With how the opening 30 or so minutes went between Juventus and Crotone on Monday night, there was plenty of time to talk about things that weren’t happening on the field. A few of the things would have had you scratching your head, too. There was talk about how there’s 16 teams in Serie A — which obviously isn’t true. There was talk about how Crotone are, despite being in 20th place, still capable of staying up because they’re not far off from being outside of the relegation playoffs — which, as you probably know, isn’t a thing that happens in Serie A.
The match announcers also wanted you to know that Cristiano Ronaldo had only scored one goal in his last five games.
Call that putting it on a tee and it then being punted right out of Allianz Stadium.
As if he had AirPods in his ears listening to the broadcast, Ronaldo unofficially respond to that little stat above by turning a game that was scoreless into one Juventus was controlling in a matter minutes. Ronaldo’s pair of headers within the span of eight minutes was the driving force in Juventus avoiding another disastrous result against the worst team in the league and a win everybody expected them to get. Throw in Weston McKennie’s second-half strike and Juventus cut the Serie A deficit back down to single digits with their 3-0 win over dead-last Crotone.
Go ahead and exhale now.
Juventus was able to beat the worst team in the league.
This wasn’t a repeat of what happened in mid-October.
Juventus, after two really bad losses against Napoli and Porto, are victorious again.
And they had their leading man leading the way. Rather good when that happens no matter the opponent, no matter the context and no matter the circumstances.
Juventus needed this win in the worst possible way knowing how the last week or so went. Then you throw in how the Milan derby went a little more than 24 hours earlier and beating Crotone was the only option. (Yes, more than before, if that is a thing.) It wasn’t only about getting back to single digits in terms of how many points they trail Inter by, but jumping a couple of teams at the same time was also possible — and exactly what happened.
Juve entered the game in six points and on the brink of dropping out of the top six.
After Monday night’s win, Juve’s sitting in third place — and, don’t look now, but only four points off second place — and back into a position where we can start reminding everybody that they’ve still got a game in hand to play. (Yes, even though it’s against a team that just beat Juventus, whatever.)
This could have been a tricky game for the simple fact that it’s after a disappointing Champions League result and with some many players out injured. This team is far from healthy, far from fresh and has basically been trying to grind their way through the last two months with a game every three or four days. This was a refreshing win in the simple fact that it was rather comfortable after Ronaldo’s pair of headers found the back of the net. (And, let’s be honest, Juve could have led by more than just two goals at halftime based on the chances they created.)
And when you’ve got Ronaldo doing Ronaldo things in the air like he did Monday night, that usually results in good things for the team that signs his paychecks.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND RANDOM OBSERVATIONS
- Gianluigi Buffon combining two different keeper kits into one was certainly something to see even before kickoff arrived. Can’t say I would have thought the salmon top and the grey shorts/socks would have made a combo, but Buffon is God and he can do whatever the heck he wants.
- Alex Sandro put a ball that was on the backend of Ronaldo’s first goal right on the money. He did it while essentially standing flat footed. It looked almost like he was about to fall backwards as he made contact. Sure, Sandro might not be the player he was four or five years ago, but he still has the ability to deliver one hell of a cross — even while standing still.
- Speaking of assists on Ronaldo goals in this game, props to Aaron Ramsey — who had a relatively solid game and could have easily had a goal or two himself — for continuing his run after Ronaldo’s initial shot to be in position to deliver the cross. Pretty good one from a tight angle, too.
- Did you get the feeling Crotone’s defense had absolutely no idea where Ronaldo was in the box on his second goal? If there’s one dude to ALWAYS keep track of, it’s the guy wearing No. 7. Bold strategy, Cotton.
- Crotone finished with 15 shots, although all of two of them were actually on goal and never troubled Buffon.
- Ronaldo, by himself, attempted 11 shots and put more shots on goal.
- I will never tire of seeing Federico Chiesa’s facial reactions to things that happen no matter if they are good or bad.
- It took Alvaro Morata all of about two minutes after coming on to be called for offside. Hey, the man has a reputation and he sticks to it, so you gotta give him props for that. (Also, the hair is looking nice and gelled up again, bud. Keep up the good work and hope you feel better soon.)
- Weston McKennie, who Andrea Pirlo said was not 100 percent coming into the game and is basically gritting his teeth to play right now, went out and scored a really nice goal to put Crotone away for good and logged 90 minutes despite the lack of full health. Dude must have quite a pain tolerance — which, knowing the kind of playing style and attitude on the field that he has, might not be much of a surprise to some.
- WhoScored says that Matthijs de Ligt recorded all of one tackle and I am finding that very hard to believe.
- The 3D defense of de Ligt, Merih Demiral and Danilo seems to have found a nice little groove together. There’s still a few shaky moments, but we’ve seen in years past where there’s a massive drop off between the first-choice defenders and the ones who replace them. Not so much this season.
- Nico Fagioli!
- Alessandro Di Pardo!
- Gianluca Frabotta!
- Sure, injuries suck and they seem like they never end, but at least this was the kind of game that if Juve got a comfortable lead then Pirlo could go to the kids to rest some regulars. And, you know, seeing Pirlo go to the kids in the second half is a nice thing to see.
- Gianluigi Buffon had more touches than Dejan Kulusevski.
- Not that this is meant to say that Kulusevski played poorly because he didn’t. He was pretty lively in the first half and had was able to stretch out those long legs of his on the counterattack on more than a couple of occasions. While maybe small, this was a step in the right for Dejan Kulusevski, Makeshift Striker.
- I, personally, enjoyed Juventus not dropping points to Crotone again. Not a bad Monday after all.