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Juventus turns bulk of chances into three more points, climbs to fifth in table

Plenty of possession and chances in the final third eventually led to a pair of goals for the hosts as the Bianconeri won its second consecutive league match to move into a European spot.

Juventus v Genoa CFC - Serie A Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

There were plenty of frustrations that came Juventus’ way during a cold Sunday night in Turin against Genoa. From lacking the final ball in the attack to some familiar worries in the back and even some concerning moments on the touchline, it did not feel like it was the hosts’ best night.

But the stats told another story, and the final scoreline eventually showed what was a very comfortable 2-0 victory for Juventus over relegation battlers Genoa. By the end of the night, Juventus held 70 percent of possession, racked up 27 total shots and forced 10 saves from Genoa goalkeeper and arguably man of the match Salvatore Sirigu. The ball was constantly in the final third, with Juventus playing with a sense of urgency for 90 minutes, searching for the second goal for a frustrating 73 minutes before putting the game away 10 minutes before the final whistle.

Juventus clearly knew it needed to win and the team and tactics showed some desperation that has often been missing this season, especially early in matches. It appeared Max Allegri elected to go back to the 4-2-3-1 formation that had some similar success with winning and keeping possession high up the field during the midweek trip to Salerno.

In fact, the formation wasn’t the only thing that looked familiar as 10 of the starters from that match returned to the first XI for Sunday’s match against Genoa. Wojciech Szczesny was still in goal with the center back pairing of Matthijs de Ligt and Giorgio Chiellini in front of the keeper. Juan Cuadrado and Luca Pellegrini got the starts at the fullback spots with Rodrigo Bentancur and Manuel Locatelli playing as holding midfielders. Paulo Dybala returned to his No. 10 spot, being flanked by Federico Bernardeschi and Dejan Kulusevski with Alvaro Morata being the only change from midweek, replacing Moise Kean as the team’s starting striker.

Juventus set the tone from the outset, pushing forward and creating some opportunities in the first few minutes but lacking any kind of final product to set up any real chances for the forwards. But the opener came without needing the front line to do anything as the first goal was brought to you by the threatening play of the fullbacks.

Pellegrini was coming down the left flank well in the early moments and he won a corner in the ninth minute. That’s when Cuadrado had his special moment. The Colombian sent in his in-swinging corner and it went past everybody, including Sirigu, into the far corner for his third goal of the season. (I would have argued for him that this was on purpose, but he reportedly admitted after the match it was lucky.)

The goal certainly inspired the rest of the night and Juventus showed no signs of letting off the gas. Any player pushing forward was looking to create space and shooting on sight but no one could seem to find the target with many shots coming from outside of the box. Dybala had a couple of good movements in the opening half hour which led to a shot but he couldn’t find the target. Locatelli also attempted a shot from outside the box but it went well high in the end.

Juventus didn’t threaten Sirigu’s goal again until the 32nd minute and it was once again in large part due to Cuadrado. His free kick was perfectly placed at the back post and de Ligt won the header but the attempt harmlessly bounced into Sirigu’s arms.

A few minutes later, de Ligt forced Sirigu into action again. Bernardeschi played a clever chip over the defense and the Dutchman had a strong header on target that was saved by Sirigu and bounced back into the box. Morata and de Ligt were both in the area for the rebound opportunity but there was very little contact on the ball and Sirigu eventually claimed it to end the threat.

Morata had his first clear shot at goal just before the break when Dybala played a curling ball behind the defense. The Spaniard had to hit it on the half volley while sliding to the ground, but he made good contact only to see his shot once again pushed away by Sirigu.

The second half started with more of the same as Juventus kept the pressure on the visitors but the lead somehow failed to grow over the next thirty minutes. Alex Sandro surprisingly came on for Pellegrini at left back, but the Brazilian made more of an impact than he had in recent weeks, looking to feed the attack in the first few minutes.

Dybala came close to extending the lead in the 51st minute when he teed up a shot for himself from about 25 yards out, bending it around a couple of defenders but the shot didn’t have enough dip on it eventually beating Sirigu and flying just over the crossbar. That was just the start of an onslaught of chances for the hosts over the next 10 minutes.

Morata was the next one to find the target as he cut inside on his right foot past a pair of defenders and got a shot away through some traffic but it was comfortably saved a parried away from danger by Sirigu. Morata was starting to show some signs of frustration at this point, foreshadowing the way the rest of his evening would go.

De Ligt was the next one to force a save, sending a 30-yard shot on frame to force Sirigu into a save for the third time in the match. Kulusevski had the next chance after a lovely ball from Locatelli played the Swede behind the defense but his left-footed shot sputtered wide of the near post in the end.

The next 10 minutes brought plenty of groans from the home crowd as it seemed the second goal was never going to get through. Dybala released a wicked half volley from the top of the box off a Cuadrado corner but it was once again directly at Sirigu who handled the shot with some ease compared to his other saves of the night. On the next attack, Dybala linked well with Morata on the left side of the box but the Spaniard’s chipped effort was tipped away by Sirigu and a shot by the onrushing Cuadrado was blocked before the ball eventually floated into the air long enough for Sirigu to gather.

Juventus broke through again in the 65th minute in what appeared to be a three-on-one opportunity with Morata playing in Dybala with just the keeper to beat. However, the Argentine’s shot was yet again saved by Sirigu without a rebound chance for Morata or Bernardeschi who were both still in the box. The chance continued however with Sandro playing a ball into the back post, reaching Cuadrado who hit the ball on the volley in hopes of a brace but it just ended with another save by the Genoa keeper.

