Complete domination in Serie A, eating humble pie in Europe. That is the tale of Juventus so far this season, with the Old Lady unable to do any better than a 1-1 draw against a resolute Nordsjælland side Tuesday evening (and only achieving this result in the last 10 minutes of the match). Conte’s playoff hopes in Group E keep on getting more complicated while the team’s European “draw-itis” continues, bringing Juve’s streak of consecutive draws in continental competitions to 9! The adage “it’s useless to be undefeated when your opponents have more points that you” rears its ugly head again…
MATCH ANALYSIS (by Marco Pantanella)
Nordsjælland, as mentioned in our match preview, may lack European experience but play an organized, determined, and offensive style of football focused on passing and ball possession. Galvanized by their home crowd, the Danes started the match with a lively pace and positive mentality, trying to exploit their wings and find breaches in the Bianconeri defense (through the left side in particular, dominated by Mtiliga and John). The first 15 minutes thus went by with very little to note, with Juventus (and particularly Vidal and wing-backs De Ceglie & Isla, who replaced absentees Asamoah and Lichtsteiner) leaving much to be desired.
Around the 20th minute mark Pirlo finally took the reins of the game, offering a few of his trademarks pearls of passing, which neither Giovinco (lively but insufficiently incisive) nor Matri (always making his run a moment too soon) could properly exploit. Juventus started to gradually reduce their opponents’ zone of operation, but not before getting the biggest scare of the half after a long aerial drive towards Joshua John — slipping behind Bonucci and Lúcio — put the Dutch winger one-on-one with Buffon. Fortunately Gigi’s risky, but ultimately decisive rush prevented an early goal against Juve, with the Azzurri keeper chest-blocking the ball outside of his box under referee Ayketin’s attentive eye.
On the opposite end, Giovinco obtained the best shooting chance he would have all evening. Exploiting a good Matri delivery, Super-Seba chested the ball down, and accelerated past an out-rushing Hansen, only to deliver the ball on the outside part of the mesh with the goal at his mercy (the angle was difficult). At the half-time break, Juventus had conceded the advantage of ball possession to Nordsjælland but spent slightly more time in their opponent’s offensive third, as exemplified by their 7 corner-kicks vs. 3. Disappointing for the visitors, but with still 45 minutes left to rectify the situation.
After the break, Juventus resumed things where they left off: in Nordsjælland’s half. The Danish champions, aware of their opponents’ superior technique, patiently contained the Old Lady. Waiting. Lurking. Ready to pounce on the first Juve mistake. Which promptly arrived. In the 51st minute, an idiotic backpass from Paolo De Ceglie was followed by an equally inept foul by Giorgio Chiellini, who needlessly brought down Andreas Laudrup just outside his box. Andreas who by the way — up until then — had shown to have the Ladrup pedigree only in name, possessing neither the verve of Brian nor the inventiveness of daddy Michael.
It was all Nordsjælland needed to make it count. With the best Pirlo impersonation one could have expected fom a Danish player this evening, Mikkel Beckmann delivered a perfect curling free kick towards the top-right corner. Buffon could only touch it. 1-0 Nordsjælland, with the entire Parken Stadium throbbing in jubilation (save for a very surprised and disappointed Juventus supporters section).
What ensued was a long Juventus siege, in which Conte’s team collected no fewer than 18 corners and 30 shooting attempts (15 on target), but which exalted the spirit of sacrifice of Kasper Hjulmand’s troops, particularly center-backs Okore and Runje and an absolutely monumental Hansen in net (who, for all him being a Juventus fan, made his childhood team’s evening extremely difficult). Nearly every shot attempted by the Bianconeri was either saved by the Danish keeper, or found the opposition of an opposing defender entrenched into his box.
With Vidal having an off day, Pirlo’s passes getting predictable, and Matri and Giovinco running around with very little effect, it was time for Juve to make some changes. Fans called for Pogba. They saw Giaccherini instead, but not before Vucinic and Bendtner and stepped in for Matri and Lúcio, turning the Bianconeri into a 3-4-3 offensive assault force. De Ceglie and Isla multiplied their efforts on the wing, especially the former (trying to atone for his mistake), yet deliverance (so-to-speak) would arrive from the latter. Finally getting an effective cross in, the Chilean served up a perfect ball for Mirko Vucinic‘s accurate instep finish past Hansen. 1-1. At last.
Conte’s boys continued to push forward. A De Ceglie cross served Nicklas Bendtner with the opportunity to turn into his team’s saviour, but the forward’s header was wide of the mark. The Bianconeri’s last few desperate attempts were cleared by the Danish defense. Full time. 1-1. The football Gods had decided Juve had simply not done enough to merit a win tonight, and frankly, we are inclined to agree…
LE PAGELLE (by Aaron Giambattista)
Buffon 6 – A bit of a strange match from San Gigi. Saved the team’s ass on more than one occasion, but also left his line uncharacteristically poor. That was a very tough goal to save (Buffon called it impossible) but perhaps while no ordinary man could have made that save, Superman could’ve.
Lúcio 5 – Simply a step too slow on a number of occasions. After a great match played against Chievo, he returned to the starting lineup but in very different fashion. Did not guarantee the flank at all.
(76′) Bendtner s.v. Desperate for playing time, the big Dane was granted a spot on the bench perhaps largely due to his status as a “hero” back in Denmark. Came on, had a good chance and looked better than Matri, but didn’t light up the pitch.
Bonucci 6.5 – The only guarantee in defense. Wasn’t particularly troubled by the Nordsjælland attack and occasionally cleaned up for Lucio and Chiello’s mess.
