With one thunderous header right in front of the goal line, Federico Gatti drastically changed the potential for a Juventus run to the Europa League final.
Yes ... Federico Gatti. A defender. Who didn’t even start Thursday night’s game.
But there was Gatti, At the death. To bail his team out.
It could have been set up for a big-time uphill battle heading into next week’s second leg of the Europa League semifinals against Sevilla in Spain. Instead, thanks to some ping-pong-styled headers in the box and Gatti’s goal in the 97th minute right before the final whistle, Juventus were able to pull out a 1-1 draw against Sevilla on Thursday night and head into next Thursday’s second leg with all to play for.
Something tells me that Arek Milik is OK with the Big Cat stepping in front of him to get the goal and the headlines. Arek seems like a nice guy, a team guy and one that would be OK with the goal being scored by somebody else because it meant something better for the team as a whole.
Let’s just be happy they scored that goal, folks. Because, oh man, was it not looking great for a good amount of time Thursday night.
Even with the second-half changes made by Max Allegri to try and change things for the better, Juventus were sitting on just one shot on goal for the entire night until Gatti’s game-tying goal doubled that amount. Things were rough, and even with added creativity in Federico Chiesa and Samuel Iling-Junior, Juventus were truly struggling to test Sevilla goalkeeper Bono. There were plenty of almost moments. But there were also plenty of moments in which Juve did a few things right only to lose the ball before it went into the box or saw a cross fail to reach its intended target.
It was frustrating.
You could see that frustration mounting, too.
In a way, Sevilla tried to pull an Allegri and defended a 1-0 lead by dropping numbers and trying to hit Juventus on the counter as the second half went on. The visitors recorded just one shot in the entirety of the second half, and you’d be hard-pressed to really remember much of it. The second half — as well as after Sevilla took the head midway through the opening 45 minutes — was turning out to be what Juventus couldn’t do against Sevilla rather than truly making the opposition pay.
Then came Fred Cats.
And that one header certainly changed things.
The whole theme of what this post was going to be about right up until Gatti’s goal was how a team that truly struggles to score goals away from home was going to go to Spain needing to win and score at least two goals to make the Europa League final. I don’t know about you guys, but that was something that didn’t feel me with a whole lot of optimism based on how this team has played away from home all season.
But thanks to tying things up right at the death — and the away goals rule going by the wayside — there’s now some sort of hope that Juventus can actually get this done and advance to the Europa League final in Budapest. Maybe it’s not a huge amount of hope knowing that trying to win in Seville won’t be easy at all, but it’s definitely a little more hope than if this had ended as a 1-0 loss.
At the end of the day, a little bit of hope is better than no hope at all, right?
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- I dunno about you guys, but I feel like Federico Gatti is the walking, talking example of Fino Alla Fine simply because of what he’s had to overcome to get to this point.
- Bless this big galoot named Gatti. Sure glad he doesn’t have to be a bricklayer anymore.
- Also kinda odd for Juve’s MVP for the month of April — I know it’s voted on by the fans, but go with me — has been on the bench lately. Sure would be nice for him to come back into the lineup, Max. Just an idea.
- Juventus’ first shot on goal came in the 62nd minute. Seriously.
- This was Leonardo Bonucci’s 500th game at Juventus. That’s a lot of games!
- And, surprisingly, Bonucci was not the oldest player on the pitch. That distinction belonged to Jesus Navaz, who is currently 37 years old and still kickin’. Respect.
- But then Bonucci showed his age as he was very much not up to speed on the counterattack that resulted in Sevilla’s goal. Ah, the joys of almost being 37.
- And then Bonucci had to come off with a muscle injury midway through the second half. Another reminder that he is very much coming to an end of his career and that his body is starting to betray him in the ways that Giorgio Chiellini dealt with his last couple of years with Juventus.
- This is how Adrien Rabiot’s leg looked after he got studs right into his calf. There was no foul called.
- And you know what? Sevilla were complaining about Juventus’ goal coming after the six minutes of stoppage time had passed. Well, now we’re even in terms of refereeing decisions we weren’t happy about because there being no penalty after a VAR review after Rabiot got hammered in the box was dumbfounding.
- Some of those moves that Paul Pogba was doing out there after he came on were just so damn smooth. Don’t look now but I think Paul is starting to feel himself out there. Now if only we could get his match fitness up enough to the point where he can start a game before the season comes to an end. (Or maybe we don’t based on his injury record?)
- I could totally understand why Federico Chiesa was getting a little grumpy out there. That’s because there were at least a couple of occasions where he was wide open on the right wing, waving his hand in there air calling for the ball and nobody passed him the ball. Then there’s the fantastic run into the box he made where Arek Milik decided to shoot instead. It was a tough night for Juve’s most well-known Federico. Hopefully that trademark smile comes back soon because I miss it.
- Also can understand why Dusan Vlahovic was grumpy as he was subbed off because that was the kind of game that would frustrate anybody who was in his position. A couple of really good scoring chances were wasted because he was barely offside, and on top of that those chances weren’t even put on target to begin with. Grumble, grumble.
- Did y’all see how many empty seats there were at the Allianz on Thursday night? Because it was more than just a couple. This is a European semifinal and you can’t sell things out? There’s more than just one reason for that, but I have a good feeling the biggest reason was how much a ticket or two cost.
- The combined age of Juventus’ back three was 99 years old.
- Samuel Iling-Junior is fun as hell and it’s going to be very interesting to see how he’s used knowing that he’s decided to stay with Juventus and not go represent England at the Under-20 World Cup that begins shortly.
- Angel Di Maria still hasn’t scored since March.
- Only three Juventus players successfully completed a cross against Sevilla.
- You’re 90 minutes away from the Europa League final, Juventus. Don’t mess up this chance now, OK? Good talk.