Choose whatever negative-leaning adjective you want to describe how Juventus played against Hellas Verona on Saturday night and you would pretty much be right on the money. That is just how things went, and when you let your opponent hang around like Juve did for much of the second half after taking a 1-0 lead through yet another Cristiano Ronaldo goal, bad things can happen.
And, surprise — they did.
Instead of being the ones to spoil a 1-0 lead away from home, Juventus had the script flipped on them against Hellas Verona. In virtually the same portion of the game as when Dejan Kulusevski leveled things up back in October, Juve saw Hellas Verona take advantage of the Italian champions’ inability to put their opponent away. The final result, a 1-1 draw at the Bentegodi, was yet another instance of Juventus not taking advantage of the opportunity to try and truly get back into the title race. A win would have put pressure on both Milan clubs and, for at least a few hours, made the title race pretty close between third place and first place.
Instead, we watched Hellas Verona celebrate a 78th-minute goal.
At the same time, we could have once and for all watched Juventus’ title hopes fly out the door and hand the title to somebody who resides at the San Siro.
I understand that Juventus were shorthanded for this game just as they were on Monday night against Crotone. I understand that there were more senior team goalkeepers available off the bench than outfield players not named Weston McKennie. But when you’re 1-0 up heading into the final 15 minutes of a game and you’ve defended rather well despite everything else happening around you, regardless of who’s available, the expectation is that you finish that out. That’s especially the case when you’re supposed to be one of the best defenses in the league as Juventus statistically are again this season.
But the issue with this Juventus team has been two-fold: Andrea Pirlo’s squad has, against mid- or lower-table opposition, failed to extend their leads at times; and, in turn, that has allowed said teams below them in the Serie A table to hang around and take advantage of a singular mistake at the back.
Juventus outshot Hellas Verona on Saturday night. But of those 15 shots, only a third of them were actually on target. Outside of Ronaldo’s goal and an Aaron Ramsey point-blank shot that should have been a goal, there wasn’t all that much that tested Marco Silvestri in goal. Juve got the lead, but couldn’t extend the lead, and ultimately that’s what bit them in the backside against a team that was certainly the better side over the course of the second half.
At this point, this is the team Juve is. They’re inconsistent, and until something clicks that’s how we should look at them. They are good enough to beat most teams, and they win just enough to keep them in a Champions League spot right now. But, this team, even when it was healthier and playing better earlier this month, still dropped points.
That’s not how you get back into a title race. It’s certainly how you can fall out of one. And this result, a second straight draw against Hellas Verona, could be the game where Juve’s Scudetto hopes truly disappeared once and for all.
Maybe things go Juve’s way Sunday and we can say they’re in the title race for another week. But this feels like the kind of result — and performance overall — where the changing of the guard started to officially get going.
I mean, just look at their form over the last couple of weeks. Does that say that this team is going to win the Serie A title for a 10th straight season? Because I don’t think so.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- That first save from Wojciech Szczesny ... that’s not easy — at all.
- Same can be said for Szczesny’s save in the 85th minute. What great reactions.
- Some of those refereeing decisions in the first half ... I got nothin’.
- Combined totals from the first half: Three yellow cards.
- Combined totals from the first half: Three shots on goal.
- That pass from Aaron Ramsey to Federico Chiesa on Ronaldo’s goal was pretty. The run from Chiesa into open space and the cross on Ronaldo’s goal was pretty. What wasn’t pretty? Hellas Verona’s defending, but we’ll take it. Thanks, guys.
- You could say that for a lot of this game — especially in the first half — that Kevin Lasagna was flopping around like ... a wet noodle. I’ll see myself out.
- If Aaron Ramsey was even a slightly better finisher in front of goal he could have two or three goals in his last two games. Instead, he has none. For as good as that pass to Chiesa was on Ronaldo’s goal, his finishing continues to be just about the opposite.
- Caption this:
- Look, I will always support my Large Adult Son and will forever be in the corner of Rodrigo Bentancur. But I just can’t help but wonder a lot lately how much of defensive work wouldn’t have to happen if he hadn’t just given the ball away a few seconds earlier with a misplaced pass. He did this on more than just a couple of times on Saturday night.
- The more things change, the more things stay the same. Alex Sandro, for as good of a player he has been since signing with Juventus, will never not fall asleep at the back post on a cross from the opposite wing. The problem is that it just seems to happen more and more often these days.
- There was a time a few weeks ago where Andrea Pirlo could bring big name after big name off the bench in the second half when things needed to be shaken up. Pirlo’s second sub on Saturday night? Alessandro Di Pardo. Depleted squad is absolutely depleted.
- It’s the 91st minute. Juventus wins a free kick. The announcers are hyping things up as Ronaldo does his usual free kick routine. Right before Ronaldo takes a step forward the announcers let the ambient noise take over. Ronaldo then fires the free kick into the wall, something that we’ve become pretty accustomed to over the last 2 1⁄2 seasons. That’s not hating on him. That’s just reality of the last few years when it comes Ronaldo and free kicks.
- Until next season, folks. The Bentegodi and playing against Hellas Verona continue to be a problem Juventus can’t seem to slove.
Also, according to the Deportes announcers, Juve has not won in Verona since 2017? What?— Sergio - 2021 SuperCoppa Champs - Romero (@manuc_bwrao) February 27, 2021
- I dunno about you guys, but feeling frustrated like this is becoming quite common like it did last season under Maurizio Sarri. It’s for different reasons even though their teams have some common issues that still have yet to be solved (and probably can’t be solved until the next transfer window opens over the summer), but watching Juventus play far below its potential after starting the month on such a good note is just something that makes me want to smash my head into the wall. (But I won’t do that because, as a home owner, that is money out of my pocket and I can’t afford that right now.)
- Good thing this team plays again on ... /checks schedule/ ... Tuesday! Good times.