It had been a huge week for Juventus. After disposing of current European Champions Chelsea in the Group Stage, the quarter final draw – Juve’s first since 2006 – gave them 2012 runners up Bayern Munich. Talk had also continued all week over the prospect of Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to Turin after some terribly misrepresented ‘news stories’ were reported. Indeed, throw in Paul Pogba’s birthday and an inaugural call to the France squad and the past seven days had been dominated by talk of almost everything except Bologna.
by Adam Digby
That’s right, you remember Bologna, they’re an extremely well coached Serie A side sat comfortably in mid-table. Thanks to Stefano Pioli – a fringe player at Juventus in the late 1980’s – and some smart transfer business, they have become an extremely difficult team to beat and one who present a dangerous proposition for a team who are not fully focused on what awaits them at the picturesque Dall’Ara Stadium.
Beating the Felsinei then, would demand ever ounce of concentration from a team who could reasonably have had bigger things on their mind. Thankfully, in Antonio Conte, the Bianconeri have a coach who is able to bring that alertness and determination to any match. While the other side’s tipped to challenge for the Scudetto have all slipped when presented an opportunity to join the battle, this Juventus have marched relentlessly onwards, rarely dropping points when it truly mattered.
Playing on Saturday when those rivals have to wait an extra day to take the field gave the ideal opportunity to stretch their lead and drive home a huge psychological advantage with just nine game remaining. Once again the team selection contained two surprises as Conte opted to include Simone Padoin and Federico Peluso, clearly looking to nullify the threat of a Bologna team who had won their three previous fixtures. That run included triumphs over Fiorentina and Inter with their narrow 4-2-3-1 formation proving extremely difficult to counter.
Fortunately for Juventus, they would address some of those concerns quickly. Beppe Marotta gave them a dream start when he rubbished the links to Ibrahimovic and, while those comments will most likely join Pavel Nedved’s in the land of grand misquotations, there was no such clarity on the field. The team was once again in misfire mode in the first half with a string of well worked chances giving rise to the ever popular “what I wouldn’t give for a striker” tweet.
In fact, the game only remained scoreless in the opening period thanks to a superb stop from Gigi Buffon when faced one-on-one with fellow World Cup Winner Alberto Gilardino. The former Parma and Milan striker did better just after the restart when his headed goal was disallowed for offside. The game descended into a fierce battle with bad tackles on both sides resulting in a number of bookings, Diego Perez lucky not to receive his second when fouling Peluso and Giorgio Chiellini within seconds of each other.
Then, shortly after an hour had passed on the clock, Mirko Vucinic showed up. A game which he had barely shown interest in was suddenly swung in the Bianconeri’s favour when he spun past Naldo and embarrassingly nicked the ball between Gianluca Curci’s legs to open the scoring. The Montenegrin wasn’t done there however as a few moments later he was unfortunate to see another shot narrowly miss the far post.
A few minutes later and he was back again, sealing the points as he worked a superb one-two with Claudio Marchisio who copied his team-mate’s earlier finish to ensure Curci will loathe nutmeg for months. With the result safe, Conte made three late subs to give rest to the tiring Sebastian Giovinco and Arturo Vidal while Vucinic came off for Matri who almost added a third goal in the dying minutes.
by Adam Digby
Gianluigi Buffon 8.0 - A brilliant performance from the captain, not only for his brilliance when faced with Gilardino but – with twelve shots conceded by the defence – he had to be at his best here and did not disappoint. He will face tougher tests as the season draws to a close but this kind of display will assure everyone that Buffon was be relied upon to make the big saves.
Andrea Barzagli 7.0 - Sometimes, writing these reports the words flow easily but, when it comes to Barzagli, I understand how Spanish writers must feel searching for fresh superlatives for Lionel Messi every week. Today I give someone else the floor: “Barzagli is an absolute treat to watch. Vintage Italian CB. Uncompromising, hard nosed, error-free all while being fair & elegant. Class.” -@Juventus_FC_fan
Leonardo Bonucci 7.0 - Very little to do in defence, he was once again acting almost as an auxiliary midfielder, joining the play to make some excellent passes from deep. His 119th appearance for the Bianconeri amazingly puts him one game ahead of Paolo De Ceglie despite the latter being in Turin since he was ten years old!
Giorgio Chiellini 6.5 -Aside from a block on Alessandro Diamanti’s follow up to the Gila v Gigi battle, the big defender had very little to do. Slowly seems to be recovering his form after the lengthy injury layoff, he is another who will be needed as the big games commence.
Simone Padoin 6.0 - Much like the team as a whole he was poor in the first half but improved after the break. Little to do in defence which perhaps made the decision to start him over Stephan Lichtsteiner or Mauricio Isla more puzzling. However, he was error free which means opting for him was vindicated.
Arturo Vidal 6.5 - Sunday’s La Stampa cruelly asks if the Chilean had been watching too much Six Nations rugby after watching him fire a number of shots over the crossbar here. Yet perhaps they would have been better served looking at his defensive work as he made a game high ten tackle and four interceptions to nullify
the Rossoblu midfield almost single-handedly.
’90 Fabio Quagliarella s.v. - No time to make an impact.
Andrea Pirlo 6.5 - Juventus in this match played the ball wide, bypassing the crowded central midfield area and rendering Pirlo’s greatest asset – his incredible passing – all but redundant, especially with Padoin and Peluso at wingback. The game appeared to pass him by and it would have made more sense, with the tactics Conte employed, to have gone with Pogba in his place.
Claudio Marchisio 7.0 - Like Pirlo, the game went by around him in an attacking sense for almost the entire ninety minutes. Yet, unlike his Azzurri team-mate, Marchisio possesses a mercury like ability to adapt to the circumstances around him and found both the time and space to pop up with the vital second goal.
Federico Peluso 6.0 - Has begun to forge a good understanding with Giovinco down the left, he was guilty of flying into a number of tackles and with Bergonzi refereeing, the yellow card was always going to be flashed.
Sebastian Giovinco 5.5 - Tried hard, perhaps too hard. With a defence as well-drilled as Bologna’s this game needed a striker able to provide a consistent threat with good finishing and *resists urge to say ‘came up short’ again* Giovinco failed to deliver.
’76 Paul Pogba 6.0 - Made a good impact to ensure there was no way back for Bologna.
Mirko Vucinic 7.5 - Amazing. Useless. Useless. Amazing. Loved. Hated. Loved. Is Mirko bi-polar?
’82 Alessandro Matri s.v. - No time to make an impact.
Antonio Conte 7.0 - Made his choices, kept the team focused on the task at hand and made changes to rest players once the result was sealed. Perhaps Pirlo should not have played, perhaps Lichtsteiner should have but with a twelve point lead and a place in the Champions League Quarter Final, who are we to doubt?
ANTONIO CONTE IL NOSTRO CAPITANO!
Bologna 0-2 Juventus – All Goals and full Highlights Video