The arrival of Dusan Vlahovic in late-January has been a boon to Alvaro Morata. No longer the dude who was relied upon to lead Juve’s line, the Spaniard has embraced a new role as Robin rather than Batman, with some of his better games coming since the hulking Serbian striker signed from Fiorentina.
There’s been just one thing missing, though: Morata scoring a goal.
That was until Sunday.
Morata ended his Serie A goal drought that extended all the way back to the middle of December, as his 21st-minute goal off a pretty assist from Manuel Locatelli proved to be the game-winner in a 1-0 victory over a Spezia side that looked very much a team that could be headed toward Italy’s second division. Previously scoring in a Serie A fixture on Dec. 18 against Bologna, Morata had gone nine games without scoring. There’s been assists, there’s been other good things to happen, but going nearly three months without a goal just fits into the narrative about just how streaky of a player he can be.
Who knows what this goal will mean for the future — both good and bad — but to see Morata find the back of the net and not have Juve rely on more Vlahovic awesomeness as their lone source of offense.
But on this day, Juventus was able to take advantage of a terrible Spezia outlet attempt, and all of three passes later, Morata had the chance for the easy finish — and he did just that.
Juventus needed this win, and they needed it badly considering what happened Saturday night between Roma and Atalanta and what could potentially happen later in the day Sunday. They needed, at the very least, to improve their standing in fourth place and let the other chips above them fall as they may. Juventus could be within four points of Milan in third place if things go a certain way in a few hours.
This was not pretty — certainly more in the second half than the first. Max Allegri’s objectives, knowing full well he’s got a shell of the squad he did a few weeks ago because of all the injuries, were to sit back and defend the 1-0 lead with a tired squad rather than seriously try and choke the hell out of Spezia. To their credit, Spezia did create some chances out of it, with Wojciech Szczesny having to make a couple of nice saves on quality scoring opportunities.
But, in true Juventus fashion from Allegri’s first tenure, they grinded out the result no matter how ugly it might have been for an extended period of time. Considering the circumstance when it comes to the current state of the roster and how the Serie A table looks, that’s enough for me. You can’t exactly ask this team to go above and beyond — yes, even against a sub-par Spezia side — when they’re running on fumes and have been playing every three or four days for the last month.
Juventus got the most important thing of all Sunday night — a win.
I’ll take that every single time out. At this time of year, style points aren’t at the top of the wish list. It wasn’t under Allegri four years ago. It wasn’t under Maurizio Sarri. It wasn’t under Andrea Pirlo as they battled to the end to go into the top four. Whether it’s being an outside contender for the Scudetto late in the season or simply solidifying their spot in the top four, Juve need points right now and that’s the most important thing of all.
That’s what happened against Spezia. it wasn’t pretty by any means, but they got three points — which is more than Milan and Napoli can say about what happened when they hosted Spezia earlier this season.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Pre-game thought No. 1: Love a good bench when the only four senior squad players available are two goalkeepers, Moise Kean and a recently-back-from-injury Federico Bernardeschi. Good times, good times.
- Pre-game thought No. 1: At least figuring out who’s starting in the midfield is easy to figure out these days.
- Matthijs de Ligt is apparently a “Dutch windmill,” according to the announcer on my stream.
- Matthijs de Ligt is also very good and I will never stop reminding people of it.
- This had to be the most advanced Manuel Locatelli has played during his short time at Juventus, right? I mean, dude was basically playing as a No. 10 in the first half, with his assist (and a few other really nice passes into the box) nearly leading to scoring opportunities.
- I don’t care who he’s managing these days, when I see Thiago Motta I see a former Inter Milan player and that makes me boo him no matter where I am watching.
- I need a gif of Danilo shaking his head as he’s about to take a throw-in while Thiago Motta complains about Max Allegri doing something a couple of feet behind him. Clearly there was something said that Danilo was not a fan of and I am here for it.
- Federico Bernardeschi comes back from injury after missing two months, he gets carded within four minutes of being subbed on and will now be suspended for the Sampdoria game because of it. At least he’ll have some time to rest again.
- It’s just so hard to be like “Adrien Rabiot played well” when a few of his second-half fouls put Spezia in good territory for free kicks and could have led to a game-tying goal.
- And who, along with Juan Cuadrado, led the team in key passes? Yep, Adrien Rabiot.
- Dusan Vlahovic had the least amount of touches (30) than any other starter. I know Juve sat back and defended for much of the season half, but dude still needs to see the ball more.
- Vlahovic, who has played almost every minute of every game since coming to Juventus, looked absolutely exhausted when he came off the field for Moise Kean late in the second half. Please, Dusan, get some rest knowing full well this team doesn’t play for another five days.
- Can you imagine how tired this entire team is? They’ve been playing a ton without much squad rotation over the last month because of all the injuries. Thank God there’s no midweek fixture coming up.
- I sure wish that Morata scored that late chance he had simply for the BWRAO Twitter mentions.
- Juventus finished with 10 shots. Morata had five of them. Vlahovic didn’t have one.
- Shoutout to the coffee shop that let me watch this entire game. Highly recommended with good internet and good coffee. A lot better than the three-hour drive home I have coming up in about five minutes.
- Juventus won. That’s the thing that matters the most, right? I sure hope so.