Andrea has been a Juventus fan for over 26 years... his whole life!
Last night’s Champions League game saw 120 minutes of pure emotional battery for the Juventus players, staff, and fans from all around the world. After a roller coaster of ups and downs, hope and despair, Juventus for the third year in a row exit the Champions League knockout stage prematurely. I’ve been a Juventus fan for over 26 years now… my whole life. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I can safely say that last night’s European exit hurt more than any defeat I’ve ever experienced as a Juventino. Without a doubt, the pain was much worse than last season's exit to Lyon, and the prior seasons exit to Ajax. In this article I explain my pain, what went wrong, but also how to deal with the pain from assessing a silver lining in last night’s nightmare.
What Went Wrong For Juventus?
Last night’s European exit essentially comes down to two factors; we were extremely unlucky, but we gave our luck in the shape of four gifts for Porto over the two legs to go through on away goals. Last night’s two gifts came from a soft penalty which unfortunately came from the inexperience of Demiral. This factor of the defender's game was exposed throughout the night. However, the most painful gift involved a recurring offender over the two legs, Szczesny. The hope of turning the tie around in extra time was diminished from a purely constructed free-kick wall. Oliveira was a talisman for Porto over the two legs, and it’s clear that Juventus underestimated his ability over a free-kick chance over nothing. From his long run-up it was evident that Oliveira was going to take his chance on goal. Szczesny sticks with his original instructions of a three-man-wall who then betray him by creating a gap for him to be easily beaten by his near post. I’m ashamed to say that Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the best players to ever touch the ball, cowardly turned his back within the wall to create the gap. I wonder what Buffon was thinking when he witnessed such a poor defensive error from our starting keeper and co’.
Many Juventus fans will want to point the finger at Pirlo as he is an inexperienced coach. Many will call for his sacking, just like Sarri. I can safely say that I do not support this. Pirlo is not to blame. Tactically, Pirlo played the best starting eleven available. In the first half, like many games this season, we were lack luster. After a magnificent and effective piece of wing play from Cuadrado in the early minutes of the first half, Juventus became narrow in the attack and tried to penetrate a six man defence centrally to no avail. Credit to Pirlo in half time as our game became substantially wider and the chances on goal became more fruitful. My only criticism for Pirlo is that he did not bring on Kulusevski and Bernardeschi early enough. Kulusevski especially provided an intense spark. His energy would have been much more useful in the second half of full time as a dogged ten-men Porto began to tire themselves out.
The Silver Lining: Federico Chiesa
It was a “coulda, woulda, shoulda” kind of night of football, and last night Chiesa could have easily been the hat-trick hero of a dramatic Juventus comeback. All in all, what a player! Many fans doubted his acquisition at the start of the season, but without argument he has consistently been one of Juventus’ star men this season, and without a doubt Juventus’ best player on the night. His first goal was a sublime finish into the top corner. Porto’s keeper, Marchesin, was having a prolific night in goal but there was no way of stopping such precision. His second goal came from pure determination. He is not known for his heading ability but the way he tracked Cuadrado’s cross and accelerated into the back post position showed a much needed desire, a “grinta'' as they say in Italy. He was a constant outlet cutting in from the left wing. He was very unlucky on three occasions. Forget the hat-trick, he could have had five goals! His third chance again came from pure determination, as he took it around the keeper to unfortunately be tracked from one of the most experienced defenders in the game Pepe. He readily made himself a scoring outlet, and he should have received a cut back pass from Bonucci later on in the second half to gain his hat-trick. However, once again… “coulda, woulda, shoulda.”
‘Tech’ made a great save in the second half to keep the dream alive, but became the master of his own downfall in setting up a poor defensive wall on what became a decisive free-kick goal.
Alex Sandro 5
Battled in attempting to keep possession away from Porto but drew too many easy fouls to slow down the game. Essentially playing into Porto's hands. He also did not provide the overlap for Chiesa on the left wing enough to create superiority against a 6 man defence.
Provided a vintage lob pass into the box on the lead-up to the first goal. Maintained composure at the back when Juventus we’re dominating and made some nose-bleeding runs forward to create more options in the box. If only he passed to Chiesa on that chance in the 2nd half!
Showed a lack of experience on giving away the penalty. Similar to Sandro, drew too many easy fouls and slowed down the game.
‘Panita’ was the best creative outlet for Juventus all night. Was very unlucky not to start the game with an assist to Morata from a perfect cross. Continued providing great crosses and was very unlucky not to get a wonder goal from cutting in onto his left. On another night that would have been the nail in the coffin for Porto.
Was the driving force and without a doubt Juventus’ best attacking outlet. 2 great goals and was very unlucky not to score more! Ran himself out of gas in extra time, but showed pure determination. Hopefully he keeps on providing these types of performances throughout the rest of the season and into the Euros.
Scored a free header in extra time to restore hope after a soul destroying moment. All in all was effective in midfield. Had a good long range effort on goal in the second half but the few attempts after were questionable
First start back from injury and it wasn't a bad display. Constantly fed Cuadrado on the right wing and maintained composure in the middle of the pitch as Juventus’ ‘regista’
He did not provide the link up from midfield to attack that was needed. Virtually invisible
Cristiano Ronaldo 5
Arguably one of his worst performances this season when partnered with Morata. Unselfishly got the assist for Chiesa but seemed a frustrated figure throughout the game. He needed to provide leadership upfront but just couldn't provide his usual spark
He could have been the hero early on in the game with a headed chance aimed straight at the keeper. Was not inventive enough, just like Ronaldo. However, to their credit they were being closed down by 6 defenders constantly
De Ligt 5
Pushed forward with intensity in the dying minutes of the match
Provided energy but not enough to get on the end of a good chance
Got booked in extra time, and was not given enough time to provide a creative spark down the left
Looked dangerous but couldn’t break down that dreaded 6 man defence. Should have been given more time to make an impact.
© 2021 Andrea Sciambarella
Andrea Sciambarella (author) from Manchester, UK on March 10, 2021:
Could not have put it better myself Fawaz. Too many gifts for Porto!
Fawaz Akintunde from Lagos, Nigeria on March 10, 2021:
Nice Breakdown to be fair. Mistakes cost Juventus last night and they were very unlucky as many chances were wasted. it wasnt just meant to be.