We knew the situation at hand for Juventus on Thursday night. It was not a difficult one to figure out — on paper. When it came to what went down on the field, that seemed like another matter entirely because you never truly know when it comes to this Max Allegri-managed side and their tendency to sometimes throw you a curveball ... and then some.
With 90 or so minutes left, Juve had as slim of a lead as you can get.
But the time those 90-something were over with, the lead was only the more sturdy.
Thanks to a Dusan Vlahovic penalty and Federico Chiesa’s late strike, Juventus beat Freiburg 2-0 on the night, 3-0 on aggregate and clinched its ticket into the Europa League quarterfinals. It was the second straight knockout round game in which Juve entered as the favorite to advance and didn’t necessarily mess around in actually advancing. Once Juve got the goal from Vlahovic — his first one since the first leg against Nantes on Feb. 16 — to put them up 2-0 on aggregate as Freiburg went down a man, it was relatively smooth sailing from there, which certainly was a decent feeling knowing how things have gone in previous knockout round fixtures.
Also, there was this thought that popped into my head as the final whistle sounded: I don’t know about you guys, but seeing Vlahovic and Chiesa score in the same game is something I can certainly get used to seeing as Mr. Church continues to ramp up his fitness levels these last couple of months of the 2022-23 season.
With Freiburg being down to 10 men for such an extended period of time and their team lacking the kind of firepower in attack that could potentially match Juventus, it was more about just seeing things out and averting any sort of disaster after Vlahovic’s goal.
They did just that. Thankfully, they did just that.
Were there a couple of nervy moments? Of course, that only seemed natural considering Freiburg trying to push forward to get a goal no matter how many players they had on the field. Juventus’ defense, much to its credit, dealt with just about everything that Freiburg threw its way, with Wojciech Szczesny only forced into four saves. (A couple of those saves, though, were simply fantastic and are a big reason why Juve kept the clean sheet.)
But, Juventus did what was needed — and that’s what matters the most in a game like this.
That’s better than the alternative, right? I feel like it is because then that would involve a very different kind of tone being taken in this piece.
Instead, we get to be happy because Juventus is still in the Europa League and that means the Thursday-Sunday grind on the schedule will be around for at least a couple more weeks after the international break. Is it the BIG quarterfinals of a European competition we all wanted to be a part of at the beginning of the season? No, but it’s better than nothing at all.
And considering what this Juventus season has been like — and especially these last couple of months have been like on and off the field — we could all use some good news. This most definitely falls into that category as the Europa League dream rolls on.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Freiburg’s stadium looked like one hell of an atmosphere to be a part of Thursday night. Then when you hear about some of the things the club wants to be a leader in off the field and it makes you like them even more. Salute to Freiburg, man.
- Dunno about you all, but hearing Manuel Locatelli screaming “ANDIAMO ANDIAMO DAI DAI DAI!!” at the top of his lungs as the players started to walk out of the tunnel fire me the hell up.
- Max Allegri was not happy with how his team played in the second half. You can usually get away with that against a team that’s down a man, but that ain’t going to fly this weekend against Inter or going forward in the Europa League. Quite the snoozer, it was.
- I really don’t care how Dusan Vlahovic’s penalty was on the scale of effectiveness. All I care about is that he got a goal, he deserved to get said goal and he was able to let out a whole lot of frustration with that goal celebration of his. Juve need a confident Vlahovic this weekend and the rest of the season, and hopefully getting said goal against Freiburg gets the confidence going again.
- Been a while since we’ve seen this, huh? I like it!
- That above photo is a good celebration. Another good celebration was the one between Vlahovic and Federico Gatti. Those two big boys seem like fun.
- Federico Chiesa’s goal celebration where he blew kisses to everybody needs to become a thing. It was WONDERFUL AND I AM HERE FOR IT.
- Also, to see Chiesa score that chance, that was some Chiesa stuff we need to see more of going forward. Just a quick, no nonsense kind of finish from an extremely talented player.
- Because of injuries at the back, Allegri had to make a decision: start Gatti or Daniele Rugani. Allegri went with the more inexperienced player and it turned out to be the right call because Gatti was absolutely fantastic. Not only was he really strong in defense, but his run forward allowed Juve to win the PK that resulted in Vlahovic’s goal. This was easily his best game as a Juventus player — and it just so happened to come in quite the important fixture, too.
- It also helps somebody like Gatti when he’s got a pair of teammates in Bremer and Danilo play as well as they did in this game, too. Maybe they can make Fred Cats an honorable Brazilian or something. Call him Gatos or something.
- I know it came out of necessity thanks to all of the injuries, but three of Allegri’s subs were kiddos from the Next Gen squad and that is something that makes me happy. Yes, give Filip Kostic a bit of a rest and Samuel Iling-Junior some run with one move. Yes, give Matias Soulé some deserved playing time. Bring on Enzo Barrenechea and further confirm to us that Leandro Paredes has no role at Juventus this spring. Good on you, Max. Let’s see these talents that we’ve heard about.
- I went and looked at the final stats and Nicolo Fagioli had just 33 touches. He sure did seem like he was in a lot of the right kinds of places, though, so at least there’s that.
- Adrien Rabiot had five key passes, including the assist on Chiesa’s goal. When he ain’t scoring goals like he did last weekend, there he is setting somebody up. Contract Year Rabiot is a lot more enjoyable than the other versions of Rabiot that we’ve seen at Juventus, that’s for sure.
- Juan Cuadrado finished with 69 touches. That’s nice.
- FILIP KOSTIC ONLY ATTEMPTED FIVE CROSSES? Madness, man. Absolute madness.
- Moise Kean was solid. Not great, but solid. There’s just some things that, at this point, you come to expect from Kean and he (in a not very positive way) never lets you down.
- In conclusion: That, my friends, is how you ring in Carlo Pinsoglio’s birthday. That flight back to Turin is going to be pretty entertaining for more than a couple of reasons, I’m guessing.