Finally, it’s all over.
A depressing, crazy, emotional, and controversial season has come to an end. Somehow, against all odds, Juventus (undeservedly?) qualified for the Champions League through an unconvincing fourth-placed finish. (How ironic that we’re the beneficiaries of the change to grant Italy four Champions League spots.)
Let’s review what happened in May.
The end of an era?
Juventus started the final month of the season the same way it ended the prior month: woefully. In its away game against Udinese, the team fell behind when Nahuel Molina scored in the 10th minute after he punished Juventus for falling asleep on a quickly-taken free kick. It was yet another desperately poor performance by a Juventus team that seemingly can’t wait for the end of the season.
Just when it looked like it was all over, that man Cristiano Ronaldo popped up out of nowhere to rescue Juventus with two crucial goals in the last seven minutes of the game. The first was a penalty, the second a strong header that the goalkeeper probably should have kept out. Final score: 2-1!
Then came the arguably the biggest game of (this stage of) the season: the home encounter with AC Milan. Since I’ve run out of creative ways to describe just how unbelievably bad Juventus has been this season, I’ll just leave it with this: this game was bad. Brahim Díaz opened the scoring with an impressive goal in stoppage time of the first half, although Wojciech Szczesny’s terrible error in the buildup to the goal made life much easier for Díaz.
While the first half was a drab affair, the real action occurred after the break. After Chiellini’s careless handball in the area led to a penalty for Milan, it looked certain that the visitors would double the lead from the spot. However, Szczesny redeemed himself with an excellent save from Franck Kessie’s admittedly terrible spot kick.
Alas, Juve didn’t use this as an opportunity to get back into the game as Milan doubled their lead in the 78th minute through a cracking goal by Ante Rebic (my good friend Fabio, who is a Milanista, told me that Rebic is “basically our Bernardeschi”) and then scored a third thanks to Fikayo Tomori’s header in the 82nd minute. A chastening, appalling 3-0 loss for this horrifically bad Juventus team.
The Bianconeri faced Sassuolo, a team that frequently makes life difficult for us. It quickly became clear why Sassuolo is such a tough customer as they comfortably outplayed Pirlo’s side and had the chance to take the lead through a penalty kick in the 16th minute. Former Juve man Domenico Berardi stepped up but the outgoing Buffon, who recently announced that he will leave the club again at the end of the season, saved the penalty to keep the scoreline goalless.
It proved to be a game-changing save as this time Juventus did take advantage of it. Adrien Rabiot scored Juve’s first goal in the 28th minute with a powerful strike that bounced in off the post. Ronaldo doubled the team’s lead with his 100th goal for Juve with a neat touch and composed finish just before half time. Although Sassuolo pulled one back through Giacomo Raspadori in the 59th minute, Paulo Dybala followed Ronaldo’s lead by scoring his 100th goal in Juve colors WITH HIS RIGHT FOOT (!!!1ONEONE).
Sassuolo put in a good fight and probably deserved more from the game, but thankfully the Bianconeri held on and went home with all three points. Final score: 3-1.
Up next was this season’s fourth (!) installment of the Derby d’Italia. And my word, what a rollercoaster of a game it was. Unfortunately, it was generally for the wrong reasons.
The referee awarded Juve what proved to be the first of many penalties in the 24th minute after he judged that Matteo Darmian’s tussle with Giorgio Chiellini was illegal. Ronaldo, for the first time in a long time, saw his penalty saved by penalty-killer Samir Handanovic, but the ball came straight back to the Portuguese who tapped in the rebound.
The scores were level soon afterwards as the referee awarded Inter a penalty after a completely accidental contact between Matthijs de Ligt and Lautaro Martínez. Romelu Lukaku equalized from the spot.
Remarkably, the Bianconeri went ahead deep into first half stoppage time after Juan Cuadrado scored his first (!) goal of the season. It was a rocket of a shot that deflected off Christian Eriksen and slightly wrong-footed Handanovic in goal.
Things got real crazy in the second half as the ref controversially sent off Rodrigo Bentancur for a second yellow card after a completely innocent shoulder-to-shoulder challenge with Lukaku. Nevertheless, Juve valiantly defended their lead and held on for dear life as the seconds ticked away. They breathed a huge sigh of relief when Chiellini’s own goal was disallowed due to a foul by Lukaku ... only for the ref to overturn the decision after a VAR review: 2-2.
In the final twist of this incredible, controversial, and referee-centered encounter, Juve won another penalty after a tangling of legs between Cuadrado and Perisic a few minutes after Inter’s second goal. Given that Ronaldo had been subbed off and Dybala was still on the bench, the pressure was on Cuadrado to save the day. The Colombian assist king rose to the occasion and scored the winning goal in this breathless fixture: 3-2 for Juve. To cap the drama of the evening, Brozovic was also sent off after his second yellow card in the 92nd minute. What a match!
The team faced Atalanta in the final of the Coppa Italia. The first half was a tightly contested affair with Juventus taking the lead in the 31st minute through Dejan Kulusevski’s exquisite side-footed finish. Ruslan Malinovskiy grabbed a deserved equalizer ten minutes later as Atalanta ended the first half on the ascendancy.
