For those of you who were hoping to see something resembling the kind of performance Juventus had going going into the international break in its first game back, well ... yeah, that didn’t happen.
That didn’t mean Juventus fell into a complete trap against an opponent in the relegation zone, though.
On one of those nights that left you nervous every time Hellas Verona even got close to Juventus’ goal, it was Moise Kean’s first goal since mid-February that ended up being the difference in a 1-0 win Saturday at the Allianz Stadium. And with the way that Juve played for much of the night, you could understand why the crowd on hand in Turin went from rather excited at the opening whistle to going back to that oh-so-nervous feeling with a tinge of anxiety in relatively quick fashion.
It was not pretty for large portions of this one.
It was exactly how you expect a lot of teams to look coming back from the international break — sloppy, kinda out of sync and far from the level we saw against Inter two weeks ago.
It was not exactly one of those games in which you’ll remember Juve’s overall performance (or much of anything from it at all). Juventus had more of the possession, but it was Hellas that was able to be even on the shot chart overall and put more shots on target.
But let’s just go ahead and talk about this goal for a second here. It had the following:
- A sweet no-look pass from Fabio Miretti to find Manuel Locatelli in stride.
- An equally sweet pass from Locatelli to Kean to thread the needle between a couple of Hellas Verona defenders.
- Kean, who is not exactly known for having a smooth first touch or anything close to it, controlling the ball nicely in a tight area of space and smashing home his shot to give his team the lead.
Not a bad way to decide a game the day after your manager talked you up, huh?
But with Max Allegri shaking things up with players just back from their respective international duty travels and planning for a big first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals just a couple of days from now, the starting lineup had a few surprises — I didn’t expect Arek Milik to get a start right out of the gate! — and it’s not like they created much.
This game was definitely played the way Hellas Verona wanted it — it was ugly, it was scrappy and it was the kind of performance in which you could have definitely seen a relegation battler snatching a point from Juventus because of how things went.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen. There were a few times in which it did look like it might — that Wojciech Szczesny save late sure was nice — that had you a little weak. But Juve’s lack of putting much of anything on frame didn’t come back to bite them in the end.
And would you just look at that ...
Juventus’ win over Hellas Verona now has Allegri’s squad FOUR points out of a Champions League spot. That’s with a 15-point penalty thrown in there, folks. Sure, there is still a Sunday slate of games to play, but when you consider that the team that is currently in fourth place, AC Milan, will be facing red-hot league leaders Napoli in Naples then there’s a pretty good chance of even more craziness happening before the weekend is over.
That’s the big thing to take out of this one, right? With all of the off-field stuff happening, Juve can still make it into the Champions League as far as no other sporting penalties are handed down. (And at this point, who knows, right?)
Either way, Juve won again and closed the gap on the top four — that’s what matters most.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Something tells me the guy waving to the crowd after hearing them sing his name in the 22nd minute is rather popular in Turin ...
- The best part of them showing Alessandro Del Piero a couple of times in the first half was to see the reaction of his eldest son, Tobias, as it all happened. The smile on his face, while wearing one of the best Juve kits there has been over the course of the last decade, as his dad was acknowledged was great. Tobias was definitely soaking it all in.
- Manuel Locatelli had some of his best performances of the season before the international break and he was very much on that same level again on Saturday night. I sure hope this is the sign of something very, very good because Locatelli truly coming into his own as a Juve player would be a nice development before the season comes to an end.
- I’m still thinking of that Miretti no-look pass right before Kean scored.
- Allegri switching Enzo Barrenechea for Miretti at halftime was the right move. The no-look pass that I can’t stop thinking about only confirmed that.
- And it allowed an all-Italian midfield of Locatelli, Miretti and Nicolo Fagioli to happen. That’s something I use in FIFA23, by the way, so I like that it’s a real life thing now. More of that, Max. Thanks.
- Federico Gatti is still pretty inexperienced in Serie A, but I think we’re reaching the point where he’s going to make it tough for Allegri to not play him. As much as Allegri loves a veteran like Alex Sandro, Gatti has really grown into the role on the right of the three-man defense and the fact that he can add a little more of a threat in the air is never a bad thing.
- Plus, Gatti is just an absolute galoot and I love watching him go on those Giorgio Chiellini-like runs. He is very much Carlo Pinsoglio but in the form of a big center back.
- Sure would have been nice if Bremer finished that header that Gatti sent across the face of goal late in the second half, too. But hey, it was not a day for good finishing across Serie A, so whatever.
- I hope you, like me, have not forgotten Davide Faraoni’s Inter past.
- Speaking of Inter, they continue to be frauds.
- Anybody notice how the right wing became a place where nothing really happened after Allegri switched Mattia De Sciglio over there with Filip Kostic’s introduction? Yeah, it’s almost like De Sciglio doesn’t offer much at all going forward even as a wingback.
- Also, why play Kostic after he just came back to training a few days earlier? Just let Samuel Iling-Junior get some minutes and rest Kostic up to hopefully score against Inter again.
- Oh, did you need another reminder that Inter are frauds? Because they are.
- Just keep winning, baby. It might not be pretty, but at least you’re winning and I like winning.