It was the day we were all waiting for: the Bianconeri’s first home match in the UEFA Champions League and more importantly, the Juventus Stadium’s maiden European debut! Everything was ready; the team had come from an impressive 4-1 over Roma at the week-end, Conte/Carrera had their full troops at their disposal, and the only thing standing in Juve’s way were Shakhtar Donetsk, Ukrainian Premier League champions and sporting an incredible domestic 19-game winning streak. As the match kicked off, it became rapidly obvious that the Ukrainian side would be no pushovers tonight. Aaron & Marco bring you the mid-week action report of a frustratingly difficult match.
MATCH ANALYSIS (by Aaron Giambattista)
Before kick off, things had already started on a negative tone for the Bianconeri. While Juventus Stadium has been sold out for nearly every Serie A match so far, tonight there were empty pockets here and there. Giorgio Chiellini and Mirko Vucinic made public pleas for fans to flock to the game, but the remaining tickets — owned by 3rd party “investors” — were simply priced too high for Juventus fans. Management’s calculation that, given the historic nature of this match, fans would pay a correspondingly high amount proved to be a wrong one, and the result was a disappointingly quiet atmosphere from both curvas. A factor which, as Bonucci would note in his post-match conference, the players certainly noticed.
As mentioned, Shakhtar did not come to Turin to act as lambs to be slaughtered, and for much of the first half the Bianconeri were a bit surprised at their opponents’ ostentatiously fearless attitude. The Ukrainians started the match very much playing to their style: with passing and creativity in midfield, which Juve (Vidal in particular) struggled to shut down. In addition Shakhtar’s wing-backs (Srna and Rat) bombed down the flanks, preventing Lichtsteiner and Asamoah from carrying out any meaningful forward incursions and also causing them considerable issues in defense.
After 23 minutes, Shakhtar opened the score. Attacking midfielder Willian (tonight’s man-of-the-match) took a shot on goal, which was blocked, and then showed great poise to calmly collect the rebound and slip it to Alex Teixeira on the right. The young Brazilian fired it over Bonucci’s diving challenge straight into the top-right corner, Buffon was left helpless and unable to get a hand to it.
Just like against Chelsea, where the team didn’t look rattled and rapidly looked for an equalizer after going down, Juventus dug back into it. Matri obtained a shot that was charged down by young Ukrainian CB Yaroslav Rakitskiy. A few minutes later in the 26t, Pirlo’s corner was delivered straight to the edge of the box on the ground. Leonardo Bonucci hit the rolling ball first-time, firing a powerful yet accurate shot that soared into the top corner. A truly impressive finish for any player, but especially for a center-back.
Finally sparked to life by the goal, Juventus obtained some more decent chances before the half. Matri and Bonucci had good efforts on goal, but saves from the keeper and a goal-line clearance denied the Bianconeri, who thus went into the break tied 1-1. Not a bad result considering the undeniable quality of this Shakhtar team, but not a great one either.
The Ukrainians looked a bit complacent starting in the second half, and Juve gradually started to find their groove, earning a bit of possession with Vidal and Marchisio becoming more influential. Matri and Vucinic were both withdrawn in the first 20 minutes (in favor of Quagliarella and Giovinco respectively) to inject more freshness into the Bianconeri attack, a change which initially seemed to produce an immediate effect with Super-Seba roaming forward and creating danger (one of his crosses was superbly delivered to Matri who, before coming off, was unable to do better than touching the ball over the crossbar).
As Lichtsteiner burst in the box and delivered a great central ball, on which neither Marchisio nor Giovinco were able to apply a finishing touch, it seemed Juve had the cards necessary to perhaps even win this match. It was an illusion however, as with both teams starting to show signs of fatigue, it would be Shakhtar who would grab control in the final 15 minutes. Obtaining dangerous scoring chances through Raț (deflected free kick that called Buffon into action), Mkhitaryan (shot wide after a roaming dribble past Bonucci & Chiellini) and Willian (cracking short-range shot on the crossbar after yet another storming run), one can honestly wonder how the Pitmen could not do better than a 1-1 draw this evening.
Full-time was called, leaving Juventus with 2 points after as many matches in the club’s return to Europe’s top-tier competition. A disappointing evening, both for the stadium atmosphere and the result on the pitch, but one which also showed why Shakhtar have been a constant presence in the UCL in recent years.
LE PAGELLE (by Marco Pantanella)
Buffon 6.5 – Couldn’t do much on Alex Teixeira’s short-range howitzer, but had a very important save to make on Raț’s free kick. Gigi sprung well to keep the ball out.
Barzagli 5.5 – Really struggled to keep up with Willian on his side, as the Brazilian truly had a man-of-the-match performance tonight. Had a nice highlight though when he stormed forward, shielded the ball from a couple of Shakhtar players, and sent a good through ball for Quagliarella which alas, was intercepted.
Bonucci 6.5 – Gets an extra +1.0 for the truly marvelous (and extremely difficult moving backwards) goal he scored to tie the game. But he too suffered quite a bit in that defensive backline, constantly bamboozled by Willian’s technical skills and Mkhitaryan’s shrewd tactical movements off the ball.
