Things were not looking good for the majority of the night when Juventus hosted Fiorentina in a crucial meeting for both teams sitting in the middle of the Serie A table. The hosts were finally at the end of their busy three-week stretch which featured seven matches and they were struggling to find the energy to match Fiorentina.
However, the Bianconeri found a second wind in the second half when the visitors went down to 10 players for the final 20 minutes of the match and the winning goal finally came in the 91st minute off the boot of substitute Juan Cuadrado. Juventus finished off its fifth 1-0 victory of the season and grabbed three points in the league for the first time since Oct. 17 to move back into eighth place, level with Fiorentina on points.
Despite the hectic schedule, there were not a lot of changes to Max Allegri’s starting lineup in the final match before the international break, but there were some key differences that surprised many fans, starting on the back end. With Wojciech Szczesny out injured, Mattia Perin got another start in goal, his third of the league campaign and second in the last two weeks. His defense once again featured Matthijs de Ligt but for the first time this year, Daniele Rugani made his first start in any competition after injuries to Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. They were once again surrounded by Alex Sandro and Danilo in the fullback positions, with Weston McKennie and Manuel Locatelli taking up the central midfield spots. Adrien Rabiot returned to his spot as the left midfielder, moving back into the lineup for Federico Bernadeschi. Federico Chiesa started on the right, joining Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata in the attack.
Fiorentina appeared to be a bit more rested and manager Vincenzo Italiano went with what is becoming his favorite starting XI. His only changes from last week’s victory over Spezia came on the right side, with Jose Callejon getting the nod as the right winger and Alvaro Odriozola starting at right back. The defense still consisted of Nikola Milenkovic and Lucas Martinez with Cristiano Biraghi on the left and Pietro Terracciano in goal. The midfield featured Gaetano Castrovilli, Lucas Torreira and the always dangerous Giacomo Bonaventura. Dušan Vlahović led the attacking line after bagging a hat trick last weekend with Riccardo Saponara starting on the left.
It was a cagey start to the match from both teams, but the visitors actually played with much of the ball for the first 10 minutes. It was nearly to their own demise when Terracciano was a bit too slow with a pass back to his feet and his clearance was blocked by Morata, ricocheting back toward the goal but Fiorentina was fortunate the ball didn’t find the back of the net and no other Juventus players were high up the pitch to finish the chance.
Just a few minutes later, Morata was back for more and got control of the ball behind the defense and beat the keeper but his touch took him too wide to get a shot off. His squared ball found Dybala, but his first-time shot went well over the target.
However, it was Fiorentina who created the most and the best chances in the first 45 minutes. Bonaventura found some space in the box early on and forced the first save of the match with a header from 10 yards out, but it was comfortable for Perrin.
The biggest moment of the first half came in the 33rd minute through Odriozola who may have been the most dangerous player for the visitors. The Spaniard made an overlapping run on the right wing and used a nice bit of skill to get past both Rabiot and Sandro before sending a fast cross into the box. Saponara gets on the end of it but he could not get over the top of the ball and his shot sailed just over Perrin’s crossbar.
Juventus looked a little uncertain on defense for the remainder of the half. Moments after the big chance, de Ligt whiffed on clearing a dangerous cross into the box but fortunately for the Dutchman, it was Danilo who reacted first to the loose ball in the box as he cleared it away from any Fiorentina attackers.
Fiorentina kept the pressure going with a pair of set pieces, one resulting in a volley by Callejon but he could not find the target from 20 yards out. Perrin was forced into action a couple of minutes later when he got just enough of a cross to take the ball off the head of an unmarked Saponara. The visitors got the second ball back into the box and found Vlahovic but he could not get his header on target.
The first half did not end without a little bit of drama as a free kick into Juventus’ box was cleared away from goal but after it appeared to go off the left hand of Danilo. The VAR took a look at the play for a couple of minutes but it was never looked at any more closely by the head referee as the teams headed into the locker room with a scoreless tie.
Juventus came out of the break with a bit more pressure up the field and it again resulted in a chance for Morata. Locatelli won the ball up the field and it fell to Morata with his back to goal. The striker chipped the ball over the defender before firing a volley with his left foot that skipped just wide of the post.
That would be the final chance for either team for quite some time despite some decent spells of possession from both sides. Juventus continued its high pressure to threaten Fiorentina, but when the Viola broke that pressure, it was often resulting some decent chances in the final third including several corner kicks but the hosts held out well to prevent any real chances.
The game changed in the 73rd minute when Milenkovic picked up two quick and deserved yellow cards, eventually getting sent off for fouling Chiesa to slow down a chance at a counter attack. Juventus had the opening it needed to take all three points and the pressure immediately starting building.
Three minutes after the defender was sent off, Juventus created its biggest chance of the night to that point. Locatelli chipped a pass over the defense and Chiesa did well to turn his defender before unleashing a half volley toward the goal. His strike beat the keeper but it slammed off the crossbar and the shot was so hard, there was no chance at a rebound for any of his teammates.
Chiesa was back at it in the 86th minute when he got on the end of Cuadrado’s first cross after subbing in a few minutes earlier. Chiesa ran on to the ball and connected cleanly but it was slightly deflected by a defender and eventually was a comfortable save for Terracciano.
The breakthrough finally came in stoppage time when Cuadrado’s dangerous dribbling ability had Biraghi on his heels. The defender had the slightest of stumbles and the Colombian took advantage of it, cutting to his right foot and sending the ball toward the goal. Biraghi recovered enough to get the slightest of touches on it but the deflection helped Cuadrado beat the keeper at his near post, putting Juventus into the lead.
