The road to Scudetto is paved with games where you get the best with the least effort, and Juventus’ tonight one-nil win against Fiorentina maintained the Bianconeri at the top of the table, while not exactly offering the best possible football show. A goal by Mario Mandzukic made it for Massimo Allegri’s squad in Serie A 5th Round, in a game that honestly had little more to offer.
When Juventus and Fiorentina square off, it is seldom a boring match. The rivalry between the two teams is among the most heartfelt in the Belpaese, and has always provided plenty of emotions and scoring: Seasoned calcio lovers may remember a legendary 3-2 win for Juventus in December 1994, with a young Alessandro Del Piero scoring one of his best goals ever, and helping Bianconeri to come from behind a 0-2 handicap; or, more recently, a sensational hat trick by Giuseppe Rossi in October 2013 – this time leading the Viola back from a 0-2 disadvantage, on to the final 4-2.
But hopes for an exciting match tonight were frustrated as the first half ended with a goalless draw, and recorded no shots on goal at all by any contestant.
Allegri operated a small turnover and included in the starting eleven midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur, flanker Kwadwo Asamoah, and moreover reserve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – but if he was hoping to give his vice-Buffon a chance to shine, he unfortunately picked up the wrong game.
Speaking of unfortunate tactical decisions, Allegri’s counterpart Stefano Pioli did even worse when he sent in right back Bruno Gaspar at 50’ – as only two minutes later the Portuguese failed to control Mandzukic, and left him free to convert with a header a cross by Juan Cuadrado from the right flank, for the decisive 1-0.
Fiorentina’s match basically ended 10 minutes later, when Milan Badelj received a second yellow card and was sent off for a foul on Blaise Matuidi. Referee Daniele Doveri first awarded Juventus a penalty, but then corrected his decision into a free kick after the VAR showed that the foul happened outside the box.
Juventus took home the 5th consecutive win in their perfect season start, and for one night showed a more solid defense organization – which had been a pain point for Allegri’s boys so far. But while the Bianconeri did their bare minimum this round, direct contender Napoli came up with an impressive 1-4 away victory against Lazio.
The battle for Scudetto looks promising, and Juventus will likely have to do more than what seen tonight, if they want to win it for a record 7th time in a row.
SCORER: 52’ Mandzukic
JUVENTUS (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sturaro (91′ Lichtsteiner), Barzagli, Rugani, Asamoah; Bentancur, Matuidi; Cuadrado (82′ Bernardeschi), Dybala (75′ Pjanic), Mandzukic; Higuain (Buffon, Pinsoglio, Chiellini, Benatia, Hoewedes, Alex Sandro, Douglas Costa) Coach: Allegri
FIORENTINA (4-2-3-1): Sportiello; Laurini (52′ Bruno Gaspar), Astori, Pezzella, Biraghi; Veretout, Badelj; Chiesa, Benassi (61′ Gil Dias), Thereau (68′ Sanchez); Simeone (Dragoswki, Cerofolini, Milenkovic, Saponara, Eysseric, Maxi Olivera, Cristoforo, Babacar, Vitor Hugo) Coach: Pioli
REFEREE: Mr. Doveri from Roma
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Barzagli (J), Laurini, Badelj, Astori (F); Extra Time 1’ 1st half 4’ 2nd half