For the second time in a week, Juventus came back from behind in an intense away match as the Old Lady traveled to London to take on European Champions Chelsea FC. It was both clubs’ first UEFA Champions League group stage match of the season, and the Bianconeri’s nerves & relative European inexperience (Buffon & Pirlo have more UCL matches than all their teammates combined) showed at first. However like against Genoa, the team progressively grew into the match. Excellent performances from Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio ensured a draw for the Italian champions, having gone down 2-0 to two goals from Brazilian wunderkid Oscar.
MATCH ANALYSIS (by Aaron Giambattista)
Blues and Bianconeri came into Wednesday’s fixture with very different recent Champions League records. The Londoners became the first London-based club to win it last year, following 9 consecutive years successfully qualifying for the knockout stage. Juventus however had been missing the past two seasons, and their last knockout match had been precisely against Chelsea three and a half years ago. In that time frame, the Bianconeri had an aborted Champions League campaign (we all remember Bayern), an incredibly underwhelming Europa League campaign (we all remember Fulham), and finally, exclusion from all European tournaments for the first time in over 20 years.
The opening of the match showed the stark difference in recent European histories. Chelsea looked calm, composed, battling for possession and controlling the midfield. Juventus on the other hand, with a host of Champions League debutants (Bonucci, Quagliarella, Matri, and Vidal made their competition debut; Asamoah, Barzagli, Lichsteiner, Giovinco, and Marchisio count very few UCL caps) looked nervous, despite vast international experience. The team’s passing was off, it was sloppy, it was nervous, and the first half hour hinted at a very long night ahead.
Indeed, it was just after a half hour that Chelsea struck. Juventus had threatened through Mirko Vucinic, but the Old Lady still looked rattled by the event (though certainly not their fans, as 3,000 Juventus tifosi consistently outsung the rest of the Stamford Bridge supporters) Brazilian midfielder Oscar picked up a ball outside of the box and slammed it towards net. It took a massive deflection off Leonardo Bonucci, and Buffon was helpless to save the goal. The Chelsea fans rose to their feet, and Juventus looked far from comfortable.
It only got worse two minutes later: Oscar was again played just outside of the box. The young Brazilian took a neat first touch, turned, and fired a brilliant curler into the top-right corner — reminiscent of a certain Alessandro Del Piero — on which Buffon could do absolutely nothing. It was like watching Juventus go down 2-0 to Napoli last Fall: a fortunate goal from Pandev followed by a great one seemed to have the Old Lady completely rattled.
The Napoli match was the first time we genuinely saw the Juventus grinta rear itself into action under Antonio Conte. In previous years, going 2-0 down away from home meant the worst was yet to come, but not this time: the team dug in, without changing the formation or personnel drastically, and fought back. Just like they did Wednesday night.
Indeed, only minutes after Oscar’s incredible goal, Arturo Vidal, off the pitch for the Brazilian’s brace due to a calf injury, scored a great goal on one leg. The Chilean collected the ball at the top of the 18 yard box, shifted left, and fired an angled drive into the bottom right corner. Still suffering from the injury, Capitan Uncino grimaced in pain “in celebration” of the goal. But it was 2-1: game on.
Juventus and Chelsea both had decent opportunities at the half: Buffon made a few good saves, and on the other end, Juve’s passing was just slightly off to allow Chelsea’s defense to smother any efforts on goal. The first period ended with an Andrea Pirlo free kick rising over the wall, dipping to the left, and landing wide.
The second half was much improved for Juve. Buffon was called into action early, palming away an Ivanovic long-range effort, but the defense looked much more comfortable overall. With roughly 15 minutes to go, Juventus (imitated by Chelsea) made like-for-like swaps: Quagliarella and Isla came on, Lichtsteiner and Giovinco came off.
Despite the presence of tricky players like Mata and Hazard, Chelsea were unable to further break down the Bianconeri’s defense. Before he came off, Lichtsteiner had done a fantastic job containing his former Lille teammate, while Isla stuck primarily to defensive duties in his brief Juventus debut.
