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Draw at Genoa puts brakes on Juventus’ momentum

A dire second half and a clear lack of a plan offensively laid bare the limitations of the team’s current tactics.

Genoa CFC v Juventus - Serie A TIM Photo by Simone Arveda/Getty Images

Ah, the Marassi.

Time and time again, Juventus go into the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, and time and time again some weird crap happens that sees either Sampdoria or Genoa taking points off the Old Lady. The curse seems like it’s been on for over a decade now, with Juve failing to defeat — and often losing to — teams that have absolutely no business getting a result on the day.

So was Friday night’s game against Genoa. Juventus got their heads in front after half an hour when they capitalized on a mistake from the hosts to earn and convert a penalty. But after some serious warning signs the last few weeks, the weakness of the way Massimiliano Allegri has been playing finally bit Juve in the rear.

Genoa equalized within minutes of the restart, and for the rest of the half the Bianconeri looked bereft of ideas — when the home team wasn’t putting them under some significant pressure. Their only two serious chances to get back in front came on another serious Genoa mistake and a corner, respectively. When the final whistle confirmed the 1-1 score, Juventus had tripped up in a big way, leaving the way open for Inter to add to their league lead when they face a faltering Lazio team on Sunday.

Allegri went with almost the same team he used last week against Napoli, with one notable exception: Adrien Rabiot, who failed a late fitness test after sustaining a foot injury against the Partenopei. Moise Kean was also out with a tibia injury, while Mattia De Sciglio remained a long-term absence and the usual suspects in midfield continued to serve their suspensions. Allegri’s 3-5-2 had Wojciech Szczesny at its base, with Federico Gatti, Bremer, and Danilo screening him in defense. Andrea Cambiaso and Filip Kostic started in the wing-back spots. Fabio Miretti played his first game since before the November internationals in place of Rabiot, joining Manuel Locatelli and Weston McKennie in midfield. Dusan Vlahovic and Federico Chiesa tipped the spear of the attack.

World Cup winner Alberto Gilardino led Genoa to a second-place finish in Serie B last season, and was keeping their heads above water in their return to the top flight, although they had struggled recently, winning only one of their last five. He too deployed a 3-5-2. Josep Martinez started at goalkeeper. There were two Juve academy products in the back line, as Radu Dragusin and Koni De Winter joined Luca Bani. Stefano Sabelli and Johan Vasquez bookended the midfield three of Milan Badelj, Morten Frendrup, and noted Juve-killer Ruslan Malinovskyi. Junior Messias and Albert Gudmundsson formed the strike pair.

The game started slowly. Malinovskyi hit one of his trademark long-range shots early on, but it was right at Szczesny for an easy save. Juve’s best moves were often initiated by Cambiaso, who started very well against his boyhood club. In the 14th minute he darted into the right channel, then tried to get space to pull the ball back. Bani’s marking was good, but he still held off the defender until Chiesa was able to overlap him, feeding him with a neat back-heel. Chiesa was at an impossible angle but went for a shot anyway, and forced Martinez to push it around the post and into the side netting.

Chiesa turned provider eight minutes later, feeding Vlahovic with an excellent ball from the right, but it bounced a little too high in front of him and he skied the chance from point-blank range.

The game had all the makings of a frustrating one when Genoa made a major mistake. Badelj made a heavy touch off a pass from Malinovskyi and presented it straight to Vlahovic, who immediately slipped Chiesa into the box. The winger tried to round Martinez, only to end up on the ground in a heap when the keeper’s hands caught him in the shins. Referee Davide Massa had an easy penalty call.

After Vlahovic missed his last two penalties, it was Chiesa who stepped up to take this one — a surprise indeed considering he had last taken a penalty kick in the 2019-20 season. But he buried his shot, firing left while Martinez went the other way, ending his two month long goal drought at the club level and giving Juve that all-too-familiar 1-0 lead.

