It’s the 60th minute and Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini has decided to go to the bench for the first time. One of those subs is a player who just so happens to be an absolute thorn in Juventus’ side, and we all knew full well that he was going to come on knowing how Sunday night’s game in Bergamo was proceeding with the need for a goal or two.
It is at that moment when I hear my phone ping with a text from a Juve buddy.
“Malinovskyi PTSD,” the text read.
That’s because Ruslan Malinovskyi has a penchant for doing things against Juventus that result in disappointment for us and happiness for those who root for Atalanta. And all of 15 minutes after coming on, Malinovskyi was doing just that, giving Atalanta a deserved lead with one of the best goals you will see in Serie A this season. (And, with what we’ve seen this season, that’s pretty impressive.)
But that’s before Juventus, with attackers galore on the field in stoppage time got a lifeline from one of the players you probably least expected to score.
Yes, it was Danilo’s header in the first minute of stoppage time that allowed Juventus to snag a 1-1 draw at the Gewiss Arena and maintain its two-point lead over Atalanta in the race for fourth place and the Champions League spot that comes with it. I know, I know — the same Danilo who, maybe opposite of Malinovskyi, tries to score the spectacular long-range banger whenever he gets the chance but hardly ever puts it on goal. It was far from the situation we might have expected Juventus to be in knowing how this heated matchup started, but getting a stoppage-time goal was the only thing that allowed Juve to offset Malinovskyi’s latest bolt of lightening against the Bianconeri.
So in one sense — exhale.
In the other sense — grumble.
Why’s that? Well let me try to explain this in not a lot of words.
Juventus, maybe surprisingly, was easily the better side through the first 15 or 20 minutes. Dusan Vlahovic was Dusan Vlahovic-ing and creating a couple of really good scoring chances. Paulo Dybala, in attempt recreate something in classic Paulo Dybala fashion, nearly scored one of his famed left-footed benders to the far post. It was all Juventus in the opening 15-20 minutes, and the only problem was that the likes of Vlahovic and Dybala didn’t finish those chances.
And it was that misfiring in front of goal along with Max Allegri getting a little too conservative both with his desire to try and hit Atalanta on the counter as well as holding off on his subs until the 80th minute that contributed to all of this. There’s no singular person to blame because so many chances went weren’t converted and Juventus was left to rely on Danilo’s heroics to get a point.
A lot like the draw against Milan earlier this calendar year, a draw on the face of it isn’t all that bad. The Gewiss is no easy place to play, and it feels like Juventus knows that better than just about any other big club in Serie A these days with how the last couple of trips to Bergamo have gone. (Thanks to Malinovskyi, of course.) But with how well Juve played to start and how they should have been trying to defend a lead rather than scratching and clawing to come back and get a point, it’s just .. yeah, I dunno.
It just feels like this was a missed opportunity — again. Especially when you factor in both how Juve played to start and how an Atalanta side that was without its best striker (Duvan Zapata) and starting goalkeeper (Juan Musso) needed a minute of Malinovskyi magic to get its one goal.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ll take the point over the alternative and how I thought this was going to go when I started writing that lede paragraph in the 82nd minute. I just think it could have been more — and that’s not because of one singular thing, either.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- I’ve probably said it before and I don’t feel like looking it up, but Juventus need to sign Ruslan Malinovskyi just so that he can stop scoring against Juventus. You know, work out some kind of deal based on the fact that Juve allowed Atalanta to make a nice little profit off one season of really good play from Cristian Romero or something like that.
- Merih Demiral and Matthijs de Ligt were two of the best players on the field Sunday night. Just like how we drew it up a couple of years ago when both of them signed with Juventus, right? OK, there’s the whole “playing on different teams” thing now, but that was a clinic by both of those young bulls.
- And of course it’s the single mistake that de Ligt makes the entire game that leads to Malinovskyi scoring that goal. It was a foul he had to make and was rightly called for it, but man you hate to see a dude play so damn well and then have that moment take away from it.
- Through the first six or seven minutes, Juventus had 69 percent possession. That was nice.
- The fact that the possession numbers completely flipped in Atalanta’s favor to around 60-40 before the first half was over ... not as nice.
- Who else had flashbacks to early-season Wojciech Szczesny when you saw him racing out of his penalty area to try and clear the ball but completely whiff? Thank goodness Atalanta didn’t get much on the ensuing shot attempt or else we might be talking a lot more about that potentially game-changing mistake.
- Bet you didn’t know that Serie A has a sensual side. See for yourself:
- Marco Sportiello didn’t go full Sorrentino in this game, but I feel like the dude was really, really close to it. Some of those saves were throwbacks to when he was considered one of the best young keepers in Italy and the target of some of Serie A’s biggest clubs. (He’s also still “just” 29 years old!)
- Atalanta had 21 shots. Ten of those were off target. Eight of those were blocked. Sure, the volume of shots was in Atalanta’s advantage, but the quality of the scoring chances, at least I thought, fell more toward Juventus.
- Vlahovic took seven of Juve’s 14 shots. The guy who wears No. 7 may change, but the shooters shoot mentality for the guy who has that number at Juventus doesn’t seem to change all that much the last couple of years.
- This was not a good night for Juve’s midfield.
- I type that and then look up and see that Weston McKennie led Juventus with six (!!) key passes. Sometimes I should just be quiet.
- Max Allegri waited too long to make his subs. We can all agree on this, right?
- And yet, there Allegri was, all of a few minutes after going down 1-0, with the likes of Vlahovic, Dybala, Alvaro Morata, Juan Cuadrado and Moise Kean all on the field at once. It didn’t last for a long amount of time because Morata was subbed off late, but at least Allegri went for it when the situation called for it.
- Then it was a defender who scored the game-tying goal. Which just amuses me endlessly.
- Some of the passing combinations that Juve had in this game were fantastic. Other times were simply tough to watch. Welcome to a team that is still in transition and working through some very clear issues.
- I’m guessing Denis Zakaria didn’t have much in his legs after playing a lot of minutes against Hellas Verona and then Sassuolo because this was the kind of game that called out for him.
- Thank goodness the Turin derby isn’t until Friday because I’m guessing this team needs a little bit of a rest after the last three games.