The home side’s defensive shakiness would be fully exposed however. John Obi Mikel gave the ball away carelessly in midfield, and stood watching as Claudio Marchisio advanced up the pitch. John Terry mistimed the offside trap, letting Fabio Quagliarella run onto Principino‘s through ball with plenty of space.
Originally intending to hit it with his left foot, Quagliarella realized he had time to spare and brilliantly finished through Cech’s legs to make it 2-2. It was Marchisio’s second assist of the night, and a vital emotional boost for Quagliarella who hugged Assistant Coach Massimo Carrera on the bench (though he later declared he intended to hug fellow benchwarmer Marco Storari).
Eta Beta nearly doubled his tally minutes later. Quagliarella turned on the edge of the box, and fired a powerful shot that crashed off the crossbar with Cech beaten. The momentum was firmly in Juve’s side. At the end of the match, both teams seemed content with the draw and the match finished as the last encounter between Juventus and Chelsea did: 2-2. Except this time, it was much more satisfying.
LE PAGELLE (by Marco Pantanella)
Buffon 6 – Could do absolutely nothing on the two Oscar strikes: had the shot well-covered on the 1st goal until Bonucci’s unfortunate deflection, and the Brazilian produced an absolute scorcher on the 2nd. Other than that, Gigi was well-reactive on a number of Chelsea half-chances (e.g. Lampard FK, Ivanovic long-ranger).
Barzagli 6.5 – Had the unwelcome task of containing Eden Hazard, and although the Belgian tightrope walker got away from him on one notable occasion (on which the center-back was semi-fortunate not to concede a penalty), Barzagli acquitted himself of the task rather well.
Bonucci 6 – In the collective work produced by the Juventus backline, Bonny was quite good. Kept Torres under guard, positioned himself well, did not go roaming up the field too much and was calm & collected during ball recovery / build-up phases. Yet, he gets a -0.5 for being involved in Chelsea’s two goals: he should have probably left the first shot to Buffon, and got bamboozled by Oscar’s first-touch on the 2nd.
Chiellini 7 – A ROCK. Keyser Giorgio belongs on the European scene: the world simply needs to admire the defensive solidity of this man whenever the ball comes around his parts. He may not have a magical foot touch (far from it), but Chiello’s positioning, timing, and tackles were perfect today. When even Gary Neville can’t stop singing your praises in the commentary box, you know you’re doing something right.
Lichtsteiner 6.5 – Solid defensively, active offensively: exactly what we expect from the Swiss Express. Ran up & down that right flank as only he does, tirelessly (actually he did get a bit tired in the end, hence the substitution).
(77′) Isla s.v. – Too little time to see what the Chilean is capable of in non-Udine Bianconero colors, but one thing was immediately clear: during the defensive phase, the Chilean did not preside the right flank as Lichtsteiner does (perhaps also b/c Juve were looking for an equalizer). Which leads me to believe he might become the “more offensive right-wing alternative” as Giaccherini was to Pepe last year.
Vidal 8 – Oscar, Schmoscar. The Brazilian’s second goal might have been a real peach, but the real ‘Man of the Match’ award belongs to Capitan Uncino. In true Juventus WARRIOR-style, Vidal was everywhere: up the pitch contributing to Juve’s build-up, in the center gnawing at the heels of Oscar & Hazard, down the line to provide defensive cover for his teammates. On top of it, he scored a capital goal when he did, lifting his team from a face-slapping 0-2 deficit just before the break.
Pirlo 6 – Decently picked up by the Chelsea midfielders, il Maestro did not have many illuminating passes or free kicks tonight, but still managed to make his presence felt with lateral distribution.
Marchisio 7.5 – A big scoring chance (comment after watching it again) and an assist to Vidal in the 1st half; continuous runs forward (rarely picked up by any Chelsea players), supporting plays for his teammates, and an illuminating through ball for Quagliarella’s equalizer in the 2nd. Total: 2 assists and many excellent plays. Grande Claudio!
Asamoah 6.5 – Didn’t exactly have too much of an impact offensively, because Ivanovic gave him quite a good bang for his buck, but dominated Ramires — and whoever else ventured towards his left wing — with his physique defensively.
