With the way Juventus set things up Saturday night in Rome, the margins were going to be extremely thin from the start. That is usually the case with a Max Allegri-coached squad, but it seemed even more of the case against Lazio — which was somewhat ironic considering Allegri himself was back in Turin watching from home due to the flu.
One mistake, one missed scoring chance in just the handful that you were likely to generate, anything that worked against would be magnified just that much more because it’s more about preventing the opponent from doing their thing rather than forcing the issue.
And just like in their trip to the Italian capital five weeks ago, one moment of magic — with a little help from some sub-par defending — ended up being the difference against Juventus.
Former Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri got his first-ever win over Juventus since leaving the club 3 1⁄2 years ago after his Scudetto-winning season, with Mattia Zaccagni’s second-half strike off a filthy Luis Alberto backheel giving his team an eventual 2-1 win over the Bianconeri at the Stadio Olimpico. The win by Lazio prevented Juventus from moving a point within sixth-place Atalanta and a European spot. Only to add to that, Juve couldn’t take advantage of three of the four teams directly in front of them in the standings — Atalanta, AC Milan and Inter — all dropping points this weekend.
Instead of making the race for Europe even tighter despite the 15-point penalty, Juventus managed to allow Lazio to solidify their place in second place.
For a lot of this game, it was a slog. It really, really was. Juve’s low block seemed even more extreme, and it didn’t just feel like Lazio was dominating possession because they actually were doing just that. There were a few minutes midway through the first half in which Lazio had seen 70 percent of the ball thus far, and Juventus was dropping so deep you were starting to think the only way Dusan Vlahovic was going to see the ball was if he was trying to clear a Lazio cross.
So what if I told you that, after it was all said and done, Juventus and Lazio finished even in possession and that it was Allegri’s squad — yes, I know, it was technically Marco Landucci’s squad on this night — that outshot the Team Sarri 11-9 overall.
Because that happened.
The problem was that so much of that offense and drive forward came after Zaccagni’s goal gave Lazio the lead again rather than right after Juventus tied the game through Adrien Rabiot on one of the uglier goals of the season. The formation changed, the likes of Angel Di Maria and Federico Chiesa were in familiar wide roles where they could make things happen in the attacking third and try to work some magic of their own.
They had their chances, but they just couldn’t convert them.
Even with the increased amount of shots from Juventus, Lazio keeper Ivan Provadel had to make just two more saves after the craziness that came with Rabiot’s goal.
It all proved rather costly and meant that Juve will now have to get some more help and try to get back on track in the league on short rest at the Mapei following some Thursday night Europa League action. Sounds ... great!
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Juventus has scored 13 away goals in Serie A action this season.
- Teams who have more away goals in Serie A this season include: Monza, Cremonese, Bologna, Udinese, Sassuolo and Fiorentina.
- Your co-leader in terms of Juventus goals scored in Serie A this season: Adrien Rabiot.
- Long live contract year Rabiot. Give him one-year deals for the next half-decade if it means he continues to be a really good midfielder who scores goals at a rate that we haven’t seen from a Juventus midfielder in a good amount of time. (Claudio Marchisio? Arturo Vidal? Sami Khedira?)
- Alex Sandro’s attempt to draw a foul on Lazio’s first goal sure was something.
- You see it in real time and then you see the replays and your opinion of something can change. That’s how it worked for me when seeing the replays of Sandro on the first Lazio goal. Does SMS have a hand on Sandro? Yes, but the move Sandro tried to pull was the one that you try when you know you’re beat and you see no other option on how to get out of it.
- Same high-quality effort goes for Juan Cuadrado’s defending on Lazio’s second goal. It was ... not great.
- Juventus didn’t record a shot on target until the 42nd minute when Bremer’s big header started the mass chaos in front of the Lazio goal.
- With how this game developed and with how little Juventus saw of the ball, it should come to the surprise of nobody that Dusan Vlahovic touched the ball of 14 times in 63 minutes.
- The two No. 9s who played in this game for Juventus — Vlahovic and Arek Milik — combined to touch the ball all of 22 times. Try making anything happen with that little of service.
- No matter how you spin it, that’s now eight Serie A games without a goal from open play for Vlahovic, who had a pretty massive ice pack on his ankle after he took a knock there early in the first half thanks to getting his legs tangled with a Lazio player on a counterattack.
- Can’t imagine where Vlahovic’s confidence is at right now. Somebody petition for Juventus to let him wear a Serbia jersey against Sporting on Thursday so that he can try to get some mojo going that way.
- The match feed panned to Nicolo Fagioli on the bench a minute or two after he was subbed off late in the second half. Considering that Fagioli couldn’t convert a really good scoring change a few moments before, he looked a combination of being absolutely exhausted and simply pissed at himself for not scoring. Totally understandable, Nicky.
- If there’s one thing we found out about Federico Gatti in this game is that if he makes a mistake he’s going to just get right back up, sprint back on defense and try to get things going again. The dude has some spunk to go with his goofy demeanor, and you gotta respect that.
- There were a few moments of the old Chiesa in this one and that makes me sad because these stupid little injuries aren’t letting him be the player we know he can be on a consistent basis. Let’s just hope he can get some consistent minutes as a sub or part-time starter the rest of this season because he deserves it.
- Leandro Paredes ...wasn’t terrible in his second-half sub appearance. I know the bar is low with him, but him being a positive influence is more than what we’ve seen lately.
- I’m guessing that Fabio Miretti fell into the mindset of being the late sub and then he just forced everything because he was trying to make things happen. Kid had a couple of rough turnovers out there.
- I’ve said it once and I will say it again: The amount of air time that Bremer gets when going up for a header on corner kicks is remarkable. He generates so much power, too.
- In conclusion, I am so glad Juventus are done with Rome-based opponents this season. Hoping for one more trip to the Stadio Olimpico this season, though. That would be nice.