Things were looking relatively solid as Juventus held a 1-0 lead entering the final minutes of the first half. We’ve said that kind of thing before this season, only to see things fall apart in drastic fashion and be the reason(s) as to why we are where we are entering the Champions League group stage opener.
Then, within the span of about 60 seconds, the scope of things changed drastically.
And for the better, too!
(Thought it might be for the bad, didn’t you? It’s OK. This is Juventus in the Champions League, so it’s completely understandable.)
Alex Sandro may have given Juventus a 1-0 lead midway through the first half, but Paulo Dybala’s penalty kick and Alvaro Morata’s nifty finish all of a minute later turned what was a close game into anything but that heading into halftime. It proved to be just what the doctor ordered for Max Allegri’s struggling side, as Juventus cruised to the finish line Tuesday night and recorded a 3-0 win over Malmö to take the Group H opener.
Seriously. A win AND a clean sheet? That’s something we haven’t seen from Juventus since March. MARCH,PEOPLE, MARCH! That’s wild, yet it also is a sign of how things have been for Juventus these days.
And, for one night at least, we can exhale.
Juventus has won a game — finally. Juventus has gotten a shutout — finally. And, for the better part of 90 minutes, Juventus played relatively well — finally.
We hadn’t gotten much of any of that so far this season. But on this night, we got all three.
1 - It was since 2010 (Europa League Qualifying) that Juventus had not achieved their first seasonal win in a European competition. Free.#MalmoeJuventus— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) September 14, 2021
Based on what we saw from Juventus over the weekend against Napoli, it was anybody’s guess as to what kind of team we were going to see. Not in terms of personnel, because you had a pretty good idea with all of the South Americans back in the squad. But more to do with the fact that Juve’s been simply all over the place as they’ve recorded just one point and allowed five goals in their first three games of the 2021-22 campaign.
It wasn’t all pretty and there wasn’t a whole lot of style points to it, but this was an efficient and effective performance away from home that Juve desperately need just to try and right the ship. Or at least start the process of doing so.
You look at all of the ills that have been prevalent through Juve’s first three games — the self-inflicted mistakes being at the top of the list — and a lot of them weren’t necessarily present Tuesday night in Sweden. So when you see Juve not shoot itself in the foot and not make stupid mistake upon stupid mistake, you can see that this team can play well, it can do some good things and they can look competent.
At this point, that’s better than what we’ve been seeing — and it was most definitely a welcome change from the first three games of the season. Tuesday night was a step forward. Maybe not a huge one, but something positive as compared to everything else we’ve seen this opening few weeks of the season.
As tough as the start of this 2021-22 season has been, for one night we can at least say that Juventus played well and ended up winning because of it. I know that might be hard to believe with how the previous parts of the season have gone, but it’s true and you just have to go with me on this one, folks. I am not trying to deceive you.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Those away kits ... they’re beautiful.
- That pitch ... it looked nice, but it was pretty easy to see that dudes couldn’t keep their footing at times to save their lives. You don’t see Dybala fall on his backside during a penalty kick all the time, do you?
- You know why Juventus got the shutout? It’s because Daniele Rugani played the last few minutes. Bet you weren’t expecting that to happen in this game.
- I know Rodrigo Bentancur technically got the credit for the assist on Sandro’s opener, but that’s all Juan Cuadrado. That’s just what Johnny Square does in the Champions League — rack up assists (even though it wasn’t technically his assist) like they’re going out of style.
- Also on Bentancur since these types of things haven’t happened a lot over the last year and a half: that pass of his out to Cuadrado to put everything in motion on Sandro’s goal was pretty nice, too. More of that, please.
- Would have been a lot better for the jokes if the dude with the last name of “Innocent” had committed the most fouls or got sent off. Because that’s what truly matters most here.
- Some of the long balls Leonardo Bonucci played in this game were simply fantastic.
- I like when the South Americans play. Juve’s better with the South Americans.
- I, personally, like when Moise Kean tries to score on the opponent’s goal rather than putting his own keeper in all kinds of trouble. I’m glad the latter didn’t happen again in this game.
- Kean came on in the 68th minute and nearly scored a couple of goals. That first Juve goal in Kean 2.0 is going to come soon if he keeps getting the kinds of chances he did Tuesday night.
- Speaking of said keeper, the under-fire Wojciech Szczesny was solid as hell in goal. And boy, you gotta think he needed that based on what has happened over the course of the first three games this season as well as the 2021 calendar year, he needed this kind of game so freakin’ badly. This doesn’t mean he’s suddenly off the hot seat, but a lot like the team as a whole, this was a step forward that hopefully leads to better things these next few weeks.
- It also helps when Malmö only puts one shot on goal, of course. But with how Szczesny commanded his box and was really strong when coming out and punching away some dangerous crosses — especially in the second half — that’s a good thing.
- Aaron Ramsey completed 100 percent of his passes. Suck it, haters.
- Manuel Locatelli has played pretty well in his first two starts as a Juventus player. For much of the night, his pass success rate was hanging around 90 percent. That’ll play just fine.
- I don’t want to see Adrien Rabiot out wide a lot in the future, but for one night it worked. Now hopefully Max Allegri plays an actual winger in that position this weekend.
- Do this kind of thing again on Sunday against Milan and then the cautious bit of hope that hangs around in my head will start to creep back in. CREEP, I SAID. The only way Mr. Optimistic comes back in full is if this happens for a decent amount of time, not just for a week. I think a lot of us learned that the hard way last season.