Giovinco 6 – So ok, not exactly top-notch finishing from Seba tonight. His shots were off the mark, his free kicks no better. But nonetheless, the Atomic Ant’s made his presence felt: his passing combinations (with Vucinic particularly) created space for Juve and danger for the opposition. Needs to work on that inswinging shot from the “Zona Del Piero”!
(75′) Quagliarella 7 – 15 minutes to make an impact, and Eta Beta made them count! Perfectly-timed run to avoid Chelsea’s offside trap, and clinical finish between Cech’s legs. His celebration, pointing towards the name on the back of his shirt, was a clear statement along the lines “I’m here too bitchez! U forget?”. How can you not love Quags?
Vucinic 6.5 – In Italian, one would say Mirko is a player “con il tocco vellutato” (with a velvet touch). His ball control skills in tight spaces, his entente with Giovinco, and his vision were what made the majority of Juve’s plays Wednesday work, as the Montenegrin received passes, controlled, and redistributed the ball where it could hurt Chelsea the most.
(88′) Matri s.v. – Came on in the last 5 minutes to give Mirko a rest, and did little more than pressure Chelsea players off the ball.
Conte/Carrera 6.5 – Aside from a 2-2 away draw against the defending champions of Europe, in itself a very good result, Conte/Carrera prepared the team with exactly the right mindset: aggression, technique, and full belief in one’s possibilities. Let’s face it: Chelsea’s goals came pretty much out of nowhere, the first with Vidal off the field for injury; other than that Juventus did exactly what they had to do, that is take the ball towards their opponent. Stats show it was Chelsea who dominated possession (though not by a large amount, 56%) yet Juve got the most shots on target. And the fact the team did not give in after going down 0-2 is further testimony of the newfound “Never Say Die” attitude Juve has recovered under Conte. Not to mention that once again, the coach(es) got the substitutions right: thank you Fab Quags!
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP (by Aaron Giambattista)
Like their turbulent match at the San Paolo, Juventus morally “won” this draw. On the ropes for a few minutes, facing a potential humiliation, and yet… without making any substitutions or tactical changes, the Bianconeri settled down and started to play to their identity.
The Champions League draw was not particularly kind to Juve: in the club’s first match back in Europe’s premier competition, the Old Lady was picked to travel away to the club whose last UCL match involved lifting the trophy. The nerves were clearly there in the beginning, but Juventus gave a good account of the team’s potential. Though they not actually dominate possession as much as normal, they outfired Chelsea in total shots (17 to 11) and matched the amount of set pieces. Conte’s team actually outran Chelsea in total kilometers covered.
The Londoners had other opportunities to score, notably Mikel’s rampant run followed by his bizarre decision to pass instead of shooting, but ultimately, obtained their two goals rather fortuitously: a massive deflection and a wonder goal. Juventus, on the other hand, could have scored more had Marchisio or Vucinic been wearing their shooting boots, or had Quagliarella’s second effort brushed the post a bit differently.
A draw was a fair result to both sides, but that is a testament to the strength of this team. In the first match back, without Antonio Conte on the touchline, the boys managed a comeback from being 2-0 against the European Champions… a team who won every single home game in the competition last season.
This is just the beginning…
|GOALSCORERS: 31′, 33′ Oscar (C), 38′ Vidal (J), 80′ Quagliarella (J)
|CHELSEA (4-4-1-1): Cech – Ivanovic, D.Luiz, Terry, A.Cole – Mikel, Lampard – Ramires (69′ Bertrand), Oscar (75′ Mata), Hazard – Torres COACH: Di Matteo.
(UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Turnbull, G.Cahill, Azpilicueta, Romeu, Moses)
| JUVENTUS (3-5-2): Buffon – Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini – Lichtsteiner (77′ Isla), Marchisio, Pirlo, Vidal, Asamoah – Vucinic (88′ Matri), Giovinco (75′ Quagliarella). COACH: Conte.
(UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Storari, Lúcio, Marrone, Giaccherini)