JUAN CUADRADO— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 6, 2021
Juventus score a stoppage time winner to take all 3 points ⚫⚪ pic.twitter.com/NqNr3zhS95
MATTIA PERIN – 7. He really didn’t need to do all that much. Made an early save and was really tested just once on a cross which he dealt with very well. Clean sheet, solid night.
DANILO – 7.5. A very sound performance defensively, making some really good reads to cut out passes and crosses. Saved de Ligt once and finished with four clearances and three tackles.
DANIELE RUGANI – 7. No major mistakes. Not a lot going on for him in the stat sheet, but that could be a good thing. He was where he needed to be and defended well enough for 90 minutes to earn a clean sheet.
MATTHIJS DE LIGT – 7.5. He is a bit lucky to not be docked at all for his first-half mistake since it didn’t result in anything, but other than that one play, he was the best of the backline. Good distribution, five total clearances and six aerial duels won, including a couple in the attacking third. Really could have gotten himself a goal when he beat the keeper to the ball for a header inside the box in the first half.
ALEX SANDRO – 5.5. I think you could tell the Brazilian was pretty worn down, which is why he only played the first half in this one. He didn’t do a lot of attacking, only sending in one cross and missing everybody with it. His defense was uncertain to say the least and Fiorentina’s biggest chance came after he was beaten way too easily on the wing.
FEDERICO CHIESA – 6.5. Another guy who looked a little worn down at times, but when he had the energy to give, he went full speed and he threatened. He had one key pass and two successful dribbles. He really deserved to score on his turn and shot in the second half, but alas, the woodwork said no.
WESTON MCKENNIE – 6. This was a classic Weston game — 53 percent passing (lol) but also somehow making two key passes. Lost possession 22 times but also won it back 14 times. High work rate defensively, finishing with a team-high five tackles to go with an interception and a clearance.
MANUEL LOCATELLI – 7. This was the midfielder to provide some passing, completing 91 percent of his 53 pass attempts including four of seven on long balls. He nearly provided an assists to Chiesa and actually was given one on Cuadrado’s winner. Helped well with the high press but also provided stability in front of the defense when Fiorentina was in possession.
ADRIEN RABIOT – 5.5. I’ve said it before where I don’t think it’s entirely his fault when he plays poorly after being put on the wing, but this was one of those times where he just didn’t play well anywhere on the field. Poor defensively, a couple of poorly weighted passes and some questionable decision going forward. Just let the guy play his actual position for once.
ALVARO MORATA – 5.5. He made an impact with his high press for the entire game and that was a big plus, especially when very little else was working for Juventus going forward. He did score once but of course he was offside and he knew it. His turn and shot early in the second half was impressive. But at the end of the day, you need more than one attempt from your striker.
PAULO DYBALA – 6. The slightly more threatening forward, shooting three times, but none on target. He linked well with the midfield to try to create some chances but just couldn’t ever find the final ball. His control was still impressive. He finished with two successful dribbles and drew three free kicks in the attacking half.
LUCA PELLEGRINI – 6. Probably the most threatening player to play on the left side for Juventus, but that doesn’t say a lot. He did have a key pass and connected on four long balls but was 0-for-2 on his crosses. He looked a bit more calm on the ball and was solid enough defensively.
JUAN CUADRADO – 7.5. He only played 15 minutes but he was by far the best player for Juventus. He nearly had an assist within seconds of coming on to the pitch and of course, recorded the winning goal which always gives you a nice little boost.
KAIO JORGE – N/A. Was really hoping Chiesa would play it back to Kaio in the final moments to see if he could get his first goal.
RODRIGO BENTANCUR – N/A. He did a nifty little flick over the defender while in his own third with a one-goal lead in the 95th minute that he probably shouldn’t have tried ... but it worked.
Let’s not get too far into this before I just have to state the obvious again. The 4-4-2 isn’t working well and it definitely doesn’t work when one wing is essentially non-existent, which happens every time Rabiot is put on the left side. As for the rest of the starting XI, I do like giving Rugani a chance and I think he showed he could be in the rotation a bit more going forward. (And by “a bit more,” I mean like maybe another start next month.) It was clear that Sandro was on a short leash probably just due to fitness, so I do wish Pellegrini could have gotten the start or a full 90 under his belt, but I do get not wanting to go too deep into the bench for half of your defense.
During the week, I credited Allegri for not diving into his bench when the players on the field were clearly creating enough and they proved him right for sticking with the starters. This was the opposite. Juventus was not creating much and lacked something in the final third for most of the night so it would have been nice to see an attacking sub before the 78th minute. That substitute did pay off, but still, maybe it could have been more than just another 1-0 if Allegri got a bit more aggressive with it.
After Fiorentina’s red card, Juventus did get more threatening which is only natural but Allegri definitely went for it (almost to a fault again with how stretched they were in the back) so he gets some credit for that too.
It is time for the much-welcomed international break.
After a brutal October, Juventus will take a bit of a break from each other with some leaving on international duty and others just getting a deserved break. They will return in two weeks and get a challenge right away when they hit the road to Rome to take on Lazio who currently sits level on points with Juventus before its game against Salernitana on Sunday. It’s the start of yet another crazy week for the Bianconeri which includes a trip to Stamford Bridge in the Champions League and finishes with a home match against Atalanta.