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Stoppage time goes from routine to wild as Juventus take miracle win over Monza

There were absolute scenes as Juve blew a lead in added time, only to immediately find the winner through an unlikely source.

AC Monza v Juventus - Serie A TIM Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

The headline going into Juventus’ Friday evening contest against Monza at the U-Power Stadium was obvious. The Brianzoli shocked calcio last season when, as Serie A newcomers, they did the double on the Bianconeri, outscoring them 3-0 over the two games. Juve may have beaten them 2-1 in the Coppa Italia, but to lose both games against a team like Monza was, along with the Champions League loss to Maccabi Haifa, one of the supreme embarrassments of the 2022-23 season.

As stoppage time began at game’s end, Juve looked like they might finally avenge those losses in full. An early goal by Adrien Rabiot had held up, and Monza hadn’t put a single shot on target the entire night. But then the downside of Massimiliano Allegri’s insistence on defending a lead deep finally reared its head and bit the coach. Substitute Valentin Carboni lofted a ball in the box in the direction of Dany Mota. The Portuguese forward missed it, but his attempt to redirect the ball forced Wojciech Szczesny to stay in place to try to react to a touch. That left him entirely unable to react when the pass bounced all the way through and into the net to tie the score.

It looked as though Juve had just thrown away points again against Rafaele Palladino’s side, but as soon as they put the ball back into play, Juve did that old “can’t count them out until the final whistle” thing that they used to do all the time during the Streak. Rabiot played a give-and-go with Weston McKennie, muscled past Mota to the byline, and then pulled back for Federico Gatti, who had stayed up after making a foray forward and had been left completely alone seven yards from the goal. His first attempt at striking the ball skimmed off his foot, but stayed close enough for the big center-back to recover and smash the ball into the net, setting off wild celebrations in front of the traveling support. One last scare in the form of a real shot by Carboni preceeded the final whistle, confirming a 2-1 win that went from routine to wild in record time.

And, at the same moment, send Juve into first place for the next 48 hours at minimum as we await Inter’s trip to Naples to face Napoli on Sunday night.

Allegri still had a selection headache coming into the match. With Timothy Weah and Mattia De Sciglio still injured and Fabio Miretti, Manuel Locatelli and Danilo only fit for the bench, he was forced to keep using the majority of the jury-rigged 3-5-2 he had sent out this past Sunday against Inter. The only exception was Alex Sandro, who joined Federico Gatti and Bremer in the front three ahead of Szczesny. Andrea Cambiaso and Filip Kostic were the wing-backs, sandwiching the midfield of McKennie, Hans Nicolussi Caviglia, and Rabiot. Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic completed the formation.

Palladino has also switched mostly to a three-man back line this season, deploying several variations throughout the season. For this match he opted for a 3-4-2-1. The excellent Michele Di Gregorio started in goal, behind the defensive line of Danilo D’Ambrosio, Luca Caldirola, and Pablo Mari. The wings were manned by Samuele Birindelli and Giorgos Kyriakopoulos. They bookended Matteo Pessina and Roberto Gagliardini in midfield. Palladino opted to forgo a true striker up front, starting José Machín and Andrea Colpani nominally playing behind Patrick Ciurria.

The teams felt each other out in the opening stages, before the game caught fire in the ninth minute. Kostic floated a long ball into the box for Cambiaso, who got position on Kyriakopoulos only to be hauled to the ground by his arm. Referee Michael Fabbri pointed to the spot immediately. Vlahovic stepped to the spot, but had to wait for quite a long time — nearly two full minutes — first while Monza players argued over the call and then when Fabbri spent a good deal of time ensuring that the players farthest opposite him weren’t encroaching into the box.

The wait may have messed with Vlahovic a little, and his penalty was easily saved when Di Gregorio guessed correctly and parried the low shot to the shooter’s left. The rebound came straight back to the spot — usually a sure tap-in — but Vlahovic’s follow-up effort was stopped as well, as Di Gregorio somehow flew back to the middle of the goal in time to get a hand on it and claw it away just in front of the goal line.

A mad scramble ensued that ended produced a Juventus corner, at which point Rabiot had simply had enough of Di Gregorio’s heroics. He barged in front of Gagliardini and met Nicolussi Caviglia’s excellent delivery from the corner with a bullet header that whizzed by the keeper’s head before he could even raise his hand, finally putting the Bianconeri in front.

AC Monza v Juventus - Serie A TIM Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

The game slowed down after that, Juve defending the way they always do while the home team attempted to find a crack in the armor. In the 33rd minute, Juve spurned a golden opportunity to double the lead on another corner, when Sandro flicked the ball on to Gatti inside the 6-yard box. The center-back’s first touch with his chest was just a little too strong, throwing him off-balance and helping put his one-yard shot straight up into the air and over the crossbar.

Unfazed by the missed sitter, Rabiot tried again, this time lashing a first-time shot from 19 yards that skipped toward the target but was too central, allowing Di Gregorio to get down and parry it away. Monza’s biggest threat came in first-half stoppage time, when Gagliardini latched onto a through ball from Colpani and cut back for D’Ambrosio, but Bremer got in the way just in time for a block to snuff it out.

