Right, so this is going to be crazy.
Let’s start with the big’un.
Arkadiusz Milik’s would-be game-winning goal in stoppage time Sunday night should have stood. The call was wrong in seven or eight different ways. In the first place, Leonardo Bonucci was not interfering with play as Milik’s header flew past him. On the one hand, he never touched the ball. On another, he was nowhere close to goalkeeper Luigi Sepe’s line of sight. To disallow that goal would’ve been a terrible call even if we didn’t take into account the other thing.
The other thing:
See the dude in white on the extreme left? That dude is Antonio Candreva. He’s keeping Bonucci onside. Literally no one in Luca Banti’s VAR room thought to look at the wide shot to make sure they were accounting for every player. For a league that has been under attack for the quality of its officiating for several years now, this was incompetence on an untold level. The Lega Serie A is insisting that Candreva was taken into account, but based on the images going around that sounds a lot like they’re covering their backsides.
The goal should have stood on multiple levels. That’s clear. Instead of a 2-2 draw, this game should have ended 3-2 to Juventus.
That being said, it’s just as true that Juventus should never have let things get to this point. In a home game against Salernitana, a team that is only in Serie A this year because they were the beneficiary of Davide Nicola’s latest insane escape attempt of the drop zone, Juventus was down 2-0 at halftime — the first time they had trailed by two at the half in a home game since 2004. Irregardless of the injuries that the team has been dealing with, Juventus has the talent to be beating a team like Salernitana at home without having to score twice in stoppage time.
The unfortunate truth is that after Juve got hit in the mouth by Salernitana’s opener, they failed to respond until after halftime — and even then it almost looked like far too late. Juve once again played down to their opponent, once more didn’t look like a decent team until it was far too late, and paid the price for their performance. Juve played terribly, and deserved to drop these points. Unfortunately, they can’t afford to drop many more and still have a realistic shot at bettering their lot from last year.
Massimiliano Allegri’s depth was absolutely shot for this game. The list of unavailable players was a long as his arm. Out of action were Federico Chiesa, Paulo Pogba, Kaio Jorge, Wojciech Szczesny, Adrien Rabiot, and Manuel Locatelli. That prompted a 4-3-3 formation, again with Mattia Perin at its base. Juan Cuadrado, Bremer, Leonardo Bonucci, and Mattia De Sciglio ran in front of him, with Weston McKennie, Leandro Paredes, and Fabio Miretti in midfield. Dusan Vlahovic tipped the spear, flanked by Moise Kean and Filip Kostic.
Nicola countered that with a 3-5-2. Luigi Sepe manned the goal, protected by Federico Fazio, Flavius Daniliuc, and Dylan Bronn. Antonio Candreva and Pasquale Mazzocchi were the wing-backs, sandwiching the midfield trio of Giulio Maggiore, Lassana Coulibaly, and Tonny Vilhena. Krzysztof Piatek made his first start for the Seahorses alongside Boulaye Dia.
Salernitana probably should’ve gotten the chance to draw first blood very early on. In the fourth minute they sent a long ball over the top for Piatek that Bremer let bounce over his head. The Brazilian ended up on the wrong side of the striker and looked to have gotten a piece of him as he shot wide, but referee Matteo Marcernaro swallowed his whistle and Banti didn’t buzz down for a review.
For the next 15 minutes, Juve looked like they were supposed to against a team of Salernitana’s level. They bossed the game and took things to their opponents, In the seventh minute Miretti made a glorious dribble in the box and forced a save out of Sepe, then two minutes later he picked Coulibaly’s pocket at the top of the penalty area and again made Sepe work. This time the Italian spilled the ball, but Kean was flagged offside as he tried to pot the rebound.
It looked like Juve were setting themselves up for a decent performance when a colossal mistake by Juan Cuadrado gifted Salernitana the opener. The Colombian completely whiffed when he tried to intercept a long diagonal switch from Bronn, allowing Mazzocchi to run with it into the box. The wingback then froze McKennie to give himself an crossing angle, then struck a ball across the goalmouth that struck an oncoming Candreva somewhere in the midriff — there was a sizable contingent who thought it was his arm, but VAR deemed it not to be — and bounced into the goal.
