoff.

It always helps when it looks like Juve’s taking a little anger out, too. They definitely looked like that was the case. Angry Juventus usually ends up being a fun Juventus, I hear.

I know, I know. It’s one game. It’s 90 minutes over the span of a long, long, long season. And, at this point we have just as much bad as we do good this season, if not more. But for one night, a much-needed high-level performance was there for everybody to see.

For that, even though it’s just one game, I will be happy about.

RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS

  • My cohort Sergio Romero had a simple ask of Juventus, and that was to be fun again. I’m pretty sure that Sergio — and a lot of other people — had fun watching this one.
  • A line heard on the Paramount Plus broadcast: “Juve’s all over Zenit like a rash right now.” Well that pretty much settles that then.
  • FEDERICO BERNARDESCHI HAD SEVEN KEY PASSES AGAINST ZENIT. SEVEN!
  • Four different Juventus players had at least three key passes. That’s a lot of key passes.
  • Paulo Dybala is really freakin’ fun when he’s on this kind of form. Man, what a game.
  • This was the second consecutive game in which Dybala has taken EIGHT shots. Eight! If this is Dybala realizing he needs to put the team on his back, then so be it. Dude is really feelin’ it right now. More, Paulo, more.
  • And you know what? That call that gave Dybala the second chance at his penalty kick attempt after missing the first one? It was the right call. Credit where credit is due.
  • Freddie Church’s goal to essentially put the game on ice — that was absolutely ruthless. I’ve said it before in this space after games, but Chiesa just has moments where he wants to suck the soul out of the opposing defender. And with that goal, he did just that.
  • Dybala’s on a hat trick, has a relatively decent path to goal and he instead passes it to Alvaro Morata, a player who has had a pretty tough time of late. Morata got the goal, and you could tell by how his teammates mobbed him afterward that he needed it badly.
  • Weston McKennie deserved a goal for the game he had. And honestly, he probably should have had a goal with the chances he had, including one that hammered off the underside of the crossbar in the second half. McKennie was looking a lot like the player from the first half of last season when he was one of Juve’s best. He was all over the place defensively and his runs into the box were dangerous all night. This is the McKennie that Juve needs, and one that can really compliment the work that Manuel Locatelli does so well.
  • Speaking of Locatelli, he completed 95 percent of his passes against Zenit. That’ll play.
  • That wasn’t just on something like 20 or 30 passes. Locatelli’s 73 passes were the second-high number by a Juventus player Tuesday night. That’ll play.
  • Ah, the 4-4-2 with two actual wingers. Who woulda guessed it would look better than with Adrien Rabiot out wide on the left. Let’s keep it this way, Max. There’s no need for Rabiot to play out wide unless there are literally no other wingers available.
  • Wojciech Szczesny went from seeing a Leonardo Bonucci attempted clearance fly over his head to tie the game in the first half to making a handful of crucial second-half saves to keep Juve in front. What an eventful night.
  • The look that Matthijs de Ligt shot Daniele Rugani after Zenit scored its second goal ... oof. (Maybe it was just frustration after allowing a goal in stoppage time, but it was definitely in Rugani’s general direction.)
  • That was fun. I hope Max Allegri plays the same 11 players against Fiorentina on Saturday. (Can you imagine the Fiorentina fan reaction to Bernardeschi having this kind of game again but against his former team? Oh boy, that could be fun.)