The second half was uneventful for much of its opening phases. Juve gradually did what they’ve done throughout Allegri’s second tenure and steadily dropped farther back into their own half. Dangerous attacks became less and less frequent, and Juve began the knife’s-edge dance that has become the norm.

There were a few warnings. With 15 minutes left Pessina was allowed to cut in and just missed the far post. Mota got to a defensive header in good position but yanked his shot well wide. A few minutes later, stoppages began, and the madness started.

LE PAGELLE

WOJCIECH SZCZESNY - 6. Had hardly anything to do all game, but made a couple of really good punches on crosses late in the game, and it’s hard to give him too much stick about the goal, because he had to commit to stopping any potential touch by Mota.

FEDERICO GATTI - 6.5. Made up for his missed sitter in the first half with the crazy winner. Also strong defensively, making five clearances, although he was a tiny bit slow covering Mota on the equalizer.

AC Monza v Juventus - Serie A TIM Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

BREMER - 7. The usual tower of power in defense. Made two tackles, two interceptions, and six clearances, adding in two blocked shots. Also completed 91.4 percent of his passes.

ALEX SANDRO - 6.5. Most Juventini were quite distressed seeing his name on the team sheet, but he actually didn’t suck. The only lag on him is that he could’ve been a little more accurate with his passes.

ANDREA CAMBIASO - 6. Completed 90 percent of his passes and was active going forward when the team was able to. His movement was very good, especially when he earned the penalty by getting position on Kyriakopoulos.

WESTON McKENNIE - 6. He and Cambiaso continued to switch between midfield and the wing, and interplayed well. The give-and-go he played with Rabiot at the end of the game was a key the winning goal, and he continues to be a rock defensively.

HANS NICOLUSSI CAVIGLIA - 6. A big improvement from his display on Sunday. He made a lot of the passes he hesitated to make against Inter, and tied for the team lead with three key passes. His set piece deliveries were excellent, including the assist on Rabiot’s goal. He needs to pump up his pass completion, though — 72.7 percent won’t cut it at that position.

ADRIEN RABIOT - 8. We had a sighting of Contract Year Rabiot in Monza. Look at a number, and he was probably the leader in it — tackles (4), interceptions (2), pass completion (93.8). His header for his opening goal was excellent, as was the cross to Gatti for the winner. He was everywhere, and lifted the whole team.

AC Monza v Juventus - Serie A TIM Photo by Giuseppe Cottini/Getty Images

FILIP KOSTIC - 6. Made three key passes, and although his crossing volume wasn’t what you’d expect, he was efficient, completeing two of three.

FEDERICO CHIESA - 5.5. Was disruptive when he got the ball in the attacking third, that just wasn’t a lot of the time.

DUSAN VLAHOVIC - 5. The penalty miss stung, although it has to be admitted that he was denied on the rebound by a superhuman save. His movement was pretty good, but he had little in the way of final product, his only other shots being relatively weak headers.

SUBS

DANILO - 6. Played in midfield for most of the game, dropping back into defense toward the end. It’s good to see him back.

ARKADIUSZ MILIK - 5.5. Only touched the ball eight times but did block a shot defensively.

MOISE KEAN - 5. He’s going to get a lot of stick—legitimately so—for being a little lackadaisical and not closing Carboni before his cross/shot. Got hardly anything in terms of offensive touches.

MANUEL LOCATELLI - NR. On to help firm things in midfield at the very end.

MANAGER ANALYSIS

Here, friends, is the problem I’ve had with corto muso writ large. Dancing on a knife’s edge with a 1-0 lead for 70 or 80 minutes simply isn’t a sustainable way to play an entire season. Eventually, stuff like this is going to happen. One single defensive mistake, one bad bounce, and you’re stuffed.

In this game, Juventus was bailed out by a finish that came as close to a miracle as we’ve had in a while. They can’t count on being that lucky every time every time.

AC Monza v Juventus - Serie A TIM Photo by Giuseppe Cottini/Getty Images

This team simply must seek more goals before the end stage of the game. Dropping as deep as they do as early as they do invites disaster, and it stifles Juve’s own efforts to counter and add to the lead by forcing them to break through the opponent’s entire team. They are more than capable of doing that. We’ve seen them blitz Udinese and Lazio with pressure early on, only then dropping back and managing the game with a clear margin for error. All due respect to Monza, who have been wildly successful for a club that had never played in the top flight until a year ago, but that is an eminently achievable goal against provincial teams of that level.

If the team is going to mount a real scudetto challenge this year, Max is going to have to show the willingness and the ability to make that kind of change, at least against lower-level teams. If he doesn’t, odds are a title run may well grind to a halt, as provincial sides like Monza steal points here and there in the inevitable instances where the team can’t defend immaculately every time.

LOOKING AHEAD

The series of Friday games continues for the next two weeks. Juve welcomes Napoli to the Allianz next Friday, then travel to their long-time bogey ground, the Marassi, to face off against Genoa. Then, two days before Christmas, they take a trip to face Frosinone for a lunchtime kickoff.