Juventus took the field Sunday knowing damn well just what needed to be done to get back into the top four. Every single one of the four teams in front of them in the Serie A standings had already played, so it’s not like they didn’t know the situation that presented itself and what needed to be done to try and get back into a Champions League place after falling down to fifth place with Milan’s win Saturday.
For 80 minutes or so, Juventus looked about the complete opposite of a team that needed a win in the worst possible way. Their play was slow, they were creating little and a Udinese side that entered the match with four losses in its last six outings were keeping Juventus in complete check.
On the same day Inter Milan officially clinched the Scudetto and ended Juve’s decade-long reign over Serie A, the former champions were as sluggish as they’ve been all season.
Then, it all changed. For the better, too.
Within the span of six minutes, Juventus turned the game completely around. And it just so happened that it all began on a Cristiano Ronaldo free kick that hit off the wall. This time, though, a Rodrigo De Paul handball gifted Juve a penalty, then Ronaldo’s header in the 86th minute put Juventus in front for the first time all game long as they pulled a complete rabbit out of their hat and claimed a much-needed 2-1 win over Udinese in the pouring rain at the Dacia Arena.
A totally undeserved win, but a win nonetheless.
Three points is what was needed, and three points is what was recorded.
At this point, you will take them however they come knowing just how volatile Juventus’ season has been to date. Even as the announcers were hammering home how this could very well be Andrea Pirlo’s final game as manager, Juventus finally showed the sense of urgency that so many of us wish they show in the beginning of games rather than trying to flip the switch on when they reach total desperation.
Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise at this point because it’s happened so many times over the last couple of years. But based on how Juve looked for the opening 80 minutes, seeing them put together actual dangerous attacks and get a goal out of it might have been the biggest deal of them all.
No matter what, though, Juventus needed this in the worst possible way. Ronaldo needed it based on how he’s been completely misfiring in recent weeks and how important he is to this team’s success the final month of the season. And Pirlo needed it just for the simple fact that his team was at risk of dropping points against another mid-table team that was close to taking points from Juve despite doing nothing all that special against them.
So now, after potentially looking another disappointing result right in the face Juve heads into its final four games of the 2020-21 season, Pirlo’s squad jumped into third place after two of the teams in front of them dropped points earlier in the day on Sunday.
Luck hasn’t exactly been in Juve’s favor for much of this season, but it was for at least a few minutes in Udine. Better than nothing, I guess.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Opta BWRAO: Juventus is unbeaten in games that Felix Correia comes on as a second-half sub. #ThankYouPirlo
- OK, so the Portuguese striker who played a bigger role in this win, Ronaldo, has now officially scored 40 percent of Juventus’ goals this season. That’s good because it means Ronaldo is still scoring goals on a consistent basis (up until the last couple of weeks), but it also shows just how up and down the other strikers have been following Alvaro Morata’s hot streak to start the season.
- Sixteen of those goals have come away from Allianz Stadium, according to Opta. That’s pretty remarkable.
- Seriously, a Ronaldo free kick that hit the wall actually benefited Juventus. Bet you didn’t expect that one when you woke up this morning, folks.
- Simone Scuffet on Ronaldo’s game-winning goal — not great!
- The ball from Adrien Rabiot on Ronaldo’s game-winning goal — pretty good!
- Pretty good for his lone key pass of the game, huh? (I understand that he came on late in the second half. But still, quite the impact he made despite playing only a few minutes.)
- God, this team misses a healthy Federico Chiesa so damn much.
- Juventus committed 10 fouls in the first half. Weston McKennie accounted for exactly half of them. That’s just too many.
- Of course, one of those fouls led to Udinese’s opener — which, honestly, was completely deserved seeing as most of the Juventus players on the field had no idea what was going on because they were standing around doing nothing.
- Juventus hasn’t recorded a shutout in 10 games. That’s both disappointing and completely understandable after watching this team all season. This team isn’t what it was a few years ago in so many ways, but the fact that they can’t keep teams off the scoreboard is one of the most disappointing developments to come out of all this.
- For so much of this game Juve’s play was so predictable and so slow. Obviously we can’t get into the heads of the players, but it was a bad look from the outside looking in. They looked disinterested and the laborious way they were playing seemed to only confirm that. They turned it on late and flipped that switch in the final 10 minutes, but you just wish that it wouldn’t always have to be like that against completely average teams. Yet, here we are.
- Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse than the first half last weekend against Fiorentina, it did. And somehow Juventus won this game. I don’t get it, either.
- Against a goalkeeper that hadn’t started a Serie A game in over 900 days, Juventus went into the 80th minute with all of two shots on goal.
- Fino alla fine to the day they die it is then.