Juve proceeded to completely fold for the rest of the half. Kean in particular lost the plot, losing the ball repeatedly and getting himself booked when he kicked the ball away in frustration after being called for a foul. It looked as though he’d redeemed himself somewhat when he sent Vlahovic in with six minutes to play in the half, but he had waited too long and the striker had strayed offside, disallowing his smart finish. Vlahovic was getting frustrated when you , as evidenced by his insistence on a first-time shot took fomr a really tight angle with two minute before the interval.
But things would go from bad to worse before the half when Piatek was put in across the box and came up screaming that Bremer had handled the ball, a claim that was quickly confirmed on a VAR review. Piatek stepped to the shot and sent Perin the wrong way, putting Juve in a 2-0 hole as they headed into the interval.
Allegri immediately replaced Kean with Milik at halftime, They were badly in need of an early spark as the second period began, and they got it only six minutes in, when Kostic robbed Coulibaly and sent in a nice cross, which was met with a towering header by Bremer, who had been up for a corner.
That goal swung the momentum in a big way. Juve were unlucky not to be level within 60 seconds when Fazio’s attempted clearance of a Vlahovic cross skewed off his own crossbar, the Argentine being spared some embarrassment by the offside flag.
That marked the beginning of a siege on Sepe’s goal. Miretti got himself into a couple of really nice positions but was tiring and couldn’t control the ball, and Allegri withdrew him for Nicolo Fagioli just after the hour. Nicky Beans immediately picked up where Miretti left off, finding Vlahovic in the right channel that produced an excellent curling shot for the far post that Sepe saved brilliantly, not only stopping the shot but pushing it into the perfect spot to avoid a rebound for a waiting Milik.
The quest for an equalizer came tantalizingly close more than once. Vlahovic put Milik into the same spot he had been in not long before with 17 minutes to go and the Poland international couldn’t get enough of a bend on his shot to get inside the post. Then Vlahovic powered a shot just over the bar from 23 yards. A free kick in shooting position was for some reason given to Paredes instead of a red-hot Vlahovic, and Paredes put it well over the bar. The clock ticked down and Milik again came ever so close, this time clipping the bar just as normal time expired.
As the game ticked into stoppage time, it was looking like Salernitana was going to join the list of provincial clubs who had come into the Allianz and won over the last two years. But then the home side received a bit of luck when Vilhena made a big mistake, tackling the ball off Cuadrado only to trip Alex Sandro in the box when he tried to pursue it. Marcernaro pointed to the spot immediately, and, in another interesting set-piece choice, Bonucci stepped up to take the kick. He’s been an eminently reliable penalty taker over the last few years, but Sepe guessed right and saved his attempt, but couldn’t keep the captain from putting the rebound back in to tie the score.
Both teams sprang toward the other’s goal with the 90 seconds or so of stoppage time remaining. Former Juve prospect Grigoris Kastanos had a shot blocked immediately after the goal, and Fagioli was denied by Sepe on the other end seconds later. Milik’s would-be winner came on the ensuing corner. The confusion afterwards was palpable. Milik, who had been booked for a tactical foul earlier in the half, had a brain fart and removed his shirt after the goal, earning himself a second yellow, while during the VAR check a brawl broke out on the touchline, with both Fazio and Cuadrado receiving straight reds for their part in the scrap. Allegri was likewise shown a red card after protesting the erroneous decision to chalk off the goal.
Considering the fact that Milik’s goal had seemingly been the last kick of the game, it was exceedingly odd that Marcernaro allowed the game to go on after his mistake, ultimately allowing a full 10 minutes of total stoppage time before finally blowing his whistle to end the match and send the controversy into overdrive.
MATTIA PERIN - 6. Little he could have done on either goal, and he made a couple of saves in the second half to keep the deficit where it was.
JUAN CUADRADO - 5. This was actually a tougher decision than I thought it would be. His mistake on the opening goal was inexcusable. But his numbers were surprisingly good, leading the team in key passes (4) and tackles (3). He looked immensely labored racking up those numbers though, hence the surprise. The fact that he’s entering the decline phase looks more and more apparent by the day.
