There are games where the story comes easy and you don’t have to think twice about. There are others, like what we just saw between Juventus and Inter Milan at the Allianz Stadium, where there are so many twists and turns you rely more on the delete button more than anything else because you know damn well what you wrote in the first half ain’t necessarily going to be true at the final whistle.
Boy oh boy, what a 90 minutes (and stoppage time) we just witnessed.
I’m guessing the Italian media will just let this kind of result — and refereeing performance — just go quietly into the night knowing what was at stake for the former Italian champions.
Ah ... but nah.
Juventus beat Inter 3-2 on Sunday night. That is the easiest part of this game to figure out after what we just saw take place in front of us. It was a roller coaster of the highest degree, one with questionable refereeing decisions from the early stages of the match until the very end. This will be a match that will be remembered more for the controversial calls more than anything else, but after Juan Cuadrado sunk an 88th minute penalty kick — the third PK of the night — it put Juventus in front one final time and allowed them to secure a massive three points in the race for the top four.
And after all of that, all the drama and surely the headline-worthy comments from those on the losing end of the final score, Juventus is in fourth place for at least the next few hours.
Now ... breathe.
Or at least try to. Sometimes it’s tough after a second half like that.
This was a wild one, and one that lived up to the complete unpredictability that this season has provided. I think it’s fair to say that optimism wasn’t all that high knowing what Juve’s form has been over the last month or two, and when you combine that with Inter recently clinching the title and knowing what the current top four situation is then there was a chance for the new Serie A champions to come through and run right on through Andrea Pirlo’s squad.
But that didn’t happen. It didn’t happen in the slightest.
Juventus ... weren’t bad. Were they dominant? No. of course not. But we did see one of the things that we’ve been asking to see from this Juventus team all season long: a sense of urgency and for them to play like they truly gave a damn. It’s unfortunate that we’re saying this in the second-to-last game of the 2020-21 season, but it’s true. This was a Juve that truly played like they cared, and they managed a game where they needed to do a whole lot of defending after Rodrigo Bentancur was (wrongly) sent off in the 55th minute quite well. That is not something we can say about Juve a whole lot this season, but even though they needed Cuadrado to put them back in front with the final chef’s kiss moment of the day thanks to Gianpaolo Calvarese, this was far from Inter dominating Juventus or anything close to it.
Juventus needed a performance like this against Inter. They needed to go the extra mile in the second half because they were down to 10 men. They had a little bit of luck on their side, too.
Hey, compared to what some of us might have been thinking about this one in the hours leading up to it, this alternative is a much-welcomed sight. Juventus didn’t let us down in a game where only one result was acceptable — and that is a good
What a ride, man. What a ride.
Update. 9 bookings, 2 reds, 3 pens, VARby d’Italia. Brozovic now gone. #Calvarese. Blink and you miss them— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) May 15, 2021
You guys and girls got all of that? There will be a quiz on it in the morning.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- If you wanted to watch a game where the “Juve get all the calls” narrative died a quick death, it would be this one. What an absolutely inconsistent game of refereeing this was.
- Soft penalty on Matthijs de Ligt.
- Soft second yellow and sending off for Rodrigo Bentancur.
- One could also argue that the penalty Juve got when Giorgio Chiellini was brought down in the box was on the softer side as well.
- Same goes for the penalty on Juan Cuadrado.
- Basically, refereeing decisions all over the place even though people will be championing the use of VAR and how the “correct” calls were made. It is more of the same from a season of Serie A refereeing that has been completely average at best.
- But don’t you go holding that penalty call against our big Dutch baby boy. He was simply fantastic in this game, and the 1-on-1 battle he had going with Lautaro Martinez for much of the night was high-quality stuff. Same goes for that goal line clearance de Ligt had in the second half. Crucial, crucial stuff.
- Well, that was an eventful evening for Giorgio Chiellini, wasn’t it?
- The Johnny Square Experience, everybody!
- Seriously, Juan Cuadrado has had one hell of a season. While so many players have struggled to truly leave a positive mark on this season, Cuadrado has truly thrived and is as important to this squad as ever. If Juve do indeed extend his contract for another season or two, you can’t say it hasn’t been earned. The guy has been great this season.
- That first Cuadrado goal ... DAMN.
- Andrea Pirlo showed some serious cojones when he subbed out Cristiano Ronaldo for Alvaro Morata with 20 minutes to go. But in the situation Juve was in when they were down a man and up 2-1 and holding on for dear life, don’t you think that was the right call? Sure, Morata didn’t impact things a whole lot after coming on, but when you think of a striker who is going to contribute defensively up front for the final 20 minutes, that fits Morata’s skillset more than Ronaldo’s ... right?
- I’m guessing when they panned over to Antonio Conte after the penalty kick that led to Cuadrado’s game-winning goal was called and he had his hand over his mouth that there was nothing all that positive being said. (Conte, meanwhile, continued his media silence and didn’t talk publicly after the game. So, we’re just gonna have to guess what he would have said about all of the refereeing errors.)
- Also, the completely wry and sarcastic smile that Pirlo had after Bentancur got sent off was top stuff. You could tell 100 percent what Pirlo thought of that call with all of about a half-second of face time on camera.
- That save by Wojciech Szczesny on Matias Vecino in the second half ... pretty important!
- Forza Viola!
- Forza Cagliari!
- Sunday should be interesting. Maybe even more interesting than Saturday was — and that’s saying something after what we just watched the last couple of hours.
- Or, in the words of Chuks: “Crikey what the hell did I just experience.” Amen, brother.
- In conclusion, never in doubt.