The frustration continued for the attack and Morata was eventually subbed off in the 72nd minute, seconds after picking up a yellow card for sharing some words with the referee. As he was on his way to the bench, that attitude was extended toward Allegri and the two shared a moment with each other which was surely out of mutual frustration with the lead still at just one goal.

Genoa had a few chances to get in behind the defense which had the home fans worried, but little came of it and eventually Juventus put the game away. In the 82nd minute, Bernardeschi played Dybala into the box and his quick touch on to his left foot gave him just enough space to release a shot, finally beating Sirgu and doubling the hosts’ lead.

The night certainly was short of what Juventus deserved and the team likely walked away feeling like it should have scored more than two goals but the three points still belong to Juventus. The Bianconeri moved into fifth place with the victory, seven points of the title challengers in the top four.

LE PAGELLE

WOJCIECH SZCZESNY – 6.5. Yeah, he did play in this game. I also found that shocking once I learned. Clean sheet, wooo!

JUAN CUADRADO – 7.5. Loses points for admitting his goal was lucky. Just lie to us, Juan, it was amazing. He also had a really good night with a pair of key passes and 98 (!!!) of 106 passes completed from the right back position. That’s amazing.

MATTHIJS DE LIGT – 7.5. Yeah, there wasn’t all that much to do defensively and he had three shots on target. Plus a 96 percent pass accuracy so you’ll take that every day.

GIORGIO CHIELLINI – 7. He made the few big tackles that were need, finishing with a team-high four tackles. Also added a pair of interceptions and a clearance. Good stuff from the captain.

LUCA PELLEGRINI – 6.5. 35 of 35 on passes. Probably his best game of the season and feel like he deserved more, but his yellow card wasn’t great and it likely played into that decision.

RODRIGO BENTANCUR – 7. There are still times where he roams into the same position as Locatelli but I think he is starting to figure out his spot in this specific formation. We are also at the point where if you don’t notice Bentancur much during the game, that’s a good thing. He did his job well and he didn’t try to do too much.

MANUEL LOCATELLI – 7. 94 percent pass accuracy, 12 of 17 on long balls and two key passes. He was pulling the strings in this one and somehow never had an assist. Got to roam forward but also helped defensively. At the end of the day, you have to give some credit to the holding midfielders when the defense doesn’t have a lot to do.

DEJAN KULUSEVSKI – 6.5. He is still trying to get into the groove of things seemingly. Every time I thought an extra pass needed to be made, it seemed it was Kulusevski who missed the pass or was out of position to limit the chance. It also doesn’t help when he plays with two other heavily left-footed attacking midfielders. He was a bit too predictable in this one.

PAULO DYBALA – 8. The goal was very deserved at the end of the night. He was letting it fly whenever he saw the goal, finishing with seven shots and forcing three saves. He also had a pair of key passes and four successful dribbles.

FEDERICO BERNARDESCHI – 7.5. In-form Bernardeschi is really something special. He played with confidence, attempted dribbles and passes that no one else on the team is willing to try. He finished with four key passes and a 90 percent pass rate from the attack which doesn’t happen very often.

ALVARO MORATA – 7. Most people will say this is too high, but I really thought Morata played well. It wasn’t his fault the second goal took so long to arrive. He forced some good saves on his own and he worked well with his teammates. Finished with three shots on target and three key passes. Played well enough to get a goal or an assist but it wasn’t on the cards for him this time.

SUBS

ALEX SANDRO – 7. He’s still not his old self but he definitely looked better than he has been looking. He came in and immediately tried to force the issue when Juventus was chasing the second goal. Had a key pass and a decent shot that was off target. Connected on four long balls and made a key pass which nearly resulted in an assist.

MOISE KEAN – 5.5. For everything Morata did to get into position, Kean did not. He didn’t work that well with the attacking midfielders and seemed to be mistiming his runs and passes for the 20 minutes he was on the pitch.

ADRIEN RABIOT – NA. Just play him centrally, why is this so difficult?

KAIO JORGE – NA. He did touch the ball that one time.

Juventus v Genoa CFC - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

MANAGER ANALYSIS

I believe everyone was happy to see Allegri stick with something that so clearly worked in the last match. Yes, it was against a weaker opponent and so was this match, but hopefully the Juventus manager can see the flow of the game favoring his side much more when players are in the position they are supposed to be in. I do believe the 4-2-3-1 is tough to play without a true defensive midfielder, but Bentancur and obviously Locatelli have truly held their own so far. I think the possession was important even if it didn’t always lead to goals and the high pressure was done really well to limit many Genoa chances leaking in.

My only tweaks for Allegri in this one would probably come on the substitution front. I think this was the perfect game to see what Pellegrini was made of and I think he was playing pretty well, so I found it a surprise to see Sandro come on at halftime. That being said, Pellegrini was on a yellow card and maybe this was a good chance to get Sandro back on form, so I understand the move.

My second substitution note is the fact that I have to side with Morata. He was playing really well and he definitely deserved a goal or an assist from this game. One of those results was coming for him eventually and it’s tough to understand why that move was made for a guy who clearly lives and dies based off his confidence level.

And, of course, my final substitution note is about Rabiot. He came in to play as a left-sided midfielder and even though it wasn’t technically a left winger, that’s still not his position. Please play him centrally so he can be decent again, thank you.

LOOKING AHEAD

Juventus is staying at home for the midweek as it hosts Malmo for the final group stage match of the Champions League. If they get a better result than Chelsea gets at Zenit, Juventus can top the group. No matter what that result is, Juventus will quickly return to league play as it travels to Venice to take on Venezia next Saturday.