Juventus 2-2 Bayern Munich
Scorers: Müller 43 (B), Robben 55 (B), Dybala 63 (J), Sturaro 76 (J)
Champions League – Round of 16 – Tuesday, 23rd February – 19:45 GMT – Juventus Stadium
I remain in a state of recovery. Still my blood feels alive with war and battle, my body tired yet my spirit a flame, for we witnessed a true marvel when the Germans came to town. Unfortunately I had to head straight the office after the match, from being thrown hither and thither by great tides caused by the contest of Titans, I remained throughout the day, eager to keep the swords clashing desperate to find sparks leading to inferno, with anyone I could find with even a hint of contest in their eyes or tone. Perhaps it was this rabid state of spirit and wildly beating heart which drew towards me a series of mighty bothers? Yet since three of such episodes have passed, I will leave them where they belong, in the past, and move on with renewed hope, in all matters…
No bliss comes without agony, no success comes without suffering. Whilst we suffered immensely, were held down and beaten as clearly the defeated, in our own backyard, the future relentlessly bleak, the stadium awash with inaudible death throes found within the chorus of the Bavarians mourning our demise with chests beaten, heads held high…we met our reckoning, toiled and faltered, were made to appear a galaxy apart from the staggering brilliance of the Bayern machine, and then…when many of us were wondering how embarrassed we could find ourselves when the referee signalled the end of our torment with the world watching, something magical happened…From dejection, dismay, depression, a dying, slowing heartbeat was picked up from the turf by a battle hardened spirit, a lupine howl roared from our ranks, and we rose from the earth, just as the Priest was administering the last rites. Elation crunched horror, Warriors replaced peasants, Celebration and Pride trounced Pity and Regret. If ever there were a game to confirm that lo stile juve has been suitably imbued in our new recruits as remains strident and indomitable in our veterans, it was this one…
Made a spritely save early doors from Vidal’s rocket, was not at fault for either goal, other than which helped the side to ride the storm. 6.5
Big Leo is a cultured brute, able to deal with most issues with his physical dominance, courage and decent positioning. However he has a habit of pushing things a little too far, and can become accustomed to relying on the free-kicks he ‘engineers’ with the opponent often an unwitting participant in his stage play. Had his efforts, on such a course, been performed in the box, he may well have got away with it, but the incident to which I refer, happened near the centre circle, where the ref ponders matters differently. It seems possible the Lewandowski played him at his own game in the build up to the second. After which Big Leo was sturdy. 5.5
Stretched from the start to the finish but refused to break, could well have marshalled the defence better for the second when Muller was found free in the box. It was Andrea who pushed Robben ONTO HIS LEFT for the second? Made to look rather ordinary for much of the game, yet he emerges with his head held hahigh. 6
Had his work cut out, yet rose to the occasion, covering, fighting, scrapping. I prefer to see him on the flank as a wingback, yet injuries forced him more central/ full back, where he performed well enough to earn a 6.5.
