What? It wouldn’t be a Max Allegri-managed win this season if there wasn’t at least a little bit of stress in the closing minutes, right?
Ah, yes. These are the times we live in.
Whether it was a second-half penalty kick attempt or a deflected goal that cut Juventus’ lead in half with only six minutes to go, there were some nervy times for Allegri’s squad — and those of us watching — to close things out on Saturday night at the Luigi Ferraris. But, here’s the thing, Wojciech Szczesny made one of the more impressive penalty saves of his career to keep the two-goal lead and then Alvaro Morata finished off his brace to reestablish the two-goal lead just mere minutes after Sampdoria cut the lead in half, allowing Allegri’s squad to record a 3-1 win and extend their Serie A unbeaten run one game further to 15.
Not always pretty. Certainly not a dominant performance.
But, guess what? Juventus won again, and at a time in the season when wins are vital.
It was far from the kind of game, statistically, that would have made you think Juventus would win, let alone by a 3-1 final score. Juve had a two-goal lead at halftime. In the first half, Juve only had one shot on goal. Juve finished on the wrong end of a 16-6 final shot count. Juve — barely — had more possession. Juve had half as many shots on target.
That’s the beauty — and hilarity — of much of the entirety of this game. It’s just stupid, really. But it’s also how Juventus was able to build its first-half lead and, as a result, relatively cruise through the second half outside of the couple of nervy moments started arriving.
That’s not to say that Juventus played poorly. I think, in the grand scheme of things, this was better than the absolute grindfests that we’ve seen against ome of Juve’s other recent opponents. There was, at least, something refreshing to see about this team scoring multiple goals — yes, even though the first goal was an own goal — and looking relatively comfortable with the lead rather than essentially hanging on for dear life.
That’s what this team needs a little more of these last two months of the season. Obviously the injury situation has dictated a lot of how Allegri has decided to play things lately. But when push comes to shove, simply grinding out 1-0 wins every single win is playing with fire a little too often for anybody to handle.
That wasn’t the case on this night — which, I gotta say, was a refreshing change from what we’ve seen in the last few weeks. Maybe, just maybe, we could see the same kind of thing happen on Wednesday night? I dunno, not trying to be greedy, just asking for a favor, Max.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Juventus had 50.4 percent possession in the first half. Suck it, haters.
- Juan Cuadrado ... forcing opposing defenders into own goals ... a thing you love to see.
- That assist by Manuel Locatelli on Morata’s late header ... beautiful, man.
- Two assists in two games for Locatelli. It’s almost like playing in a more advanced role is playing into his skillset better than sitting in front of the defense and being nowhere near the goal. I think I like this version of Locatelli better.
- And the guy who has allowed Locatelli to play further up the field, the Arthur development and progression over the last week continues. There’s signs of good things here, people!
- Guessing Sebastian Giovinco didn’t come back to Serie A and sign with Sampdoria just to sit on the bench for most of the game during a cold mid-March night like this one was.
- Why in the hell was Dusan Vlahovic playing in this game? Dude has played as many minutes as just about anybody since he signed with Juventus and finally had the chance to get an entire game off ... and then Allegri subs him on with 25 minutes to go and there goes the hope of getting him a full 90 minutes of rest. Max will Max, but this one really wasn’t necessary, my man.
- The work Moise Kean put in to win that penalty was pretty damn impressive. For a guy who doesn’t always have the best control with the ball at his feet, he certainly was able to keep the ball and work through some traffic as well. He definitely earned that penalty simply on effort, which was a good thing to see.
- How expensive of a bottle of wine does Adrien Rabiot owe Wojciech Szczesny? I’m guessing a pretty good one considering how Juve’s No. 1 bailed out the Frenchman with one heck of a save from the penalty spot.
- Don’t look now but Alvaro Morata has three goals and an assist in his last four games. Streaky Spanish striker is forever going to be streaky, right? Well, here’s to hoping one of those good streaks is starting up again.
- DANIELE RUGANI HAD 11 CLEARANCES. SERIOUSLY.
- Over the last 2 1⁄2 months, Rugani has definitely proven not to be the total disaster some of us thought he was when Juventus decided to keep him around at the end of the summer transfer window. With how the injury situation has played out, he’s become quite the valuable contributor. I definitely did not expect to type any of this in September.
- You know what’s crazy? Matthijs de Ligt had seven clearances and it’s nowhere near the team lead. That’s just how good Rugani was in the air against Sampdoria. De Ligt also blocked two shots to Rugani’s none, so I guess that’s one thing he has to brag about, too.
- Even if it’s just for a couple of hours, guess who’s four points behind the league leaders?
- On a related note: Never been as big of an Empoli fan as I am for the next couple of hours.
- Now we somewhat nervously await the Sunday training report to make sure nobody got injured against Sampdoria, right? I mean, it’s only natural to do so at this point.