Juventus has often struggled to start out the New Year in recent years, and under Conte it has been no different. Last year, the team racked up a decent amount of points despite playing poorly, a ugly 1-0 away win to the worst team in the division Lecce being the most notable. There of course was “that” Parma game under Delneri, that featured Felipe Melo’s groin stomp and Quagliarella’s ACL tear. (And a 4-1 loss!) This week’s match featured a battle against relegation battlers Sampdoria, in a hope to start out the New Year right. It certainly didn’t go as planned, however, as the Doriani managed to come back with 10 men and win 2-1 in Turin.
MATCH ANALYSIS (ESPN Soccernet)
Juventus missed the chance to reclaim an eight-point lead at the top of Serie A after suffering a shock home defeat to 10-man Sampdoria on Sunday.
Having finished 2012 with a record haul of 94 points, Juve boss Antonio Conte was backing a concerted bid to outstrip that achievement this year, and Sebastian Giovinco’s early penalty put his side on the right path. Juve’s task looked easier when Gaetano Berardi saw red for two first-half bookings but the numerical advantage did little to help the hosts, as Mauro Icardi leveled the scores shortly after the break.
Icardi completed his brace with what proved to be the winner, his sensational strike rattling the Bianconeri to condemn them to a second home defeat of the season, also earning Delio Rossi a first victory as Samp boss. And with second-placed Lazio beating Cagliari last night, Juventus now lead the standings by just five points ahead of a daunting trip to Parma.
Within minutes, Giovinco had a fine opportunity to kickstart Juventus’ bid for a record-breaking 2013, firing narrowly wide from Simone Padoin’s pinpoint cross. But home debutant Federico Peluso, recently signed from Atalanta, saw his blushes spared by goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon as Andrea Poli twisted past him with ease. Giovinco wriggled into good space once again, this time tapping the ball tamely against Sergio Romero on the turn, but the diminutive forward would make the breakthrough moments later.
Berardi up-ended Claudio Marchisio to earn his first yellow card of the day in the 24th minute and Giovinco coolly beat Romero from the spot. Berardi soon received his second booking and his marching orders for a late tackle on Leonardo Bonucci and Samp were seemingly up against it. Alessandro Matri’s appeals for a second penalty fell on deaf ears, though, and the visitors were not out of contention just yet.
And seven minutes after the break, Samp were level. Buffon was clearly at fault as Icardi attempted a straightforward punt on his left foot, with the ball sailing into the back of the net.
Andrea Barzagli’s ambitious effort from outside the box was lacking accuracy and Samp were starting to look the more inspired side. If Italy’s veteran goalkeeper had been found wanting for Icardi’s first goal, he could not be blamed for a screamer from the young striker as the Genoa side claimed a shock lead in the 69th minute.
Four minutes later, Mirko Vucinic rattled the crossbar before teeing up fellow substitute Fabio Quagliarella for an easy chance, which sailed wide. With all three of Juve’s replacements in action, the Italian champions were temporarily reduced to 10 men when Marchisio was forced onto the sidelines through injury in the 78th minute. In a rare display of insecurity from the league leaders, Juve retreated into their own half as time ticked away, with Marchisio’s brief return not enough to salvage a point for Conte’s men.
LE PAGELLE (by Aaron Giambattista)
Buffon 4.0 – An extraordinarily poor game from our #1. Completely at fault for the first goal, he made the save but failed to clear it from looping into the goal. While not at direct fault for the 2nd goal, it’s never good for a keeper to get beaten at his near post. A day to forget.
Barzagli 6.0 – The best of a bad group. He was the one defender who didn’t look completely clueless, although Andrea was unable to clean up for the others mistakes.
Bonucci 5.5 – Bit of a nervy match for Leo. Could have closed down Icardi for the first goal but was out of position. Booked deservedly and could have been sent off for a dive.
Peluso 4.0 – I could probably write an entire post on this. I had misgivings about Federico to begin with, but to throw him into a match after training one time seemed absurd. After all, here is a journeyman defender who made his Serie A debut at age 25. On the bench, we have a Copa America winner, a World Cup semi-finalist who has trained with the team for over a year who is only 25 years old. Someone needs to ask Conte why he picked Peluso over Caceres, and maybe that person should be Martin himself. As for the game? Peluso was terrible. Turned easily by Poli in the first half, failed to close down Icardi for both goals, and offered nothing in attack when pushed to LB. I’m not writing his Juve career off, but it was a big mistake from Conte to field him so early when he has an experienced center back already desperate for playing time.
