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Juventus 3 - Nantes 0: Initial reaction and random observations

Gotta say, that was much more enjoyable than the first leg.


And then, on the 23rd day of February in the year 2023, a 35-year-old Angel Di Maria delivered one of the best individual performances from a Juventus player that we’ve seen in years.

You won’t find any of us complaining about it.

Di Maria’s first-half masterclass that saw him score twice — including an opener that is one of the best goals you will see regardless of the competition this season — and then capped off his first Juventus hat trick after the break to lead the charge Thursday night. The Di Maria show gave Juve a 3-0 win on the night and 4-1 on aggregate over 10-man Nantes, averting any kind of disaster in Europe for the second time this season and sending them into Friday’s Europa League Round of 16 draw.

There was no drama. No last-minute sense of urgency while trying to chase the goal that would send Juventus through to the next round. None of that. It was just Di Maria doing Di Maria things and powering the Juventus charge on a night in which the Bianconeri had to win.

It all started with this absolutely gorgeous left-footed strike that was all started thanks to Nicolo Fagioli winning the ball back in the attacking third of the field.

I mean .... come on! That’s just unfair. At that angle. At that spot on the field. With that kind of curve. That’s just stupid. That’s just so stupid because it’s so beautiful.

Let’s be honest: There aren’t very many players in the world — no matter their age — who can score that kind of goal and make it look just so damn routine. But Di Maria, even at the age of 35 and in the final few years of his incredibly accomplished career, made it look so damn easy.

This was, essentially, Di Maria at his finest. The best of the best. The guy who showed why he is one of the best players in the world and somebody who has won so damn much at the club level during his extraordinary career.

You just don’t expect it at his age.

But this is what Di Maria has brought to Juventus — especially after he lifted the World Cup trophy with Argentina. Ever since club football resumed last month, Di Maria has been on fire. He’s scoring fantastic goals, he’s setting up goals and he’s leading Juventus to wins during a time in which the club needs them desperately both domestically and in Europe.

And on this day, it helped Juventus advance in the Europa League.

It was the driving for a Juve team that kept its foot down and continued to push forward. It was a change for the better, obviously, and it certainly didn’t hurt that Nantes was playing a man down for much of the night right before Di Maria converted from the penalty spot to double Juve’s lead. The biggest thing is that this was a 3-0 win and it could have been much more than that. Most notably, Filip Kostic hit the woodwork in the first half, while other quality scoring chances went just wide.

Juventus dominated on the stat sheet.

Juventus dominated in terms of the advanced metrics.

Juventus, most importantly, dominated on the field — and that’s maybe not something you were expecting when you saw the starting lineup and noticed that the big-money No. 9 was starting from the bench rather than taking part in the opening kickoff.

It just all added up to one of the most pleasantly surprising games we’ve seen from Juve all season long — the most notable being the performance of the 35-year-old attacker who just dropped a hat trick in a do-or-die European matchup. Not bad, Angel, not bad at all.


  • Even with the very good players who are out injured, this is what Juventus had to do against Nantes because Nantes are not a very good team at all. Remember, they’re 13th in Ligue 1! Thirteenth, folks!
  • Seriously, Angel Di Maria. My goodness.
  • Juve is undefeated in games in which Angel Di Maria scores a hat trick.
  • As Sergio has been saying, do whatever you can to keep Di Maria around for another season. He can clearly still make a huge impact and has been playing absolutely fantastic since he got back from the World Cup. That fire is still there, the skills are still there and he is proving to be a game-changing player no matter if it’s off the bench or in the starting lineup. Who knows if he will truly entertain staying with Juve another season, but we know that the guy’s game can still play at a super high level.
  • He’s just built different and Juventus need as many of those kinds of players as possible.
  • Max Allegri’s reaction to Di Maria’s opener ... perfection. I would have done the same thing if I wasn’t yelling “OH SHIT!” at my computer, so thanks for that one, Max.
  • Who had the most tackles of any Juventus player? Nicolo Fagioli.
  • That Nicky Beans assist for Di Maria’s opener, by the way, just shows what a complete midfielder he is. Things haven’t been going all that well for the young Italian lately, but this was more of the player we saw right before the World Cup break who was easily one of Juventus’ best players. This is the Fagioli that Juve need with all the midfield issues they’ve had of late.
  • Plus, how badass did Fagioli look with the black gloves to go with the black kit? Kid’s got some swag.
  • Alex Sandro with a great tackle on Dusan Vlahovic right before Di Maria scored the third and final goal for his hat trick. What an effort.
  • A game after he struggled mightily to do much of anything right, Manuel Locatelli attempted 89 passes, completed 92 percent of those passes and played pretty damn well. More of that version of Locatelli, please.
  • Moise Kean had 12 touches in 64 minutes.
  • Kean did complete all six of his passes, though, so there’s that.
  • It’s nice watching Juve cruise to a win in the second half rather than just grind it out time after time. Change for the better, methinks.
  • See, playing direct and up-tempo football isn’t bad. It can work with this team. I get that Juventus won’t be playing teams like Nantes every week — and especially going forward in Europe — but this can be done and this is something that will need to happen as the quality of Europa League opponents goes up.
  • I still can’t believe Di Maria’s first goal, man.
  • In conclusion, Di Maria is a wonderful man and I want him to play for Juventus for as long as we can possibly make that happen. OK, maybe it could be for another year, but that’s better than watching him leave come this summer. (Which he is certainly welcome to do no matter how sad it would make a lot of us thanks to how he’s endeared himself amongst the Juve faithful.