So, let me pose a question to the masses: To whom do we attribute the fact that the final minutes of Juventus’ matchup against Fiorentina on Sunday evening ended up being so nervy in the final minutes?
Is it the VAR room full of folks who now rely on the slimmest of margins thanks to the technology at hand? Is it Max Allegri and his love affair with defending a 1-0 lead no matter who the opponent is and how much they struggle to score goals?
No matter what, I think this is safe to say: Allegri got his bacon saved by VAR in the same way that Dusan Vlahovic has a massive bone to pick with that same semi-automatic technology that is now taking over every close call there is on goal scoring opportunties.
Juventus beat Fiorentina 1-0 thanks to Adrien Rabiot’s first-half goal to claim its second straight Serie A victory and third win on the bounce in all competitions. But that only tells a fraction of the story regarding what went down at the Allianz Stadium. Both Juventus and Fiorentina had second-half goals chalked off thanks to VAR, drastically changing the scope of the game from what appeared to be a solid if not unspectacular Juve win to what looked like Fiorentina absolutely snatching a point late on and making Allegri pay for his latest sitting-back-and-defend sin.
Grinding out a 1-0 win is not something some might have expected when Allegri rolled out a attacking trio of Vlahovic, Federico Chiesa and Angel Di Maria, but here we are.
This was Allegri to his conservative core. Before and after Vlahovic’s goal that ultimately wasn’t the second-half plan was clear: sit back, let Fiorentina see the ball and let a struggling attack try and do something. And hey, if you’re up 2-0 and then doing just that, that makes some sense. But Juve walked a fine line when up 1-0 after VAR somehow ruled that Vlahovic was offside and if not for Fiorentina’s own VAR controversy then we’d be sitting here with a very different kind of mood flowing through our veins.
Yes, Juventus winning is nice.
Juventus winning this kind of way just feels ... a little off maybe?
Fiorentina’s attack has been struggling so much this season that Vincenzo Italiano decided that playing without a recognized No. 9 was his team’s best option on Sunday. Let that sink in. It was all about speed and movement up front for Fiorentina, and Juve handled it well in the first half mainly because they were also actively trying to play football despite trailing in the possession numbers.
But the second half was just sit back and defend at its core. And if Castrovilli’s goal didn’t get called off by VAR, then Juve would have dropped two points in a game they shouldn’t have been dropping points in. Fiorentina weren’t great by any means, but letting them hang around in the fashion that Juve did might have been an even bigger issue than everything that happened with VAR. (And you know that the Italian media is going to make this all about VAR because that’s just what they do.)
At least Juventus won and the VAR calls evened themselves out. Take the three points (and leave the cannoli if you want) and now it’s onto the Europa League playoff round on Thursday night, everybody.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Pre-game thought No. 1: Angel Di Maria! Federico Chiesa! Dusan Vlahovic!
- Pre-game thought No. 2: Boy oh boy, does Fiorentina have a whole lot of pace up front.
- Pre-game thought No. 3: Sure are some good seats still available at the Allianz Stadium. (It’s very noticeable when all of the empty seats are white and everybody there is in dark colors.)
- Fiorentina has been struggling to score goals ever since Dusan Vlahovic left Florence a year ago. So what the hell is the point of sitting in a low block for the entire second half and trying to just soak up pressure? I don’t get it. This is utterly frustrating, and you’re playing with fire every freakin’ time you do this because there’s always going to be a chance that somebody like Gaetano Castrovilli can turn the game on its head in the final minutes. (And I know that if Vlahovic’s goal counted the vibe might be a little different around this game, but I still just don’t get it.)
- Like, let’s be real, is Vlahovic’s chin being in an offside position but not the rest of his body really going to change if a goal is scored or not? I think we all know the answer to that.
- Both Juve and Fiorentina both had goals waved off because of VAR, so spare the crying of “Juve get all the calls!!” OK? I ain’t gonna have it today.
- Always good for somebody like Adrien Rabiot to be playing on a yellow card from within a couple of minutes. That is always reassuring. Very, very reassuring.
- It didn’t matter what Juventus player it was, Luca Ranieri wanted all that smoke.
- That Di Maria assist on Rabiot’s goal. That’s something that not many players in the world can do and place it so perfectly for only his teammate to get to.
- Rabiot tied a career high in goals? Well, well. Quite the coincidence that comes in a contract year. (That still doesn’t take away from the fact he played 89-plus minutes on a yellow.)
- Fiorentina possession in the first half: 55%.
- Fiorentina xG in the first half: 0.27.
- Max Allegri’s subs in this game were ... confusing. Very confusing. And very conservative. And very defensive-minded.
- God love Mattia Perin but trying to crack a joke to Vlahovic as he’s absolutely brooding after being subbed out probably wasn’t the best of timing. But hey, shoot your shot, Mattia. (Vlahovic had every right to be pissed, by the way, because it was certainly more about the goal being taken away from him rather than being taken out.)
- Props to Vlahovic for not celebrating that goal that wasn’t a goal, too. Fiorentina fans hate him enough as is, so Dusan didn’t need to add fuel to that fire.
- Vlahovic finished with 15 touches in 65 minutes, so that’s still a problem.
- Moise Kean came on and almost immediately scored a goal that would have put Juve up 2-0 but didn’t convert said chance. I feel like I’ve typed that kind of sentence out one too many times over the last season and a half about Moise.
- There were so many “almost” moments with Federico Chiesa in this game. He almost was in on goal a couple of times. He almost had space to make his run through into the final third. He also snuck a pass through. I feel like Chiesa is just so close from going on a run of form that has him back on his best once he gets a few more things to break his way — and that’s going to be fun to watch when it happens.
- If Allegri sits back against the 13th-place team in Ligue 1 on Thursday ... I don’t know what I’m going to do.
- At least Allegri looked nice in the black turtleneck as compared to his usual suit and tie.