BREMER - 5.5. The goal ticks him up a little bit, because man, that first half of his was brutal. He was lucky to get away with some really poor defending early and gave away the penalty late in the period, but that towering goal was something else and got Juve back into the game.
LEONARDO BONUCCI - 6. He was perhaps lucky to get the rebound on that penalty, but he put away a tricky shot quite well to give Juve the equalizer. He registered a pair of interceptions and clearances but is looking less and less convincing by the day as age likewise starts creeping up on him.
MATTIA DE SCIGLIO - 5.5. He wasn’t particularly bad in this game, he was just...Mattia De Sciglio. Uninspiring, decent-to-good defense, and that’s about it.
WESTON McKENNIE - 5. After his big goal in Paris, Wes failed to keep the momentum going. Another case of the eye test looking a lot worse than the numbers make it out to be, as he had a pair of interceptions and a key pass, but he was lacking the strong runs into the box that have been so key for Juve, and that’s a major issue for a team struggling to score.
LEANDRO PAREDES - 6. Two key passes and 97.7 percent pass completion, Paredes is having the sort of regista games that this team desperately needs. Now everyone around that needs to shape up.
FABIO MIRETTI - 6. Tired as the game went on but was a force in the first half and could’ve had a couple of goals had it not been for Sepe. His talent continues to be apparent.
MOISE KEAN - 4. I mean ,.. yikes. He lost the ball all over the place with heavy firstt touches and seemed to get driven out of his mind by the simplest of foul calls against him, ultimately earning himself a yellow and a booking.
DUSAN VLAHOVIC - 6. Led the team in shots with five and had two key passes. Unfortunately only one of those shots was on target, and in the first half especially he was playing at too frenetic a pace, always trying to do too much with the ball because of his lack of service.
FILIP KOSTIC - 6. He’s a cross machine, throwing in 11 of them in this game. That’s good, but he needs to pick up his head sometimes to actually see where the cross is going. That said, his ball to Bremer was glorious and he’s generally been a badly needed source of scoring chances on the wing.
ARKADIUSZ MILIK - 5.5. Had a great second half and should be celebrating his winner tonight. As it is, he’s out for Sunday’s game against Monza thanks to an absolutely stupid moment when he removed his shirt while always on a yellow,.
ALEX SANDRO - 6. Actually a good game coming from the Brazilian, who racked up a key pass, a tackle, and two interceptions in half an hour’s work, and he drew the equalizing names.
NICOLO FAGIOLI - 6. Could’ve had the winner at the end, but Sepe denied him. Overall, a key pass and several other good ones in midfield.
DANILO - NR. Strange to put him on in a straight swap for Kostic, but he was one of the only first teamers remaining on the bench. Had one desperation shot just before stoppage time go wide.
MATIAS SOULE - NR. Should probably have been on a lot earlier than he was. He only attempted three passes but one of them was a key pass, and he registered an interception to boot. Let’s give this kid some minutes.
I really don’t understand where to go with this, because by the end of the game it felt like Allegri had abandoned any idea of having a shape and was just throwing guys out onto the field. Alex Sandro looked like he was playing in midfield from time to time, and everyone’s role got nebulous as they just tried to score the equalizer.
Allegri, though, deserves a lot of the blame for how this game went. Losing here would’ve been a fireable offense in my book, and frankly it’s still pretty damn close. For the team to fold the way it did in the remainder of the first half was alarming, and Allegri needs to rectify that situation in the training ground to get some of this team’s confidence back.
Speaking of confidence, he needs to start having more in Soule, because the kid looked great in his cameo and likely deserves more playing time than Kean right now. Especially considering Soule’s natural position is on the right wing, Allegri should’ve had the stones to play him just like Miretti.
Points like these simply can’t be dropped anymore, and the protection of his big contract will only take him so far. Things have got to start changing around here.
Perhaps the biggest game of the year looms next on the docket against Benfica in a game that could well determine who gets to go to the knockout rounds. After that is an away game to Monza before the final international break before the World Cup.