There was no goal after 33 seconds this time around. There was no lead at halftime to try and protect. Instead, Juventus went into the final 45 minutes of its second-leg tie against Villarreal needing to score after a first half in which, somehow, they were kept off the scoreboard despite outplaying the visitors from Spain clad in yellow.
“Surely these missed chances won’t come back to haunt Juventus ...” you thought to yourself in a somewhat sarcastic kind of way.
And guess what? They did.
Juventus is again crashing out of the Champions League in the round of 16. After being unable to score any of their handful of scoring chances in the first half, Juve couldn’t muster the same offensive momentum in the second half, and once Villarreal got the lead through a Gerrard Moreno penalty with 12 minutes to go, all of the wheels fell off. The 3-0 final scoreline is what it is and it is not really a true replication of how this game was played. Juventus weren’t run off the field like the final score would suggest. Instead, this was Juventus being Juventus’ worst enemy again — whether it was not scoring in the first half or even playing with fire when it comes to a second-half penalty call that will likely have us screaming at each other during the next podcast episode.
Let’s face it: Because of how Juventus played — both in the first leg and the inability to score in the second leg — getting dumped out at the stage of the Champions League just seems fitting. It doesn’t matter where you fall on the penalty call — right or wrong, whatever — Juventus allowed Villarreal to hang around rather than getting at least one goal and, smartly, the visitors took advantage of it. Penalty, second goal, third goal. Game over.
That was their reward for playing the long game despite watching Juventus rack up scoring chances in the first half. Juve played with fire, Rugani was a little late into a challenge and missed the ball, and there was Villarreal’s opening. That’s all they needed. That’s what good teams do.
And, like Max said, Juventus needed a little luck on top of playing well to go through.
Guess who got the luck? Villarreal did — whether it was Gerónimo Rulli playing out of his mind in the first half, Vlahovic hitting the post on a chance he usually finishes and a VAR decision going their way.
This was Juventus getting punished for not getting the lead in the first half. And as a result, they’re out of the Champions League — again, and on their home field — because of it.
Fact is, Juventus came to play this time around. The fact that they were forced to not defend their away goal actually worked out for the better, because you know that Max Allegri would have been perfectly OK with defending said away goal that Juve had if this was a game played 12 months earlier. Instead, Juve surpassed their total offensive production from the first leg — outside of a goal, of course — in all of 45 minutes Wednesday night.
The result was a first half in which Juve were far and away the better side — both in terms of overall performance and scoring chances created. If not for some quality Rulli saves, Juventus would have taken a lead into halftime and it would have been totally deserved.
But that lead never happened before halftime for Juventus, forcing us into this wait-and-see mode and wondering if they would ever score the first goal.
That never happened.
It should have happened, but it didn’t.
Now we’re left to deal with a situation we’ve become all too familiar with the last two seasons and face the fact that this team, with a manager who is very much set in his ways, can get the job done next time around. Because they certainly didn’t this time.
The faces have changed. The manager has changed. The guy wearing No. 7 and is the focal point of the squad has changed. But guess what? Juventus still can’t get out of its own way when trying to advance past the Champions League Round of 16 the last three years. This is who they are right now — and the more things change, Juventus doing stupid things in the Champions League knockout rounds continues.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Dan Rugani making big plays in a win-or-get-eliminated Champions League fixture. Well, until he got called for an obvious penalty with 15 minutes to go and all hell broke loose. Talk about quickly undoing all the good you’ve done both in this game and the last couple of weeks.
- Villarreal finished with three shots on goal. They scored all three of them.
- Unai Emery played the long game in this game and won. Props to him. He managed the second half perfectly.
- You know who didn’t? Max Allegri.
- Just look at when Emery went to his biggest chip off the bench and when Allegri did. This game was screaming out for Dybala, and it wasn’t until the 79th minute that he was brought on ... with Juventus suddenly down a goal. That’s Max being reactive rather than proactive. Sometimes Allegri gets his subs on the money, but this was definitely not one of those times. He was way too slow with his moves — especially bringing Dybala on.
- Wojciech Szczesny is going to be thinking about that PK for a while, I’m guessing. He guessed right, got a hand to Moreno’s shot, just couldn’t keep it out. Those are the toughest to deal with, and they’re the ones that haunt you the most — especially with so much on the line like this game had attached to it.
- Some of those passes out to the wing from Vlahovic in the first half ... there’s not too many dudes in this sport who are capable of that. That last one right before the half, especially, just show he talented dude is.
- Skull save.
- Also, nobody is surprised that Rulli played completely out of his mind for most of this game, right? I mean, one of the most unwritten rules that seems to come up all the damn time is just how goalkeepers are suddenly superheroes whenever they line up against Juventus in a big game. It just seems to happen so often.
- This is usually the part in the post where I throw out a couple of stats and be impressed about them, but I’m really not in the mood for that today.
- There was a 30-second span in the second half where Adrien Rabiot was playing like the dude who was absolutely in-form after the lockdown in Italy two summers ago. And then he just kinda went back to being the Adrien Rabiot we’ve seen for much of this season.
- Not doing anything goal-wise in that first half is going to eat at my Juventus-related thoughts for weeks. Like, Juventus played pretty dang well. Villarreal wasn’t doing anything. And yet ... nothing.
- I honestly wish I could have just posted that gif and nothing else, but I have a job to do and I will honor it by continuing to type some words about Juventus crashing out of the Champions League in the round of 16 again.
- Actually, I’m just going to call it a day here because nothing that is popping into my head regarding this game is actually coherent. Honestly, with everything going through my head at the moment, I just wanna post gifs and sit in the fetal position because I’m emotional. Guessing I’m not the only one — we’ve been here before, and will likely be here again. This is Juventus in the Champions League, after all. The last three decades have been built on utter disappointment.