Padoin 5.0 – Another one of Conte’s boys, and another start I don’t understand. Another pagelle website said that when Cassano said Juventus were full of “soldatini” while Bonucci doesn’t fall into that category, Padoin certainly does. Probably so, as I can’t fathom why he started. If Lichtsteiner is out, and we decided we were going to try and bring Isla back into form this year, why play Padoin? Or are we abandoning the idea of Isla at Juventus? Every single one of Padoin’s crosses was blocked, deflected, or in general, way too low to land in the box. Offered nothing in attack.
Pogba 5.5 – Paul Pogba has alternated between some good games and some great ones in his very young Juventus career, but today was neither. Never really imposed himself on the match and looked uninterested in a Tiago-esque way. His average play might not have infuriated Conte, but walking around the pitch indifferently certainly will.
71′ Giaccherini 5.5 – Sent on for some fresh legs in midfield, he did what he could but could not open up Sampdoria’s defense.
Pirlo 5.0 – Creative enough in the first half, but extraordinarily poor in the second half. His passing was off and created several opportunities for Sampdoria to hit quickly on the counterattack- and indeed, the first goal came directly from a very, very poor Pirlo pass. Looked like he was trying to thread it through the middle, but hit it directly to Krsticic who hit it long for Icardi to score. When Pirlo’s on his game, he’s deadly. Unfortunately for Juventus, that’s equally true when he’s off his game.
Marchisio 6.0 – In the last game before the Christmas break, I said this about Marchisio: “A good portion of the team looked like they were already on Christmas vacation, but il Principino never gives less than 100%.” Equally true against Sampdoria. Half of the team looked like they never returned from Christmas vacation, but Claudio battled hard all match. He was the one player who looked determined in the 2nd half, and gave everything he could. Went off due to cramping, came back on, stretched off due to a badly bruised knee. Thank God there was no ligament damage.
De Ceglie 5.0 – Got forward on occasion, but considering he was a left wingback, didn’t offer enough support to warrant a good rating. Had the better of Estigarribia in the first half, marginally, but not true of De Silvestri in the second. One or two of his crosses worked, which is a bit more than Padoin, but still did little other than stretch play.
Matri 5.5 – Had a legitimate shout for a penalty that would have seen Palombo sent off. Other than that, was rarely involved in play.
62′ Quagliarella 5.0 – Not a single shot in 30 minutes of play.
Giovinco 5.5 – An incredibly frustrating performance. In the first half, Giovinco was having his way with the Sampdoria defense and could’ve been our best player on the pitch. The second half was the complete opposite- his passing was off, he was beaten by Sampdoria’s defense time-and-time again. Needed to move positions or get subbed off.
62′ Vucinic 5.5 – Well, he was a bit more dangerous than the other players. Had two efforts on goal, one somehow ricocheted off the post from about 10 yards out, and the other went wide (admittedly in a difficult stretch) from about 2 yards out.
Conte 4.0 – This could possibly be Conte’s worst game as a coach – which is a good thing, considering this type of game happened time and time again under Delneri. With a man advantage for an hour, this should have been a landslide victory, but the team turned off, played casually, and looked shambolic in defense. For the first time in ages, I felt we were very prone to conceding after the first goal- the team looked mentally weak. Not to mention Conte’s arrogance in selecting Peluso immediately…
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP (by Aaron Giambattista)
To call that match a disappointment is an understatement. It would have been underwhelming if we lost, or if we’d lost against 10 men, but to do so while looking mentally weak was truly depressing. In recent years, we’ve always started the New Year off poorly, and it’s really hard to figure out why- there’s a break in momentum, but Sampdoria and all the other Italian clubs have that break too. The club didn’t travel to the Middle East or China, so there isn’t any kind of travel fatigue.
Thankfully, Marchisio and Bonucci appear to be fine so the only casualty of yesterday’s debacle is 3 points. In the long run, that defeat, as painful as it was, probably will not mean much as we still have a significant lead at the top of Serie A.
However, the real concern in yesterday’s match was the absence of Martin Caceres. He’s seen an increasingly smaller role at the club as the months have gone on, used less either as a wingback or centerback in the fall than he was last spring. With Chiellini out, it seems ideal- he’s played as a left-back for Uruguay, a center-back for various clubs, and yet, somehow he’s omitted from the lineup in favor of Federico Peluso.
The Uruguayan is young, talented, and immensely experienced at the highest levels for both club and country. It’d be a colossal mistake to let him go, and while there have not been any rumblings of a transfer, it would not surprise me if Caceres started reconsidering his future.
ANTONIO CONTE IL NOSTRO CAPITANO!
Juventus 1-2 Sampdoria Video: All 3 Goals Plus Full Highlights