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Juventus 2 - Udinese 2: Initial reaction and random observations

A bright start. A dark finish. Juventus went full-on Jekyll and Hyde to open the 2021-22 season.

Udinese Calcio v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

You see, the thing is this: Juventus should have never needed any Cristiano Ronaldo heroics in stoppage time Sunday night. Never, ever, EVER. Not with the way the first 45 minutes went. Not with how they were leading 2-0 at halftime. Not with the fact that Udinese was doing next to nothing in that first half.

But then you get a goalkeeper whose form in the second half of the 2020-21 season was that resembling a roller coaster ride beginning the new campaign with two of the worst mistakes of his career and, even with said Ronaldo goal called offside, you’re in need of the heroics.

When there should have been no need for it — at all.

Max Allegri’s return to the Juventus bench will be remembered for two things: Blowing a 2-0 lead and how his team went about doing it. Or, I should say, how his starting goalkeeper looked every bit the part of a guy who is completely out of whack at the moment. Thanks to two massive mistakes from Wojciech Szczesny, Udinese weren’t just allowed to hang around in a game Juventus was controlling from start to finish in the first half, but were able to snatch a point when they had no business doing so in a 2-2 draw to spoil Allegri’s return.

The worst part about — outside of the fact that Juventus should have won without Ronaldo both needing to come on as well as potentially scoring a goal in the 94th minute — was that there was an easy solution for both of Szczesny’s mistakes.

First, catch the damn ball so that you’re not risking a penalty at all.

Second, just boot the ball up the field. Or kick it out of bounds. Or just do something completely opposite of trying to be too damn fancy and subsequently put yourself in a situation where you’ve hung yourself out to dry when you’ve got two dudes pressing you.

It’s that simple. Both mistakes could have been avoided just by simply doing the easiest thing possible. Instead, Juventus gave away two goals when they should have barely allowed a shot on goal the entire game.

Juventus were looking really, really good in the first half. Paulo Dybala not only gave his team a lead after less than three minutes, but he was looking just as good as he did during his two friendly appearances over the last eight days. It was playing out about as well as you could have hoped — and that was before Juan Cuadrado’s goal to make it 2-0, which came off a great long ball from Dybala around the center circle.

Then it all fell apart.

Juventus’ offensive creativity cooled off, even with the introduction of Ronaldo and Federico Chiesa in the second half. Udinese were the better side even after the break even though they were down two goals before Szczesny started doing what he unfortunately did. And then, as we’ve seen with this team both last season and so many years before that, a lot of the time when they drop points it’s because they are their own worst enemy.

And this time, Juve’s own worst enemy proved to be the guy wearing the No. 1 jersey.

In conclusion, I am going to turn things over to my associate Mr. Williams because we really share the same kind of thoughts on things at the moment:

RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS

  • So the last hour or so before kickoff was interesting.
  • And then Ronaldo came on for the last 30 minutes, so ... I got nothin’.
  • Let’s be real even though the goal didn’t count: Ronaldo’s header was pretty badass. So was the cross from Federico Chiesa. And yet, because all of that drama at the very end, it doesn’t matter at all. Stupid, stupid VAR.
  • No Mattia De Sciglio, no party.
  • Facts are facts, folks.
  • Juventus also hit the post twice. I know that’s not why Juve dropped points in this game, but man it sure is tough to swallow when stuff like this does happen.
  • ... MARIO MANDZUKIC WAS SITTING IN THE STANDS. Like, the actual stands, not a skybox alongside the Juventus management team. International man of mystery.
  • In more important matters, I am here to report that Federico Bernardeschi touched the ball nine times in the first half. Yep, you read that right — nine times.
  • Bernardeschi finished with 16 touches. Giorgio Chiellini had about the same amount of touches all of five minutes after coming on in the second half.
  • Aaron Ramsey, playing in one of the most important positions in Allegri’s system, had one key pass and fewer touches than all of Juve’s starting defenders. That doesn’t seem all that great.
  • I don’t know if it was intentional, but the feed CBS Sports Network was using sure was quick on the trigger when it came to shooting over to Pavel Nedved with a facepalm after a couple of bad Rodrigo Bentancur tackles.
  • Good Bentancur: the assist on Dybala’s goal. He’s just so much better as a box-to-box midfielder than one that sits in front of the defense. Now if only Juve can get Manuel Locatelli, Adrien Rabiot and Weston McKennie onto the field, too.
  • Locatelli came on in the 89th minute. Memorable debut!
  • Andrea Pirlo might be sitting back with a nice and expensive bottle of wine and thinking to himself that not all of those self-destructions last season that he got blamed for were actually his fault. At some point, the more things change, the more these things are staying the same — and that’s the most worrying part of it all.
  • Juan Cuadrado when he can mostly focus on attacking sure can be fun to watch.
  • Pain. Just ... pain.
  • I still have no idea what Wojciech Szczesny is thinking. Meanwhile, Gigi Buffon is in Serie B and Gigio Donnarumma is sitting on the bench in Paris. So much for Juve’s goalkeeper situation stabling after the way Szczesny closed out last season. The next few weekends should be fun.