Genoa CFC v Juventus - Serie A TIM Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

Juve probably should’ve had another penalty three minutes later when De Winter pulled Vlahovic down by the shirt as he tried to shoot in the right channel, but both Massa and VAR official Michael Fabbri declined to intervene. Genoa started getting a little more dangerous after falling behind. Vasquez fired just high aiming for the near top corner on the back end of a corner, then the Mexican wing-back put a ball back across the face of goal that Gudmundsson looked to have lined up for a shot, but a challenge from Kostic caused the Iceland international to get alligator legs, and he failed to make contact with the inviting ball.

Gilardino clearly sensed something at halftime, and introduced Caleb Ekuban out of the break. The substitute was at the heart of Genoa’s equalizer, which came just three minutes after the break.

Juve’s team defense was shambolic. McKennie missed the opportunity to at least get the ball clear when he got a foot to Ekuban’s square pass into the middle, allowing Badelj and Frendrup to combine to get the ball back to the Ghanaian in the box. Bremer was left with a choice of who to mark and went for the man with the ball the ball, leaving Gudmundson completely alone. Ekuban executed perfectly, chesting the ball to himself and then heading it into the path of Gudmundson for to finish from 7 yards, grazing Szczesny’s fingertips as it went by.

Juventus should’ve been back on top within minutes. Martinez was trying to hit a pass out of his own box to Sabelli, but Chiesa was right there and jumped the pass. The keeper somehow recovered and sprawled at Chiesa’s feet to get a hand to the ball as Chiesa tried to put it over him. Two minutes later, Bani appeared to have handled a Cambiaso cross, but again no check was made and Genoa got away with another potential penalty.

Juve could produce very little after that. From the 52nd minute to the 88th, they took only two shots, a wayward header off a corner by Vlahovic and an attempt at a back post curl by Chiesa that was blocked. As the game wore on, Juve’s sense of urgency never seemed to increase, often passing the ball around the back line for extended periods as they decided how to try to test the defense. Genoa seemed the more threatening team at times, and Szczesny had to come off his line to keep Ekuban from latching on to an inviting long ball with 15 minutes left.

Searching for another late winner as the game entered its end stages, they very nearly found it when Chiesa sent in a free kick in the 88th minute. The delivery evaded the heads of three Genoa defenders and found Bremer on the back end. The Brazilian tried to bundle it in with his stomach (or possibly a slightly lower body part) and looked sure to have emulated his defensive partner Gatti in the late winner department. But Martinez somehow threw his hand up and tipped the ball over the bar, denying Juve their best chance to score in more than half an hour.


Another puzzling refereeing decision deprived Juve of a late advantage when Malinovskyi was spared a red card after hitting Kenan Yildiz with a studs-up challenge halfway up his shin, receiving only a yellow instead. Even if Bani had been told to go to the monitor to look, it may not have mattered, because Juve’s attempts at mustering up a threat in stoppages were paltry at best, and Massa blew the whistle after four extra minutes, giving Genoa a big result and leaving Juve ruing a subpar performance against a team that they should be beating.


WOJCIECH SZCZESNY - 6.5. Didn’t have a whole ton to do, but did well to come off his line to deny Ekuban a go-ahead goal in the middle of the second half. Left out to dry on the goal — and even then he got fingertips to the shot.

FEDERICO GATTI - 5.5. Was late to stop Frendrup’s entry pass on the goal, but solid otherwise.

BREMER - 6. Left with an impossible choice when Frendrup got the ball into the box, and probably rightly went after the man with the ball. Led the team in interceptions with two, adding three clearances and a tackle to his stats as well.

DANILO - 5.5. Led the team with five clearances and was often on the spot on balls in the box, but he let Ekuban get through into the box far too easily on the equalizer.

ANDREA CAMBIASO - 6.5. A menace throughout the game, he was often seen attacking down the right in the first half, including a key pass on that tricky back-heel to Chiesa. Starting to find a groove with consistent playing time.

