For the first time in what feels like a long time, Juventus rose to the occasion.
What a welcome sight that was. And what an important win this was.
In what was easily their most complete game in weeks — if not months — Juventus got the win that they needed both in the standings and, probably, simply to reestablish the faith that they can win these types of games. Or win much of anything with the way things have been going lately. Thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala on his return to the field after two months injured, Juventus picked up three incredibly valuable points with a 2-1 win over Napoli on Wednesday night to give the Italian champions some much-needed breathing room in the race for the Champions League.
It was a night where Andrea Pirlo pushed the right buttons and outsmarted his former AC Milan teammate on the opposing touchline.
And maybe more importantly, it was a game where Juventus, after the way they went into and came out of the international break, looked like a competent and functional team once again.
I have no idea if we will be able to say that when Genoa comes to Turin over the weekend, but on this night it was quite enjoyable to see an effective and solid Juventus performing well once again.
If only they had gotten Gigi Buffon the shutout. But, I guess that’s asking a little too much right now.
The biggest thing, though, is the win. There’s no other way around it. Juventus needed it in the worst possible way, and they got it. We haven’t been able to say that a lot lately, but this was a night where Juventus bucked the trend and bucked their recent form. Juventus hasn’t deserved much in recent outings, but they deserved this win with how they played. It was, from this guy’s perspective, the best they’ve played in months.
They needed a quality showing against a Napoli team that had found some kind of form coming into this game. Juventus, much to their credit, did it. I’m guessing that, with the way that Juve had been playing the last month or two, not many people would have expected such a solid display across the board. But they delivered it. Oh boy did they need it.
And after all of the B.S. of the last couple of weeks, it was Dybala’s goal that ended up being the game-winning strike. It was a beautiful goal, a classic left-footed curler that he has scored so many times before.
That had to feel good — and the celebration from both Dybala and his teammates only seemed to prove just that.
It’s been a tough couple of months for both him, the team and the man who’s coaching them. But on this night, Juventus looked pretty good again. And that, my friends, is a welcome sight that I hope we get to see at least a handful of times more going forward the rest of this season. (I know that might be a lot to ask, but it sure would be nice!)
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- So if both teams deserve PKs like Juve and Napoli did in the first half, does that mean we just break even and go about our days? Asking for a friend.
- But then Giorgio Chiellini goes and commits that foul in the box to actually give Napoli a penalty. Good thing it didn’t cost Juventus anything more than the shutout because ... yeah, I don’t even want to think about what the reaction would have.
- Seeing Matthijs de Ligt celebrate the stoppage-time blocked shot like he did ... beautiful.
- Federico Chiesa is fun as hell.
- Federico Chiesa’s reactions to something that goes wrong remain undefeated:
- To be honest, if Ronaldo missed a wide open header like that and I was in Chiesa’s position, I probably would have reacted like that, too. You don’t see that dude blow that chance all that often — at all.
- Good thing he was able to finish off his second scoring chance. And, man oh man, the run that Chiesa went on to set all of that up. Great assist, great finish. Great goal.
- Just for added measure, guess who led Juventus in tackles against Napoli? Yeah, it was Chiesa. How that dude was even able to walk off the field when he was subbed off in the second half, I have no idea. He was all-energy all the time and he was the definition of “leaving everything out on the field” Wednesday night. What a great player and summer signing he’s proving to be.
- RIP to Elseid Hysaj’s ankles, by the way. That’s courtesy of both Chiesa and Juan Cuadrado.
- Juventus put three shots on goal. Two of them were goals. Efficient.
- The Adrien Rabiot-Rodrigo Bentancur combo in the center of the midfield wasn’t a total disaster. Hey, at some point you gotta take it.
- Gigi Buffon made three saves. All of them were flippin’ fantastic.
- I can’t imagine what has been going through Paulo Dybala’s head the last two months as he dealt with an injury that was supposed to keep him out for a couple of weeks and turned into much, much more than that. To score that goal in his first game back, have it come after a really bad week for both him and his fellow dinner party teammates while his future at Juventus is nothing short of completely uncertain, that’s pretty impressive. The last Serie A goal Dybala scored off the bench was over a year ago against Inter right before everything was shut down for three months. Not bad, Joya. Not bad at all.
- I know I’ve already mentioned it, but seeing Dybala and all of his teammates celebrate his goal like that made me smile. A truly good moment in a season of complete frustration and disappointment.
- It wouldn’t be a Juventus game without them giving us at least some sort of late-game heartburn, right? Very, very on brand.
- The hope is that this kind of win will be the beginning of a solid finish to the season for Juventus. The schedule, however, is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. As much as there are games against the likes of Genoa and Parma, there’s still games against Atalanta and Inter and Milan still remaining. There’s no middle ground here. It’s either not very good teams or pretty good teams. This will be the ultimate test of Juventus’ mettle. Hopefully Wednesday night’s win was a good start and not just a small blip on the radar with what we’ve been seeing of late.
- That was fun viewing. I haven’t been able to say that in many weeks. I would like to write that again before the season is over.