Rolled back the years to offer stern resistance against Robben, yet I felt Bayern had been tasked with attacking his lack of pace, and Robben was in fine fettle, the Igor wannabe with dancing feet. His experience was vital, yet it was clear that the Dutchman had his number, leaving Patrice to resort to a few tactical fouls to thwart any more chances for his foe late on. Against as wily a bastard as Robben, experience and nous is often not enough, and I would feel more confident to find Sandro or a match sharp Asamoah lining up in his place in the return. 6.5
Over-run, often in the wrong position, out numbered and often absent in the first half. Perhaps he was injured early doors, hence his substitution during the interval. Not his finest 45 in our colours, when we needed him most, yet I will err on the side of a physical bother as the culprit. 5
Invisible throughout. Off the pace. I understand why we played him from the start, such is his pedigree, yet also understand why he was pulled out the fray for Sturaro, for his energy seemed awful. 4
Playing in that hybrid CM/LM role, Paul was unable to focus on the central channels where he is at his best. Yet he worked damn hard, set up moves which led to chances and goals and met the enemy on his own terms. Could have done better with an opening on his right boot, as with his header, but clearly our most potent midfielder. 7
I will agree with my comrade from the guardian commentary section El b, in that the always eager Juan is a good player, and can be a valuable weapon if used correctly. However, ‘good’ is not enough against the very best. ‘good’ is average. And when your main strengths are winning free kicks and pace, you are going to struggle against the classy likes of Munchen. Several times his passing let the team down when a lively counter appeared possible. He earned a few free-kicks, rarely beat his man without keeping his head down and running straight into trouble and offered perhaps a little more than usual defensively. When found in the box on the end of a thrilling move, he shot straight into the hands of Neuer. Still…it was his typically misplaced pass which led to the only obvious error of the opposing defence and our first goal, so some credit is due. Essentially, I do not believe he has enough quality to play at the top level and succeed. 6
The big fella was always going to be rusty, yet he fought like a berserker, helped out immensely in defence and put the chance on a plate for Dybala to strike home. Then played a prominent role in our second. He seemed to get better as the game wore on, and his immense hustle and determination almost led to another chance when ploughing through the high set rear-guard of The Enemy. Will be sharper for the return leg. 7.5
Struggled to find space, and seemed perhaps a little overawed, yet given the complete dominance of Bayern, it was no surprise to find his opportunities few and few between. When he finally found one decent chance, he put it away with clinical execution. Wonderful to see him score his first European goal in such an encounter. 7
His electric pace and ability to turn and accelerate past opponents made a difference. His headed assist created the equaliser. The Spaniard comes alive in European competition, whilst his league form continues to deflate. A lame shot soon after appearing, yet he looked increasingly dangerous as he settled into the rhythm of a match turning in our favour. 7
‘What a strange and terrible move‘ I muttered as I saw the brazilian emerge from the tunnel for the second half, ‘perhaps for Cuadrado…so we go 4-3-1-2…that makes sense…yet where the devil is Il Principino????’…Despite my horror – likely shared by millions – Hernanes proved far more effective than Marchisio. He was eager, battled hard, passed intelligently and diversely and merits praise for his finest performance in our colours since his arrival at the club. He displayed the talents we all know he has, yet have seen so little of, and on this form, I am eager to see him gain more playing time. 7
Whenever I caught glimpses of Khedira, mainly off the ball, I had written and roared ‘GET HIM OFF FOR STURARO, ALLEGRI YOU DANGEROUS FIEND’. It was the most obvious move to improve our midfield I could conjure. And whilst he waited, Il Mister played the Stefano card to perfection, and what a move it proved to be. His appearance added momentum and energy to our resurgence, and he took his goal brilliantly under pressure. I remain of very high hopes indeed for the youngster. 8
Irritating, yet unsurprising to find a fair few people suggesting Allegri didn’t do his homework, and Juve made the wrong decision to sit so deep…
No doubt that Allegri told his charges to keep it tight, especially early-doors, but it is plain nonsense to focus more on Juve wittingly inviting that kind of pressure onto them than the more obvious explanation of ‘Bayern were playing brilliantly, powerfully and pushing us back, as they do most teams they play’. They were incredibly impressive in the first half. Only the Barca side of the last few seasons looked (and still look) as insanely capable of applying constant pressure, players swapping positions, superb movement, forcing sides to bring so many players back to mark runners, cover space, try stem the tide, that when they do lose possession, there is nobody to pass to, so they win possession back once again.
It is a clear tactic, an onslaught, over-loading which can be used when you have a squad of such talent as Bayern. Most teams cannot defend against it, hence Bayern’s success, reputation and domestic dominance which is staggering. They are rightly ranked by most fans and pundits and players as one of the two best sides in the world.
To say Juve/Allegri invited that pressure for the first 50 minutes or so is as useful as saying ‘then Pep got his tactics wrong, by inviting Juve to attack more space in greater numbers for the next half hour! Nearly back-fired completely’.
These turns of tides throughout a game are not solely tactical, and sometimes, simply a natural ebb and flow more than strict guide-lines.
Yes yes! The only way to counter that tactic is to push men forward???. I can think of no manager who would do such a thing in the opening 20 minutes or so against Bayern. Other than Barcelona…Arsenal tried to do this against Barca, and got done 0-2. yet we are a far stronger side than Arsenal, mainly mentally. As the recovery against Bayern reminded many.
