Feature Photo: Getty Images
Juventus fell against a magnificent Verona side on Saturday and for the first time in nine years they don’t look like an invincible armada anymore. Cristiano Ronaldo was not enough this time despite scoring for the 10th game in a row. Goals by Milan outcasts Fabio Borini and Giampaolo Pazzini pulled out a huge upset and awarded coach Ivan Juric’s perfect machine their 8th consecutive game with no losses.
For Juric’s Gialloblu, a Europe League spot seems more and more within reach as the Campionato unfolds. Juve coach Maurizio Sarri, on the other hand, will find himself rooting for Milan tonight in the Derby della Madonnina to prevent Inter from reaching the Bianconeri at the top of the table.
The first half at the Marc’Antonio Bentegodi Stadium offered loads of emotions, with Verona controlling the game – and seeing Marash Kumbulla’s goal cancelled on grounds of offside – and Juventus collecting the most dangerous chances. Ivan Juric lined up his Gialloblu with his usual 3-4-1-2 formation featuring Matteo Pessina as a playmaker. Side midfielders Darko Lazovic and Davide Faraoni made their Bianconeri counterparts Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro suffer since the beginning.
Maurizio Sarri replied with the same 4-3-3 lineup that had crushed Fiorentina one week ago. Gonzalo Higuain was once again preferred to Paulo Dybala. Douglas Costa hitting the crossbar was Juventus’ only scoring attempt in the initial 20 minutes. Cristiano Ronaldo eventually woke up and collected three chances in the space of 10 minutes: First, he hit goalie Marco Silvestri’s post with a slow but effective curl. Then, he produced a right foot shot which missed the target by a few inches. Just before the break, he went for a header from a cross by Douglas Costa but once again missed Verona’s goal.
After the break, the Gialloblu restarted with the same pace but eventually run out of energy and paid for the choice of playing without a real center-forward. Juric tried to reshuffle his cards and replaced Miguel Veloso with Nicola Verre. Maurizio Sarri gave space to Paulo Dybala, sending him in for his fellow countryman Higuain.
La Joya made himself dangerous pretty fast and gave his contribution to Juve’s initial goal with an excellent defense of the ball. Dybala served Cristiano Ronaldo who, after exchanging with Rodrigo Bentancur, dashed past Amir Rrahmani and finished with a sharp shot in the corner.
Juric answered by sending in 34-year-old veteran Giampaolo Pazzini to add more weight to his offensive pack. The Gialloblu did not give up and were eventually rewarded as their aggressive style paid off. New signing Fabio Borini was quick to intercept a back pass by Rodrigo Bentancur to Miralem Pjanic and put the ball past Wojciech Szczesny with a deadly conclusion.
Verona had not had enough, however. Their equalizer gave them more confidence and prompted them to keep attacking. Marash Kumbullah hit the post from a header, but referee Davide Massa spotted a handball by Leonardo Bonucci in the same action. From the penalty spot, Giampaolo Pazzini made it two for the home side and wrapped the upset of the week.
The Gialloblu can keep believing in their Europe dream. Maurizio Sarri, on the other hand, has much to reflect on and already started to do it after the game.
“Once you have taken the lead, you cannot leave points on the road like that. We were too careless in occasion of the first goal, I refuse to comment on it. Verona had their merit (…) but we also did our part [to deserve the loss],” the Comandante remarked, likely feeling the pressure of Inter and Lazio already.
It’s going to be an interesting week at their Continassa training center…
February 8, 2020 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 23
SCORERS: 64′ Cristiano Ronaldo (J), 75′ Borini (J), 86′ Pazzini (V, pen.)
|VERONA (3-4-1-2): Silvestri; Rrahmani, Gunter, Kumbulla; Faraoni, Veloso (57′ Verre), Amrabat, Lazovic (79′ Dimarco); Pessina; Borini, Zaccagni (69′ Pazzini) (Berardi, Radunovic, Adjapong, Berardi, Bocchetti, Dawidowicz, Di Carmine, Empereur, Eysseric, Stepinski) Coach: Juric
|JUVENTUS (4-3-3): Szczesny, Cuadrado, De Ligt, Bonucci, Alex Sandro; Bentancur (81′ De Sciglio), Pjanic, Rabiot; Douglas Costa (72′ Ramsey), Higuain (59′ Dybala), Cristiano Ronaldo (Buffon, Pinsoglio, Coccolo, Matuidi, Olivieri, Rugani) Coach: Sarri
REFEREE: Mr. Massa from Imperia
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Lazovic, Pessina (V), Alex Sandro, Dybala, Bonucci (J); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 6′