Chiellini 5 – Much like his teammates, struggled a lot with the Shakhtar players’ exuberance. Got beat rather clumsily on the play that eventually lead to his booking and Rat’s very dangerous free kick.
Lichtsteiner 5.5 – It was “hot & cold” for Stephan today. On the one hand the Swiss right-back suffered a lot to contain Shakhtar defensively, on the other he had a few highlights of note through his customary wing penetrations. One in particular comes to mind, where he narrowly missed the cross to Marchisio after a lovely dribble inside the area. But need we even say it? He was MASSIVELY lucky the referee did not see (or chose to ignore) his penalty-box tug on Willian in the 1st half…
Vidal 5 – Too many lost balls, not enough of them recovered. Not Arturo’s best day, by far.
(85′) Pogba s.v.
Pirlo 6 – Had a few moments of passing greatness (1st-half aerial ball for Marchisio springs to mind, as well as the rolling CK for Bonucci, obviously). But when Juve needed their artist most, desperately waiting for a stroke of genius in the 2nd half, Pirlo’s brush remained disappointingly dry.
Marchisio 6.5 – The best of the Juve lot. Always running, looking for offensive solutions, coming back to offer support to his teammates.
Asamoah 6 – When Asa accelerated & provoked Srna one-on-one, Juve obtained a decent amount of space (and dangerous crosses) on that left wing, especially towards the end of the first half. Spent most of the 2nd period covering Chiellini in defense however.
Matri 5.5 – I wasn’t much in favor of Ale32 starting today, but I gotta say he performed better than I expected. That is not to say that he performed WELL: the Shakhtar defenders were practically glued to his back, preventing him to turn or do any kind of flick-and-run motions. But he did obtain a few chances, using them as best he could in certain cases (the touch & turn inside the box followed by a deflected shot) and giving his fans hair-pulling moments in others (the touch over the crossbar on that low Giovinco cross).
(65′) Quagliarella 5 – Much like Vucinic (see below), wasted most of the (few) balls coming his way. It’s sad to say this, but it looks like Eta Beta‘s fire (which ignited after the great Chelsea & Chievo performances) has already burned out.
Vucinic 5 – A bad game for Mirko who, after Roma, also seemed visibly tired. Controlled the ball poorly and gave away a considerable amount of passes (too many), suffocated as he was by the close man-marking of the Shakhtar backline.
(58′) Giovinco 5.5. – A step above Vucinic, but not by much. It looked — initially — as if the Atomic Ant’s arrival had finally brought the spark the Juventus attack needed, but after a few decent runs even Seba’s plays disappeared into the Turin night.
Conte/Carrera 5.5 – Not much we can blame the coaches for on this one, to be honest. Motivating the team more? Leaving Matri on a little bit longer, Vidal a little bit less? Someone on Twitter suggested that perhaps with Conte on the bench, the fans’ “silent protest” would not have lasted very long. A fair point, but we can only wonder…
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP (by Aaron Giambattista)
The Juventus Stadium’s debut to the UEFA Champions League was certainly an underwhelming adventure. Shakthar Donetsk arrived and played without fear, surprising the Old Lady. Their midfield & fullbacks battled and overwhelmed ours, and their strikers looked sharper than any of the four different Bianconeri who featured up in attack this evening.
The 0-0 draw vs. Fiorentina brought up a lot of criticism against Juventus, an example of a match where the opponent simply played a great game and deserves credit. Likewise, Shakhtar played excellent today, but sadly it seemed they were more up for the match than the Bianconeri, and for that to occur at HOME on such an important day is depressing.
The rotation of our strikers has thus far worked well in Serie A: Vucinic, Giovinco, Quagliarella, and Matri have all shown flashes of excellence, Seba demonstrating an eye for goal vs. Udinese and Roma, while Ale32 and Eta Beta have hinted at a return to their former form.
However, there’s certainly something to be said for an established lineup. No one has particularly staked a claim to it, but surely the constant rotation between Giovinco, Matri, and Quagliarella does help in providing a consistent run of games. Whether Juventus can afford to give any of them that kind of run-out is another debate.
All in all, draws away against great teams is an acceptable result. But the Juventus Stadium is supposed to be our fortress: we must win there. And more importantly SUPPORT the team, even when ticket prices dampen our enthusiasm.
|GOALSCORERS: 23′ A.Teixeira (S), 25′ Bonucci (J)
|JUVENTUS (3-5-2): Buffon – Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini – Lichtsteiner, Vidal (85′ Pogba), Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah – Matri (65′ Quagliarella), Vucinic (58′ Giovinco). COACH: Carrera.
(UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Storari, Lúcio, Cáceres, Giaccherini)
| SHAKHTAR (4-2-3-1): Pyatov – Srna, Kucher, Rakitskiy, Rat – Fernandinho, Hubschman – Alex Teixeira (84′ Ilsinho), Mikhtaryan, Willian – Luiz Adriano. COACH: Lucescu.
(UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Kanibolotskiy, Stepanenko, Shevchuk, Kobin, Gai, Eduardo)