Fresh off a demoralizing 2-0 defeat to Bayen Munich in Germany, Juventus faced last-placed Pescara at the Juventus Stadium in what seemed to be a routine affair. While the German giants sealed up the Bundesliga title with a 1-0 away win, the Bianconeri toiled away at home attempting to break down a determined defensive side whose goalkeeper pulled off miracle after miracle. [Sound familiar?] In the end, the Dolphins were beaten thanks to two goals from Mirko Vucinic…
MATCH ANALYSIS by Aaron Giambattista
A week ago, Juventus faced Inter at the Stadio San Siro in Milan. With a big match in Europe looming, Antonio Conte decided to field a full strength XI against the Nerazzurri. While his decision paid off for the solid 2-1 win, it may have caused some mental or physical fatigue for the starting XI who limped to a 2-0 defeat in midweek.
Juventus face Bayern in the return leg this coming Wednesday, with a mountain to overcome. Conveniently, Conte could call on changes as Juventus welcomed last-placed Pescara to the Juventus Stadium. If there was ever a game to practice wholescale rotation, this was it. And sure enough, it was a radically changed XI – there were players suspended for Wednesday who featured (Lichtsteiner, Vidal) and players absent through suspension who will be key on Wednesday. (Barzagli, Chiellini)
This match review could be copy-pasted from so many others this season. Juventus utterly dominated Pescara, but thanks to poor finishing and heroics from the opposing goalkeeper (Serie A veteran Ivan Pelizzoli) the team had to work hard and only late did the team finally break through. Juventus owned 63% of possession, sieged the Pescara goal with 31 shots, 13 of them on target, whereas Pescara only managed 4 shots with 2 of them on target. And like so many other games this season, while Juve’s opponents managed so few shots, one of those ended up being an absolute brilliant goal that the Bianconeri could do little about.
There was a stunning statistic from last season that opponents only had 4 minutes of possession in Juve’s half at the Juventus Stadium. This was like last year, as the entire first half was in Pescara’s half, clear evidence of the massive gap between the best team in Serie A and the worst. And yet, it was not over at half-time like Barcelona’s 4 goals scored in the first 40 minutes over last placed Mallorca.
Giaccherini, Quagliarella, and Vucinic all had good opportunities on goal in the first half, but were denied by Pelizzioli. In particular, Fabio Quagliarella looked eager to make the most of his surprising substitution, brought on after only 30 minutes because of Sebastian Giovinco‘s knee-to-knee injury. Quagliarella did well against Inter, had zero support against Bayern, and in keeping with Conte’s rotation, was benched due to one poor game.
The team went into the half rather frustrated, but with plenty of energy for the second half. The unconventional backline of Bonucci, Marrone, and Peluso had come under zero pressure and Storari had nothing to do.
The second half started much as the way the first half ended, with Juventus sieging the Pescara goal to no effect, and Pescara’s attackers completely suffocated out of the game. Sforzini tried Pescara’s first effort of the day from about 35 yards about, but it was a sign of desperation from the striker who had been working hard up top the entire first half.
The deadlock opened when Arturo Vidal was hauled down by Giuseppe Rizzo in the 72nd minute, and the referee showed Rizzo a straight red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. Juventus has had some issues with converting penalties this season, but Mirko Vucinic made no such mistake and buried the penalty to put Juventus up 1-0. The Montenegrin tore off his pants and waved them around his head, proudly displaying his Balkan balls and butt in the process of breaking the game open.
One goal wasn’t enough for Mirko – minutes later, he was played in by Arturo Vidal’s through ball, but was slightly offside and the goal was chalked off. But that didn’t last long, as Mirko casually skipped past two players and curled in an excellent goal to make it 2-0, and the game was sealed beyond doubt.
Or it should’ve been. 1-0 has been a fragile lead for the Bianconeri in the last few months, and apparently 2-0 isn’t terribly secure either. Pescara had a counter-attack in the 82nd minute and Emmanuel Cascione fired an absolutely brilliant left-footed shot from far out. There was absolutely nothing any goalkeeper in the world could’ve done to save that. Marco Storari hadn’t even had a save to make all game.