But Juventus stormed back into action in the second half and were comfortably the better side after the break. Pirlo’s men were rewarded when Federico Chiesa played a lovely 1-2 with Kulusevski and scored the team’s second goal in the 73rd minute. It proved to be the winning goal as Pirlo won his second trophy in less than 12 months of being a manager!
Last but certainly not least, the final game of the season away to Bologna. The game that would decide if Juve would reach the Champions League next season, although it wasn’t in our hands. Despite the pre-game controversy regarding Pirlo leaving Ronaldo on the bench, the game was a stroll in the park. Wonderfully worked and beautifully executed goals by Rabiot, Chiesa, and Morata (twice) guaranteed an easy 4-1 victory, with ex-Juve man Riccardo Orsolini scoring the consolation goal for Bologna.
Somehow, Napoli dropped points at home against Verona, meaning that the Bianconeri qualified for the 2021-22 Champions League group stages!
Juventus Women: CAMPIONE!
Juventus Women started the month with the same blistering performances that have become normal for them. First up was a home game against Florentia on May 2.
Goals from Matilde Lundorf, Sofie Pedersen, and Valentina Cernoia put Juve into a blitzing 3-0 lead before halftime, although Florentia pulled a goal back through Melania Martinovic a few minutes after the restart. Andrea Staskova then scored a quickfire double to put Juventus 5-1 ahead. Barbara Bonansea then added even more gloss to the scoreline with a goal in the 71st minute to seal a 6-1 victory.
Then came the game that everyone had been waiting for: the championship game against Napoli. Win this and a fourth straight Scudetto would be ours.
And win they did.
First half goals from Cristiana Girelli (her 50th for Juve) and Barbara Bonansea sealed a comfortable 2-0 victory, the team’s 20th in as many games this season. But most importantly, it meant that Rita Guarino’s team won its fourth consecutive Scudetto! It was the perfect parting gift for Guarino, who announced that she’ll be leaving the club in the summer.
Juventus then avenged their Coppa Italia heartbreak against AS Roma by beating the Romans 1-0 away from home. Bonansea was the match winner with a goal in the 52nd minute.
The final game of the season was, quite poetically, the Derby d’Italia against Inter. The Bianconere gave Guarino a spectacular sendoff by obliterating Inter 5-0. Four goals in a remarkable fifteen minute period in the first half essentially ended the contest soon after it started. Sara Gama, Girelli, Arianna Caruso, Tuija Hyyrynen were the goal scorers. Staskova added the cherry on top with the fifth late in the game.
Déjà vu all over again
And just like that, he’s gone again.
Gianluigi Buffon announced that he will leave Juventus for the second time at the end of the season, though the 43-year old Juventus legend did not indicate if he will retire or not. Whatever the case, and despite the brevity of his second stint at Juventus, we are forever grateful for his incredible dedication, passion, and commitment to the club.
Whatever the future may hold for him, he was, is, and always will be a part of Juventus DNA. This will always be his home.
Let’s move on to the action off the pitch, spearheaded by one of the most hated men in European football at the moment: our very own President Andrea Agnelli.
Remarkably, Agnelli continues to defend the merits of the much-maligned Super League along with his other two partners-in-crime: Real Madrid and Barcelona. Their stubbornness continues despite the fact that all other “founding members” have abandoned the Super League
, repented of their sins, and “rejoined” UEFA.
The Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse — oh, who cares how many there actually were, surely after one apocalypse it doesn’t matter what happens afterwards? — have not only staunchly stood by their idea, but they’ve even had the audacity to claim that it will save football.
But wait, the plot thickens.
FIGC president Gabriele Gravina has, somewhat unsurprisingly, said that Juventus will be expelled from the Serie A if it does not withdraw from the Super League. While I think that Agnelli had the best interests of the club in mind when he championed the Super League, now I think his actions are actively and grossly to the detriment of Juventus Football Club. If he continues to stand by this idea, it’s quite possible that we’ll not be able to play football in any competition at all.
I mean, what’s his plan: a Super League of three teams that play each other every weekend until the end of time?
That’s a worse love triangle than Twilight.
Italy’s biggest clubs waited until the season was over to explode into action. Within a mere five days after the last match day, a managerial merry-go-round was in full force:
- Antonio Conte left Inter by mutual consent
- Simone Inzaghi extended his contract with Lazio ... Oh, wait never mind, he’s on his way to Inter to replace Conte
- Andrea Pirlo left Juventus by mutual consent (or was he fired?)
- Max Allegri came back to Juventus
- And, in unrelated news, Zinedine Zidane stepped down from his role as manager of Real Madrid for the second time. You must be hot stuff if you’re able to voluntarily resign from one of the biggest clubs in the world not once, but twice.
It was hard to keep up with the dizzying flurry of news in that last week of May. But when the dust settles, we’ll hopefully be able to analyze the impact of all these changes both on Juventus and the entire league.
Oh and in case you forgot, there’s still a rescheduled Euro 2020 and summer transfer window coming up!