Leave it to a pair of 36-year-old dudes in black and white jerseys to lead Juventus to a classic, no-frills kind of win that would make a certain guy from Livorno awfully proud.
All one day after turning 36, Cristiano Ronaldo’s left-footed strike out of nowhere proved to be the difference on the scoreboard while Giorgio Chiellini’s massive performance to lead the defensive line helped Juventus post their fifth clean sheet in the last six games in Saturday night’s 2-0 win over Roma at the Allianz Stadium. It was not a pretty game. It was not a free-flowing, open kind of game that some thought it could be based on how these two clubs’ offensive firepower. But, with this win, Juventus was able to leapfrog over Roma in the Serie A standings and now put all the pressure over to AC Milan when they take the field on Sunday.
The stats, other than the final score, won’t be pretty or flattering for Juventus. Roma had more possession. Juventus got outshot 14-3, all of those three shots coming from Ronaldo. Every offensive stat, outside of goals scored, goes in favor of Roma.
This game was simply getting the lead early and then defending it.
And, boy, did Juventus defend it.
Even with Roma having so many more opportunities than Juventus, it wasn’t until the last part of the second half when Wojciech Szczesny was even somewhat busy in goal. And even then it wasn’t like he was getting peppered with shots. Roma’s chances were mostly coming from outside of the box and weren’t all that difficult to stop or just never were going to be on frame to begin with.
As good as Ronaldo’s goal was — and, to see him get that much of the ball as he was basically flat footed when he made contact was something else — Juventus’ defense was the reason why they were able to stymy any kind of Roma offense.
Juventus relied on its defense in this game. Roma were the better side for large stretches Saturday night, but Juve’s defense had an answer every ... single ... time. You want to talk about managing a 1-0 lead well, this one is right up there with how you do it.
Maybe it’s as simple as Andrea Pirlo’s seeing that his defense is playing as well as it has all season and is using it to his advantage. This wasn’t the ball-hawking, up-tempo display that we’ve seen from Juventus in many of their wins this season, but this proved to be incredibly effective. And that, with so many big games still to come, is pretty impressive from this still-inexperienced manager.
Same goes for the players, who have to be feeling pretty good with how they’re playing these days.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Before the sequence that led to the Ronaldo goal, it felt like Juventus hadn’t had the ball for more than five seconds. Roma were absolutely dominating the possession, and when Juve did get the ball, it went right back to the visitors. Then ... poof! Juve get the lead and never gave it back.
- So that’s what Ronaldo can do with his weak foot and no run up or momentum going forward? Sheesh.
- The work that Alex Sandro did on the left wing on Ronaldo’s goal can’t go unnoticed. He was able to hold off the man marking him and get the ball into Alvaro Morata, who then somehow got the ball out from his feet and dished it to Ronaldo. As much as it was a great effort of skill from Ronaldo to finish it, the guy who started the sequence on the left wing deserves some credit as well.
- Adrien Rabiot attempted 53 passes. He competed 53 passes. That’ll play.
- Same thing goes for the contributions Rabiot made defensively with a team-high total in tackles (4) and three clearances. I’d say he filled in for Rodrigo Bentancur rather well.
- It was very on brand for the 2020-21 season that Juan Cuadrado to come on and within a couple of minutes the ball is in the back of the net. Sure, it was an own goal and he won’t get an assist, but that was a pretty nice pass to put Dejan Kulusevski in on goal.
- I’ve said it a lot lately, but it bears repeating: Seeing a healthy Giorgio Chiellini contributing and playing 90 minutes the last couple of weeks is so enjoyable. It’s not a surprise to anybody that Juventus’ defense is better with him out there. But the fact that he’s playing so often over the last month is the biggest development.
- So if Federico Bernardeschi comes on for Federico Chiesa like we saw in this game, is it considered a ... Fedeception?
- Starting to think that Roma might have gotten the better of the Leonardo Spinazzola-Luca Pellegrini swap, you guys. The fact that Spinazzola is one of the best left backs in Serie A right now and actually playing for the club that owns him doesn’t speak well of Juve’s end of the deal. (But at least it looks good on the books, right?)
- Roma attempted 29 crosses in Saturday’s game.
- Juventus attempted 4 crosses in Saturday’s game.
- It’s amusing that as Juve sees one of their starting defenders go off injured, the guy they bring on is one of the best defenders in Europe. (This is not me laughing at Leo Bonucci getting injured, by the way.) It’s pretty nice for a rookie manager to have the ability to turn to Matthijs de Ligt off the bench if need be.
- It still is kinda wild that Juve won this game with all of two shots being put on goal.
- But, when you think about it, we should be used to these kinds of games, right? We are fans of Italian football after all, and there’s nothing more Italian that a grind-it-out win by one or two goals like Juventus just put forward in this one.
- Is the cream starting to truly rise to the top in Serie A now? Juventus has a little separation from Roma and Napoli, with Milan still to play this weekend. At the very worst, Juventus will be sitting in third place and seven points behind Milan at the end of Sunday’s action. Based on how the first couple of months went, things are starting to really look a lot better than where they were in October and November. Ah, the beauty of long seasons, folks.