It didn’t take long to figure out the tactics that Max Allegri was using against Sassuolo very much resembled that of what the old warhorse trotted out against Fiorentina midweek.
There were just a couple of things wrong with that.
Not only did Allegri not have a few of his most important players either starting on the bench or out completely Monday night, the way in which Juve were actually executing those counterattacking tactics wasn’t nearly at the level they were five days earlier.
Juventus failed to pack the same kind of punch that they did in the Coppa Italia semifinal win midweek. Because of that, the counterattack that made Juve so dangerous against Fiorentina was lacking to do much of anything right, with the amount of scoring chances that Juve created pretty much boiled down to being counted on one hand. The final one of those shots, though, proved to be the one that made the difference for Juventus on a night that was far from aesthetically pleasing, as Moise Kean’s 88th-minute strike through Andrea Consigli’s legs gave Juve a 2-1 win over Sassuolo at the Mapei Stadium.
Make no mistake about it: Juventus was not great in this game.
But also make no mistake about this: Kean’s goal, his first since Feb. 26 against Empoli, gave Juventus a win during a matchday in Serie A in which pretty much everything fell their way even before they took to the slippery Mapei field Monday night.
And just like when Juve beat Fiorentina, the counting stats will go very much in one direction — and it’s not favoring the team that Allegri coaches. But you know what is? The final score, which Allegri certainly cares about more than anything else.
Also, the feeling when one of the guys you bring off the bench in the second half ends up scoring the winning goal and all of your team’s struggles from the previous 80-something minutes are suddenly forgotten for a moment or two ...
But, honestly, that goal was the kind of player we know Kean can be. Times have been tough for him no doubt, and the fact that Allegri didn’t have very many options off the bench again for this one meant that Kean was likely to come on at some point. And when you look at the goal and you see the control, the turn and the quick shot that beats the keeper, that was the kind of thing that makes you remember just how talented he is.
And that maybe, just maybe, there might be some hope for him at Juventus still.
One goal won’t mean that he is suddenly going to stay if Juventus wanted to try and send him elsewhere (or back to Everton?) this coming summer. But one goal could be the thing that gets this 22-year-old who still has so much untapped potential some much-needed confidence heading into the final stretch of the season.
No matter if it was an ugly game, the goals Juventus scored were quite pretty. And thanks to the last one, they’re now eight points clear of fifth-place Roma, a point behind Napoli in third and looking more and more like a team that will finish in the top four no matter what their actual form or quality of play may be.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Pre-game thought No. 1: Federico Peluso is still a Sassuolo player?! Who knew.
- Pre-game thought No. 2: Outside of Paulo Dybala, Juventus’ most creative player on the field is ... Federico Bernardeschi? I guess?
- Pre-game thought No. 3: This took place an hour before kickoff. That’s pretty cool.
- Because both teams had to deal with it: The field at the Mapei Stadium was in absolutely terrible condition for this one. Juventus players were slipping. Sassuolo players were slipping. It didn’t matter where on the field it was — people were falling down all over.
- Yes, Wojciech Szczesny should have done better on Sassuolo’s opening goal no matter how much pace Giacomo Raspadori put behind it. You can’t get beat at the near post like that — especially when the ball gets through that tight of a window.
- That save by Andrea Consigli on Alvaro Morata early in the second half —my goodness.
- If you aren’t buying stock in Davide Frattesi after this game, maybe you should. Kid was everywhere on the field.
- Junior Traore is going to see a lot of money come Sassuolo’s way when he is eventually sold for a massive profit. That young man has a whoooooole lot of talent.
- Daniele Rugani completed every single one of his 21 passes before being subbed off in the second half. Take that, haters. (Just kidding — please don’t get mad at me. I’m wondering if Allegri subbed Rugani off so early in the second half because he wasn’t playing all that great.)
- There was a through ball from Vlahovic to Kean right before the final whistle that was so close to being one of the best cross-field passes I have ever seen. It was just out of Kean’s reach, but man was it absolutely beautiful nonetheless.
- Giorgio Chiellini tied for the game lead in clearances and he started said game on the bench. It’s going to be sad to see him go soon, but man is he still pretty good.
- Kean getting the late winner will take some of the shine or attention off the goal that Paulo Dybala scored to tie the game right before halftime. But that sure was a brilliant goal, the kind of something-out-of-nothing goal that makes Dybala so good even when he’s not playing all that well overall. Juventus needs more of that, and yet they’re letting the guy who’s best at it on this team walk in a few short months. Makes total sense, right?
- I still have no idea how Juventus won this game with how bad they were playing.
- You know what makes me happy? Seeing Moise Kean happy.
- As the match announcers reminded me in the first few minutes of this game, Juventus has one of the best defenses in the league yet sit about middle of the league when it comes to goals scored. That is just so baffling with the kind of talent this team has. If only Max would take the stranglehold off this team even in the slightest.
- This was basically one of those classic take the points even with very little style points and move onto the next one, right? The next one is against a relegation battler in Salernitana. The next one after that is against a relegation battler in Genoa. Those won’t be simply games knowing what part of the season that we’re in, but if Juve can get through those two with maximum points, then there’s time to manage the last few games with the Coppa Italia final still to come.
- The downside of Kean’s game-winning goal: no dancing before he ripped his jersey off. I miss Moise dancing.