WESTON McKENNIE - 5.5. A weirdly up-and-down day for him. He led the team in both dribbles and tackles, but his pass completion was below 80 percent and he kinda whiffed on the ball at the top of the sequence that led to Genoa’s goal.

MANUEL LOCATELLI - 5. Wasn’t much of a threat with his passing, and he didn’t have the defensive performance that usually compensates for that.

FABIO MIRETTI - 4.5. He was something of a void in the midfield. Made hardly any impact offensively, and while he contributed a little on the other end of the field in terms of stats he also contributed to the team-wide collapse that was Gudmundsson’s goal. Could be some minor rust after not playing since before the international break.

FILIP KOSTIC - 4.5. He was credited with a key pass, which I genuinely don’t remember, and while his pass completion was the second highest on the team at 92.9, none of those passes really did anything — especially not the crosses, on which he went 0-for-7. With Cambiaso on form and Weah back on the right, it’s not hard to imagine that his spot in the lineup could be in jeopardy.

FEDERICO CHIESA - 7. That missed opportunity when he jumped Martinez prevents this from even being slightly higher. He was a real handful for Genoa in the first half, although he cooled off a little in the second. Far and way led not only the team but the game in key passes with four, and compared to Kostic he was 4-for-8 on crosses, most of which came from the same side.

DUSAN VLAHOVIC - 5. Hard for a striker to flourish when he only touches the ball 24 times, but the miss in front of goal on Chiesa’s cross was a tough one, and against Genoa he was a step slow on the little things that he’s been doing very well of late.

Genoa CFC v Juventus - Serie A TIM Photo by sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images


ARKADIUSZ MILIK - 5. Only touched the ball seven times in 23 minutes, making it very hard for him to have an impact.

TIMOTHY WEAH - 5. Had a key pass but clearly showed some rust after his injury. Couldn’t showcase his pace all that much against a Genoa defense that sat back for a lot of the time he was on the field.

SAMUEL ILING-JUNIOR - 5. Shackled until the end of the game by playing in midfield when he so clearly doesn’t belong there. The few touches he had when he was out wide after the introduction of Yildiz you could tell he looked a lot more comfortable.

KENAN YILDIZ - NR. Needed to be on the field earlier than this. Didn’t have time to contribute beyond taking that horrible tackle from Malinovskyi.


This game laid bare some of the problems with the way Allegri has been coaching in his second tenure. We’ve talked each of the last two weeks about Juve having gotten lucky some lucky breaks. This is what happens when the luck runs out and the defense doesn’t play inch-perfect football.

Also exposed in this game was the fact that Allegri really doesn’t have much in the way of ideas for scoring outside the counterattack. Juve held a lot of possession in this game and simply looked lost as to how to score with it. There was a general lack of urgency in this team, up to and including deep into stoppage time, which is a coaching issue as well. Allegri has no Plan B right now other than throw subs on and hope that their individual quality stands out amongst their peers. If, to carry the metaphor forward, the horse you were beating by a nose starts to get past you, there’s isn’t much of an avenue to regaining the lead.

Genoa CFC v Juventus - Serie A TIM Photo by Simone Arveda/Getty Images

There were issues with Allegri’s in-game management as well, specifically his subs. First off, they started happening well after the point where it became clear a change might help the team. Then he put Iling-Junior on in midfield, who was clearly uncomfortable without the space to move on the wing. Perhaps most at issue is the timing of the introduction of Yildiz, who was only given three minutes to make an impact for a team that desperately needed him in the absence of Paul Pogba and Nico Fagioli. Predictably, he wasn’t able to make that happen. He should’ve had a lot more time on the field to work against a tired Genoa defense.


The Friday fixtures are over — and we right into a lunchtime kickoff on Saturday against Frosinone with Serie A electing not to have any games on Sunday/Christmas Eve. A prime-time game against Roma at home finishes out the calendar year.