It was no surprise to see Fiorentina come out like absolute gangbusters Wednesday night. The Franchi, for obvious reasons, was fired up, with the 75 percent capacity crowd sounding more like a full house on one of the biggest nights the old warhorse of a stadium has seen in years. Fiorentina fed off of that, and La Viola was pressing and pressing and pressing Juventus even more as the first half went on.
You just had to wonder how long that could stand, and if it started to fade even in the slightest if Juventus could take advantage of Fiorentina not playing like it did in the opening 45 minutes.
As it turns out, that one moment Juve could take advantage of came out of virtually nowhere.
Somehow, some way, Juventus will head back to Turin with an always-valuable away goal. That is thanks to a stoppage-time cross from Juan Cuadrado that bounced off Lorenzo Venuti’s chest and trickled across the Fiorentina goal line to give Juventus a 1-0 win in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals. It was a cruel ending for a Fiorentina side that was clearly the better side against a shorthanded Juventus squad that was without nine first team players and had all but a couple of legitimate options off the bench for Max Allegri to turn to.
But, the thing is, we’re Juventus fans here.
So, after a game in which Juve grinded through ineffective midfield play and hung on for dear life defensively on a handful of Fiorentina attacks, it’s Allegri’s side that got the win.
Seriously. Juventus won this game.
I know why because the own goal tells me so, but I still don’t understand how they were able to keep Fiorentina off the scoreboard considering what the backline actually looked like and what kind of scoring chances Fiorentina was able to generate. Juventus lined up in a 3-5-2 with one central defender and two fullbacks turned center backs for the night. Sure, one of those natural fullbacks was Danilo who played a lot of that hybrid kind of role last season, but Juve’s defense was about as makeshift as it could be and the odds that Fiorentina would get on the scoreboard were probably rather favorable.
Yet, they didn’t.
Somehow, Juventus did.
It was an own goal, but you know what? I don’t care.
It’s one of the more troll-y kind of goals that Juve’s scored in quite a while, and the ultimate kind of almost-walk-off win that gave the Bianconeri the last laugh on a night when the guy under the spotlight looked the most likely to score a goal of any player for the visitors. (And he was under the spotlight for other obvious reasons, too.) But because it was an own goal, in second-half stoppage time, and against a team that just thoroughly was the better side, it had some kind of amusing laughter that came along with it. Sometimes, having a little luck helps a bunch.
And, boy, did the luck shine on the Old Lady this night.
Almost every single stat in this game favored Fiorentina. It doesn’t matter if it’s possession, total shots taken, shots on goal — whatever. You name it and Fiorentina did it better and more frequently than Juventus did Wednesday night. But sometimes, just sometimes, you throw the stats out, you take the win and then sometimes have a laugh at the same time.
it wasn’t anything close to pretty for Allegri and Juventus. But, you know, that’s the team that won. Never in doubt, right?
God, this game is so stupid and beautiful at the same time. I love it. I love every bit of it.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Well, the crowd in Florence didn’t wait long to make their chants against Dusan Vlahovic rather, uh, racist.
- There’s a few other reasons why Vlahovic had a pretty quiet night, but you gotta admit that the job that Fiorentina’s two center backs, Nikola Milenkovic and Igor, did to keep the big striker off the scoresheet was pretty impressive.
- One of the first players, regardless of what team they play for, to console Lorenzo Venuti after the final whistle? Dusan Vlahovic.
- That being said, goodness gracious did some of the service that Vlahovic got suck. There were some close calls with through balls that Juve tried to play through incredibly tight windows, but overall the service Vlahovic got left a whole lot to be desired.
- Lucas Torreira was the best midfielder on the field Wednesday night and it wasn’t even close.
- That being said, Arthur had a pretty solid game. I had a few of those moments where I wished he had either passed the ball sooner or passed the ball forward as seems to be the case with a lot of Arthur games, but overall he was easily Juve’s best midfielder. (Not that Manuel Locatelli or Adrien Rabiot gave him a huge run for his money or anything.)
- You think Max Allegri looked over at the Fiorentina bench every time they made a sub and just wished that he had a few more options available? I mean, once Alvaro Morata came on you kinda just figured that was it for the changes coming from Juventus.
- Jonathan Ikoné going against Mattia De Sciglio is a matchup that doesn’t favor Juventus on paper and turned out to be one that has me left with heartburn. That was a rough assignment.
- Then Nico Gonzalez comes on for Ikoné and immediately runs right at De Sciglio, which didn’t help things at all. Basically this: Even without Vlahovic on the team anymore, Fiorentina sure have accumulated some quality — and very young — attacking talent the last couple of transfer windows.
- Not exactly the easiest of situations for Marley Aké to be handed his first-ever senior team start, huh? At least the introduction of Juan Cuadrado improved some things, which was probably pretty easy to figure out.
- Mattia Perin’s distribution got Juventus into a couple of tough situations in this game, but man, he continues to be just a solid shot stopper no matter how little he plays in Serie A this season. I’m totally OK with him being Juve’s backup next season (and many more after that).
- Juve was outshot 22-6. lolz.
- Juve’s one shot on target was Vlahovic’s chip attempt on Pietro Terracciano. Just a little bit more height on that chip and we might have had even more of a troll-y kind of win than we already have right now.
- The return leg is in a month and a half and hopefully that means Juventus won’t be in the kind of injury crunch that they currently find themselves in. If they are or anything close to it ... whoa boy.
- Watching Carlo Pinsoglio sprinting to celebrate a late-game goal with his teammates will never get old. Bless that man.
- /laugh /laugh /laugh