This could have been all very routine.
Hell, this should have been all very routine based on the simple amount of chances that Juventus had to put things away well before the final stretch of Wednesday night’s matchup at the Juventus Stadium arrived. But here we were, deep into the second half, watching Maccabi Haifa pushing hard for a potential game-tying goal and probably in deserved fashion, too.
Then the wrath of Rabiot came down.
On the back of an Adrien Rabiot brace and a trio of fantastic assists from Angel Di Maria, Juventus was able to claim its first three points in the Champions League this season with a 3-1 win over Maccabi Haifa. it wasn’t totally decided until Rabiot got his second goal of the night with an 83rd-minute header off a Di Maria corner kick, and that most certainly had more than a few people sweating about Juventus’ chances of actually closing things out.
Why? Because they weren’t looking great and Juve were most certainly pinned back as the 70th, 75th and then 80th minutes came and went.
But then we got the Rabiot goal to relieve the nervousness that was taking over the J Stadium as Juve’s slim one-goal advantage became more and more at risk in the second half.
It almost makes you want to sing about the man who scored the first and third goals on this night when Juve can actually be happy with the European result.
Ah, but at this point, Juventus getting a win in the Champions League this season is what matters most here. Sure, it would have been nice if one of Paris Saint-Germain or Benfica actually gotten a win Wednesday night rather than the other two members of Group H sharing the points in Lisbon. But Juve can’t be greedy right now as they try to dig themselves out of this early-season hole they have put themselves in.
It’s three points.
No matter how they got there, it’s three points.
And for the first time this season, Juventus has won back-to-back games in all competitions.
That’s not something you expect to be writing for the first time during the first few days of October, but it’s the reality of Juventus’ season. It has been a struggle — and especially a struggle against opponents in which you wouldn’t necessarily think it should be. Was this performance against Maccabi perfect? Well, obviously not, but compared to what we saw against PSG and Benfica, it’s an improvement. Just like what we saw from this team against Bologna over the weekend, it was better than what we saw on the whole of September.
This doesn’t mean Juve’s BACK or anything close to that, but it’s two wins — and one in the Champions League — for a team that desperately needed something good to happen or risk have this season fall further into oblivion.
So now Max Allegri’s squad goes into a meeting with the reigning Serie A champions — who, with all of their injuries going on at the moment, got absolutely hammered by Chelsea on Wednesday night — with at least some positive thoughts compared to what we saw for much of September.
It’s a small step, but it’s a step. And not a backwards one. I’ll take that over the alternative.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Another night in which the East grandstand at the J Stadium is far from being full. I guess that’s something we should pretty much expect to happen no matter if it’s in Serie A or the Champions League at this point until Juve’s form seriously improves.
- Adrien Rabiot got a Sofascore rating of 9.6 against Maccabi Haifa. NINE POINT SIX, PEOPLE!
It helped that he's the first player with at least 15 duels contested and a 85%+ duel success rate in a single #UCL match since November 2021.— Sofascore (@SofascoreINT) October 5, 2022
- But when you dive deeper into the stats outside of just the two goals, Rabiot had himself one hell of a night. If only this version of Rabiot showed itself more often then we’d be totally OK with paying him the money that Juventus pay him on an annual basis.
- Can you imagine if this is the game where Rabiot catches fire and starts a contract season that sees him get another huge payday? What a ride that would be.
- Outside of his assist on Rabiot’s first goal, Di Maria had a pretty forgettable first half. Not only because of his two second-half assists, but Di Maria was the world-class talent Juve thought they were getting when they signed him after the break. What a world of difference halftime made because holy smokes was Di Maria cookin’ with gas in the second half.
- Not just the fact that it was three assists, but the quality of the passes he provided for those goals was just top, top level kind of stuff. Let’s just hope that’s what kicks his season into gear.
- Dusan Vlahovic has now scored two goals in as many games. For anybody who watched Wednesday night’s game, they will know full well that Vlahovic should have had much more than just one goal. It should have been at least two, probably three and that might be an underestimation because of how many good chances Vlahovic had against Maccabi. But the fact that, no matter who the opponent was, he had this many chances to get on the scoresheet might be one of the most important things that come out of this game. Vlahovic is too good not to continue to not score those chances that he missed.
- Seriously, give Vlahovic that many chances in on goal more often than not and he’s looking like the dude who was racking up goals non-stop during his 2021 calendar year at Fiorentina. That guy ... that guy was really good.
- Wojciech Szczesny was put into a tough spot on the Maccabi goal. Me, personally, I think he was a little too aggressive because I thought Bremer was going to have a chance to recover and slow down the counterattack. But if you come out that hard and that aggressive on the ball, you have to get some sort of contact with it if you’re Szczesny. Completely whiffing on the ball just isn’t good at all.
- This man Omer Atzili came on as a second-half sub and almost flipped the game completely on its head. Hitting the post once is tough, but doing it three times in about 20 minutes? That’s just brutal.
- Juan Cuadrado Washed Watch continues. He had some decent moments, but he also had some of those moments that we’re seeing more and more of these days. It’s worrying, definitely worrying.
- Leandro Paredes with a 95 percent pass success rate. That’ll play.
- I don’t know about you guys, but I am very happy that this didn’t turn into a game in which we’re sitting here a few minutes after the final whistle sounded and we’re wanting to bash our head against the wall for hours because Juve dropped points simply because they were terrible in front of goal. They weren’t great, either, but this is certainly better than the more negative alternative.
- That said, Manuel Locatelli almost score from midfield and I would have lost my mind if that actually happened.