Missing Chiellini and been forced to play Cuadrado was a bother, yet no need to moan or make excuses.
We have players coming back from injury, the confidence that we can shed more bavarian blood in the second tie will be interesting.
Bayern needed to take breath. Once they did we went for the jugular. They made one small mistake defensively, which we pounced upon. We were then their equals, and at times almost their betters.
I’d say they were the best side we have played since, other than Barca last year, we were crunched by their 2013 counterparts.
With that out the way I can concentrate more on the particulars…
This was a game which moved me deeply, nourished my Juve love, for we saw the gulf in class which can transpire when we are not at our best and up against one of only two sides I know are superior in talent and technique and equal in organisation. We were not abysmal in the first 50-60 minutes, we were simply made to appear very ordinary by an extraordinary side. Had we found ourselves 0-4 down at half time I could not have complained. Their dominance could well have been said to deserve such a lead, such was their total control of the game.
Yes yes! We had chances, yet to count them in the first hour against those of Bayern had us wretchedly inferior. However, once the tide turned – and how it turned! – and the recovery hit full stride, we created enough chances to then go on to win the game. We more than rattled one of the finest teams I have ever seen, transformed from seemingly servile acceptance of our minnow showing, to confident, pressing, strong and strident equals.
The recovery could well be the making of this new Juve. For regardless of the result achieved when we head to Munich, to claw our way back in such spirited fashion will have taught those new to the cause a wonderful education, imbued confidence, drive, determination and belief, that we can meet the very best…as equals.
Its strange how a draw rarely feels like a draw. For Bayern, the result likely feels not far removed from a loss – despite their wholesome advantage on away goals forged – for to find themselves hauled back to a balance of the scales, threatened seriously with defeat in a game which will go a fair way to defining Guardiola’s tenure at the club, will have felt odd and horrid, for a team so accustomed to complete dominance against all opponents. Yet for us, whilst the result could well have gone either way in the final reckoning, to realise that these are not superhumans we have no hope of matching let alone beating – but either we are equally superhuman in turn, or they are mere mortals – to have them on the ropes, to end for half hour (or close to it!) our subjugation to their powers, felt fucking amazing…
Allegri’s moves from the bench proved absolutely superb, In this measure, he outfoxed Guardiola. Hernanes improved us instantly and thereafter, Morata set up a goal and Sturaro scored.
Much has been said and written of Pep’s legacy in Bavaria. To win the league, especially when Dortmund – their main and only rivals – have faltered terribly last term and remain on the comeback trail, is not enough to rival the work of Heynckes. Only a champion league title can achieve such a status, so we must appreciate that the Spaniard – with the league already all but marked on their storied record – has this one last chance to prove his mettle. Believe me and in common sense, when I assert, that Pep has been focused on this game more than any other this season. He has worked to the best of his abilities to win the tie, to emerge as victors, and maybe they will, yet Europe and the World must appreciate the gargantuan effort and spirit we showed, to earn the draw and keep the tie alive…
Looking at the game as a whole…on chances found, we matched them, and forged perhaps more serious openings than our opponents. Possession does not equate to goals. Total dominance does. Which is why we found ourselves 2 goals down before we managed to finally become Lazarus, or perhaps we simply realised we were losing and been made to look like amateurs in our own backyard, and decided, player by player, that we refused to lose in such a manner.
Its unlikely we will triumph in the return leg, yet we will have Asamoah, Sandro and Chellini back in the ranks. Any victory will be enough to triumph, and if we are the stuff of champions, such a herculean mission will prove within our ken.
We proved that no side can dominate us for 90 minutes. We proved that we can meet one of the two finest sides on the planet, and equal their war cry and powers.
I salute the club, raise my glass of russian fire water to the skies, for dragging me to hell then fighting our way back to heaven.
It is too early to consider the second leg as anything other than…if we win, we march onwards. And for me, whilst not ideal, it is enough.
Outstanding spirit lighting the way in a world of darkness. An amazing adventure, glorious fight, which left me ever more proud to be truly and unerringly, juventino to the core of my essence.