The eyes of Juventini worldwide were on the team on Wednesday night, looking for a positive reaction after seeing the incredible unbeaten run of Antonio Conte’s men come to a crashing halt in Saturday’s defeat to you-know-who. Here’s Lars and Adam with the review.
MATCH ANALYSIS (by Adam Digby)
Just as one streak was brought to an abrupt end at the hands of *them*, it was most certainly time to bring Juve’s other record setting run to a close and, for the first time since August 2010 taste victory in a continental tie. Indeed, since seeing Gigi Delneri lead the side to a win over Sturm Graz two years ago, the Bianconeri had tied nine consecutive European games, drawing against a variety of opponents.
Yet the worst of those was the last, the unconvincing, apathetic and frankly embarrassing performance against FC Nordsjaelland two weeks ago that ended 1-1, a draw that highlighted more than any other game the complacency that had begun to set in at the club. It was imperative that the team answered those accusations and the team selected by Antonio Conte against the Danish Champions told us much about how seriously this match was being taken.
Here there would be no rotation, no room for sentiment and no resting of players as the Coach picked – with the exception of the injured Mirko Vucinic – what is perhaps his strongest eleven, building around the core of Gigi Buffon, the usual three defenders and of course the M-V-P midfield. Kwadwo Asamoah resumed his role on the left while Mauricio Isla took over from the struggling Stephan Lichsteiner on the right. True to Angelo Alessio’s word at the pre-match press conference, Alessandro Matri started in attack, selected alongside Sebastian Giovinco as the Bianconeri looked to control the game from the outset.
They would do just that, Claudio Marchisio making a wonderfully timed run to get onto Isla’s low cross following a great pass from Andrea Pirlo and Juventus would never look back, Arturo Vidal next on the score-sheet, actually managing to tackle the ball into the net after seeing his first effort partially blocked. The performance of those two – as well as Pirlo who appeared back to his best after a number of sub-par showings – was no doubt inspired by the recent form of Paul Pogba as the young Frenchman has made a brilliant start to his Juve career and is already pressing hard for increased playing time.
Pirlo would go on to set up another first half goal, his wonderful ball drawing an equally sublime finish from the previously wasteful Giovinco as the striker joined former Primavera team-mate Marchisio as both surprisingly recorded their first European goals on the same night. Nordsjaelland looked stunned as Conte’s men strangled the life out of their usually neat possession based game, denying them a single shot on goal during a first half which could and perhaps should have finished even more one-sided than that three goal margin.
The second forty-five minutes was more of a display of strength, Juventus still creating chances but taking a leaf from Barcelona’s book and using ball retention as the best form of defence. Buffon made his first real contribution with a save in the 64th minute but substitute Fabio Quagliarella added a forth goal from a Pirlo corner to give the score line a more convincing look.
LE PAGELLE (by Lars Aabjerg Pedersen)
Buffon 6.0 – Saved the only shot that came his way in a game so utterly dominated by the Bianconeri that the rest of the pagelle should be taken with a pinch of salt… Even so, that was about time in a European fixture!
Barzagli 6.5 – The rock at the back, never really tested, but well and truly back on song and very competent when called upon. I think I might be in love with big old Andrea.
Bonucci: 7.0 - Impeccable on a cheap backdrop defensively, relishing the space he was offered going forward, 100% success-rate in aerial duels!
Chiellini: 6.0 – Tireless and imposing, yet the only defender to be wobbly on occasion tonight. Subbed off for Lúcio to get a bit of rest / make the Brazilian happy.
Lúcio S.V. – Came on for Chiellini, made one fine tackle, a nice luxury sub, who may want more playing time come January. We’ll live…
Isla 7.0 - His best performance so far in a Juve-jersey. Lively on his right flank and hardly ever troubled defensively. A wonderful assist for Marchisio’s opener.
Marchisio: 7.5 - A brilliant display by Il Principino, tidy cleaning up and extremely well positioned on his forward runs. Could have had a goal or two more tonight given his wonderful knack at being at the right place at the right time. My Man of the Match.
Pirlo: 7.5 – When you allow Pirlo space, this is what you get! Fended off most of FCN’s half-hearted attempts to stop him and offered one brilliant pass after another. Enough with the Pirlo-don’t-do-midweeks already!
Vidal 7.0 – Bossed the midfield with re-found swagger, tackled in a goal and was an all round joy to watch until subbed off.
Pogba 6.0 - Did enough to ensure that Vidal wasn’t missed, but not too much more in a game that was already settled.
Asamoah: 6.5 - Dealt with the little he had to defensively and caused some havoc going forward. Might want to pass a bit more instead of always taking on the defenders, but that is just a random thought.
Giovinco: 7.0 – A fine display from the little man, crowned by a well-taken finish for the third goal. Showed he can play at this level, even if he still needs to prove it against the real big boys. Finishes like the one today go far, though.
Quagliarella 6.5 – Not tearing up the place, but at hand to do what Matri couldn’t with an easy header after an assist by the aforementioned. Slowly winning his place, one imagines… It’s almost as if Quags has stopped being the Spectacular One because what we really need is the Clinical One, well done!
Matri 5.0 – One can only feel sorry for Ale. He tries so hard, creates chances for himself, and even hit the cross-bar on a header. But several woeful misses will see him bottom of the pecking order still. Plus .5 for the assist for Quags.
Conte/Alessio 7.5 – Now that’s more like it! Albeit against a weak opponent, the Mister(s) finally showed the world what this team is actually capable of. Some serious high and relentless pressing ensured that this game was over at half time. In the words of Nordsjælland captain Stokholm post-match: “Juve played us out of the park in the first half and deservedly lead by three goals at the interval.” The tempo was slower in the second, but Juve never went close to losing control. If only this grinta and determination had been present early on in Copenhagen, the group would have looked much more pleasant by now…
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP (by Adam Digby)
Of course it is easy to say – as many have already – that this was ‘only Nordsjaelland’ and we should not get carried away but, as has already been said, it was vital. Juventus not only reacted well to Saturday’s defeat but also took all three points before the difficult final two games of the Group Stage. This win means qualification is back in the hands of the Bianconeri and, with such a low seeding, that is the best possible outcome of such a tie.
There are many positive to take from the game, not least seeing the team finally return to the proactive and energised style which have so typified Conte’s time in charge. They only managed 52% possession but recorded more tackles, more interceptions and a better pass completion rate than their opponents, with the midfield display particularly impressive. Marchisio especially looked back to his best, adding seven tackles, five interceptions and a 90% pass success rate to his goal while Leo Bonucci made a season high 102 passes, free of the man-to-man marking which slowed him so badly at the weekend.
It might not have been a victory at the Bernabeu or Old Trafford, but a home win over such an opponent is what Juventus, this Juventus, should be doing with the consummate ease displayed here. But the key point is the difference in mindset compared to the previous encounter with Nordsjaelland. Whereas the Bianconeri expected to win that game, they appeared determined to earn this triumph and that is, precisely, how it should be!
Juventus vs Nordsjaelland all four goals scored at Juventus Stadium.