The last few minutes were fiesty, as Pescara sensed Juve were a bit shaken by the goal, and they poured forward on the counter-attack. Marco Storari was forced into his first save of the match, but the Delfini were unable to capitalize, and Juventus kept 3 points in a surprisingly tight scoreline.
LE PAGELLE by John Cascarano
Storari 6.5 - Had very little to do, and could do nothing to stop the goal. Did a good job to keep it 2-1 in the 90th.
Peluso 6.0 - Seems to be improving with every match, though I still don’t love seeing him at center back. I understand the situation today between suspensions, injuries, and need for rest, but wouldn’t it make sense to start integrating some of the young guys in these situations?
Marrone 6.0 - As always, filled the void in defense admirably when called upon. -0.5 for the mutton chops, Mr. Brown. Who the hell do you think you are?
Bonucci 6.5 - Slotted over to the right side in place of Barzagli, and, like the rest of the back line, and did everything right. The undisputed leader of the defense.
’81 Isla s.v. - Received some much needed minutes, perhaps to shake off some rust in order to be ready for Wednesday. LOL who am I kidding, it won’t be him (or even Caceres) starting in lieu of Lichtsteiner during the second leg. #ConteIsTeamPadoin
Asamoah 6.5 - Looked like he was causing trouble on the left side like pre-AFCON, with strong runs at the defenders. Had a couple of sloppy moments, but overall an improved performance for Kwadwo. Oh wait, he was playing against Pescara…
Giaccherini 5.5 - I’ve always liked Giacch, but lately he’s been driving me completely crazy. Always seems to take that one (or two, or three) dribble(s) too many, and makes Vucinic look like Ronaldo as a finisher. Please play him as a left winger or something.
Pogba 6.0 - Played in the Pirlo role today, and did so well enough despite it not being his strongest spot IMO. Chose his passes and picked his men well. Still managed a strong run or two with the ball.
Vidal 6.5 - The only regular midfielder on the pitch today, King Arthur did what he always does. He will be missed on Wednesday.
Lichtsteiner 7.5 - Another Gaping hole in the lineup on Wednesday, Lichtsteiner was by far the best player on the pitch during the first half. Was a bit more quiet in the second, but still kept control of the right flank, constantly trying to sneak low passes into the center.
Giovinco 6.0 - Almost scored a golazzo early on, and was unfortunate to get hurt with less than a half hour played. That knee-on-knee collision looked painful, and Seba definitely seemed to feel it right away. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.
’32 Quagliarella 6.5 - Did the Quagliarella thing and was unfortunate not to score a typical QUagliarella goal on a handful of occasions.
Vucinic 7.0 - Typical performance in which Mirko began the match driving me absolutely mad, but ended it with an arguable MOTM performance. Missed a couple of opportunities early on, and at 50’ a golden opportunity to make it 1-0. Eventually did so on a penalty, but only because a sluggish Juventus was fortunate enough to earn a penalty off of a grave lack of concentration by Giuseppe Rizzo. Matri made sure his brace counted.
’79 Matri s.v. - Came on for Vucinic and did little else besides lose ball which lead to Pescara’s consolation (and man-down!) goal.
Conte 7.0 - Took a visibly lackluster team reeling off a difficult, disheartening midweek defeat, riddled with second choice starters – and was able to grind out a result from his lads.
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP by Aaron Giambattista
There was a lot of rotation against Pescara, and it paid off. A very hodgepodge XI came together and frankly, gave a performance that the best XI would probably still have done- they were utterly dominant, only frustrated by some unlucky finishing and one of the goalkeeping performances of the season by Pelizzoli.
On a weekend when Bayern Munich sealed their 23rd German league table, Juventus was able to rotate a fair amount and still pick up a win. The only two players who were on the pitch and are likely to feature heavily on Wednesday were Mirko Vucinic and Paul Pogba. The former was given a few minutes break at the end, and the latter’s energy and youth means he’ll be ready for the Bavarians.
This is a huge few weeks span for Juventus. They’ve faced Inter, then Bayern Munich, then Pescara, and the team has yet to play Bayern again, Lazio, Torino and Milan. Pescara was and will be a footnote in this period, but additional proof that this team’s depth can step forward when called upon.
Juventus 2-1 Pescara – All Goals and Full Highlights Video