Chiellini 5 – Full of physicality and grinta, but perhaps needed to play calmer. Didn’t contain his area of the pitch as usual. His unnecessary foul (put in a tough spot by Paolino) led to the goal.
Isla 5.5 – From experience with Quagliarella (and long ago, ADP) Juventus fans are well aware it takes a while to recover from an ACL injury. Beyond the actual physical healing time, it takes a long time before players feel comfortable on the pitch and get into some degree of form. Isla isn’t yet- we have not seen the Udinese Isla at all, who was probably a better player than even Asamoah. His assist was the only note of the night, otherwise, his offensive output was worthless. Defensively secure, for the most part.
Vidal 5 – It continues to be a month of difficulties for Re Arturo, who has struggled badly since the Chelsea match. Looks tired and irritable. Vidal right now is unable to control the midfield and prone to poor fouls. Needs a break, if not for physical reasons, then surely for mental ones.
(83′) Giaccherini s.v. Sent on in the last few minutes to try and connect midfield and attack. Not much of note.
Pirlo 6 – Andrea’s successful passing rate was a mediocre 77%, poorer than his midfield compatriots Marchisio and Vidal, though he did pass a bit more than the other two. Had a few illuminating passes but a bit of a subdued night for il Maestro.
Marchisio 5.5 – Took a hard blow early on, and that seemed to affect him physically for much of the match. Lost a significant amount of balls in midfield and wasn’t able to penetrate the box well.
De Ceglie 5.5 – Too much time out of the starting XI has seen Paolino’s performances slip back to his “old” self- great in attack, delivering different types of teasing crosses, but far from assured in defense. Was beaten off the ball and didn’t look comfortable in coverage. A disappointing performance.
Matri 5 – It’s not a question of whether Matri is in an epic slump or not, but rather how/if we can get him out of it. Looks like a shadow of the player he was last fall, where he had a great eye for goal and contributed well in the build up play. Was unable to hold onto the ball and never looked like he knew how to score. Depressingly wasted another shot at a starting spot.
(67′) Vucinic 6.5 – I’ve been plenty critical of Mirko in the past (and present) but he is scoring on a more consistent basis than last fall. It doesn’t matter whether they are pretty or ugly goals, the other strikers don’t look like scoring. Rescued Juventus.
Giovinco 6.5 – Had the most amount of shots in the game, the most shots on target, the 2nd most key passes (after Pirlo), and a fair amount of lost balls and dispossessions, all statistics that show how involved Giovinco was. Did everything right, much as he did against Napoli, except scoring. I think the goals will come, he showed an eye for it while at Parma, Conte just needs to keep believing in the Atomic Ant.
Conte/Alessio 5 – The team did not appear mentally prepared for this match, and the substitutions came far too late. A disappointing draw in Europe. Again.
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP (by Aaron Giambattista)
This draw is not the fault of any one players performance. Matri looked depressingly poor, Isla/PDC were shadows of Lichtsteiner/Asamoah on the flanks, Buffon didn’t look secure, Vidal played tired, and Pirlo wasn’t terribly inspired. Collectively, it was a team failure, and one we saw against Shakthar. Credit to Nordsjaelland for playing a fine match, but Juventus simply is not playing up to grade in Europe thus far. This is completely different from the team mentality in Serie A. And it’s hard to think of a concrete reason why.
It wasn’t a completely terrible performance. Unlike today’s Arsenal match, where the London-based club struggled to get any kind of shots or shots on target, Juventus rained in 33 shots, 9 of them on target, and got one measly goal out of the whole affair. But not all shots are alike. Nordsjaelland defended well, but Juve’s tactical positioning failed to cut the team incisively. It may have been a situation where the 4-3-3 could’ve been more effective in drawing the defense wide and allowing for Marchisio and Vidal’s forward runs.
Under Gigi Delneri, the club looked painfully casual in the Europa League. It was a second priority, and everyone knew it, it was a secondary European competition and no one cared about the results. The performances in the Champion’s League have likewise been disappointing, despite the higher level of prestige. Perhaps the coaching is partially to blame as well- by rotating in secondary players like De Ceglie, Lucio, Isla, and Matri, maybe the coaching staff had an overly relaxed view in taking on minnows Nordsjaelland.
3 draws in a row was certainly not what we hoped for in a return to the Champion’s League. These three ties, added onto Delneri’s stunning 6 draws in a row in the Europa League group stage, means Juventus have tied in 9 consecutive European ties. It was already a record at 8, a record not to be proud of, and we have extended it. And yet, the team still can qualify for the next round of the Champion’s League.
A win at home against both Chelsea and Nordsjaelland, followed with a draw/win away at Shakthar means the Old Lady would taste knockout Champion’s League football for the first time since the Claudio Ranieri era. As we like to say here at JuventiKnows- it ain’t over till the Old Lady sings.
|GOALSCORERS: 5′ Beckmann (N), 81′ Vucinic (J)
|NORDSJÆLLAND (4-2-3-1) Hansen – Parkhurst, Okore, Runje, Mtiliga – E.Adu, Stokholm – Lorentzen (88′ A.Christensen), Laudrup (70′ S.Christiansen), John – Beckmann (67′ Nordstrand). COACH: Hjulmand.
(UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Villadsen, Gundelach, Ticinovic, Petry)
| JUVENTUS (3-5-2): Buffon – Lúcio (76′ Bendtner), Bonucci, Chiellini – Isla, Vidal (83′ Giaccherini), Pirlo, Marchisio, De Ceglie – Matri (67′ Vucinic), Giovinco. COACH: Alessio.
(UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Storari, Cáceres, Pogba, Marrone)