Dusan Vlahovic took all of 33 seconds to score a goal in his Champions League debut Tuesday night. It was, to put it absolutely in the shortest possible terms, catching lightning in a bottle and putting forward the exact opposite of starts that we expected of Juventus.
But then there’s the thought that crops into your head:
“Did Juventus score way too early?”
Not because that ended up being Juve’s only scoring chance of the first half because it wasn’t. Juventus had a handful of chances to extend its lead further — both in the first half and early in the second half. But it was because we knew the shift was coming.
And Villarreal eventually made Juve pay for it.
Juventus, again, was unable to get the win in the first leg of a Champions League knockout round matchup. On the surface, a 1-1 draw knowing how shorthanded this team was going into Tuesday night’s trip to Spain isn’t all that bad. But when you have the lead after half a minute and have chances to extend your lead before ultimately seeing Adrien Rabiot forget how to mark his man and let Dani Parejo go running free into the box without any kind of trouble, then you’re going to leave Spain with a little bit of regret.
And that is definitely what this kind of game feels like.
It’s not a total loss — and Lord knows we’ve seen those from Juventus in the Champions League knockout rounds the last few years.
But it’s not the totally convincing result that Juventus could have if they had converted one of those chances when up 1-0 or Max Allegri had played it even the slightest bit less conservative than he predictably did.
The thing is, we all knew Juve were going to sit back and try to absorb pressure. We knew it was going to be a lot like what we’ve seen form Max Allegri and Juventus for a good portion of this season no matter what state the defense was in. That caught nobody off-guard at all.
It just feels like Vlahovic scoring so early just accelerated the process.
And that meant Juve defended for much of the next 89 minutes. Again, thinking Juve would play it like this was not a surprise, the fact that it happened AND Juve had the lead so early was where things got interesting. It was the catch that always seems to come with Allegri these day — push for more or try to keep what you have.
The problem was that Villarreal, even with its own major absences, did a lot of good things even before Parejo found the back of the net midway through the second half. They showed why this tie was never going to be as easy as some thought it might be. And even though they didn’t pepper Wojciech Szczesny’s goal, Villarreal most definitely could have scored more just in the same way Juventus could have scored more.
Yet, at the end of all this, Villarreal outshot Juventus 9-7. That’s it.
They’re tied on the scoreboard heading into the second leg.
And Juventus, even with another injury happening in this game, will hopefully have some help coming its way in the second leg.
Sure, you’d love to have seen Juve score more after Vlahovic’s stunning start or an away goal in your back pocket now if the away goals rule still existed, but it’s not all lost even though Juventus didn’t technically win. I dunno, maybe it’s my head trying to spin a potential negative into a potential positive, but it could have been worse, and that I will be happy that we’re not talking about a Juve loss even though it might feel like that to some.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Leave it to Max Allegri to play a hybrid 3-5-2/5-4-1 when he has only one healthy central defender. Max gonna Max — and don’t you ever forget it.
- That feeling when you suddenly get to defend a 1-0 lead in the second minute:
- That’s what Max wanted to do, then Adrien Rabiot’s defensive awareness happened.
- How Rabiot wasn’t taken off the field right after that and then spared a red card on that idiotic challenge a couple of minutes later still baffles me. There are now four midfielders on this roster who deserve more playing time over him, and the fact that he still starts more often than not just makes me want to bang my head against the wall.
- I would like just once for Adrien Rabiot to show some emotion. Just once.
- Also, one last Rabiot point: Sending him off for that foul would have been a benefit for Juventus going into the second leg. Now we’re likely to see him starting again unless something happens between now and the middle of March.
- After watching that replay way too many times, I don’t know how Weston McKennie is going to be healthy enough to play in any games the next couple of weeks, including the second leg of this tie back in Turin. Ankles are not supposed to move like that and seeing him unable to put any kind of pressure on said ankle and subsequently take about five minutes to make his way around the field and back to Juve’s bench just shows how much pain he was in. This isn’t good.
- Basically what I’m trying to say is that we need a prayer circle for Weston and hope that he isn’t out for an extended period of time.
- But don’t worry, though. There was no foul called on the tackle, either.
- It just sucks that McKennie got injured in a game he really was growing into. He was a threat going forward and some of his combination play with Juan Cuadrado on the right was pretty impressive. This was a game where Big Mac was rising to the moment ... and then he gets hurt.
- After scoring his stunning opener, Vlahovic touched the ball all of 23 times. That’s just not going to cut it, but that’s also what happens when you set up shop like Allegri did.
- Leonardo Bonucci, who came on to begin the second half, had more touches than Vlahovic did. Again, one guy played 45 minutes, the other guy played the full 90 minutes. Fun.
- Alvaro Morata just fell over trying to draw another foul as I typed this out.
- Another day, another pretty crap game when it comes to Juventus’ final crossing numbers.
- I really have no idea where this defense would be without Matthijs de Ligt right now. Actually, I don’t want to imagine where this defense would be without the our big Dutch baby boy, so I am just going to move on.
- Please play to win the game in Turin, Max. That’s all I ask.