Juventus 2-1 Fiorentina
Scorers: Khedira 37 (J), Kalinic 70 (F), Higuain 74 (J)
Serie A Week 1 – Saturday 20th August – 19:45 GMT – Juventus Stadium
Gonzalo Higuain scored on his Juventus debut to earn the Bianconeri their first 3 points of 2016/17 season.
Despite the new additions to the squad, the millions spent reinforcing the team and the general feeling that Juve would dominate Serie A this season, the game against Fiorentina gave me cause for concern. Granted, it was only a small concern, rooted in the idea that so much change, especially in midfield, would give La Viola the opportunities to push through the middle of the pitch where the returning Kwadwo Asamoah and the inexperienced Mario Lemina might struggle. Ten minutes into the match, I realised how foolish those concerns were.
Juve may have been without the injured Miralem Pjanic and Claudio Marchisio, but it rarely felt as though we were lacking anything in the centre of the pitch – A bold statement, but one that i’m sure those who watched the match will agree with. Sami Khedira, a truly understated genius of a player, had Juve’s first effort after just 4 minutes when he could and probably should have made more of an error from Fiorentina keeper Ciprian Tatarusanu. Moments later, there was a half-hearted appeal for handball but it was clear Davide Astori didn’t mean to handle the ball.
Juve were dominant and confident, controlling the tempo and quickly pushing back a Fiorentina side that thought they may have some joy pressing the Juve back line. Not tonight Sousa. Dani Alves looked a seasoned Serie A veteran, striding past Marcos Alonso at every opportunity, linking superbly with Paulo Dybala and generally being a thorn in the side of La Viola, cutting inside and out while fighting for every ball with his typical gusto.
More surprising was the ease with which Giorgio Chiellini was able to push forward from defence; Seldom troubled by the Fiorentina midfield, he got into the opponents half at every opportunity, leaving Leonardo Bonucci to mop-up on the few occasions the visitors got close to the Juve goal. It was only fitting that from one of these forays into opposition territory that the Kaiser was able to fire over a deliciously accurate cross for Sami Khedira to head home – A bullet of a header, 1-0 (You can see the goal further down the page).
Juve were in control – Mario Lemina looked as confident on the ball as when I saw him play his first few games for Juve. He surprised me then and he surprised me last night, picking the ball away from the Badelj and Vecino with ease, recycling play, venturing forward and displaying a great range of passing. He had big shoes to fill an it was no easy feat to play in front of the defence with such confidence.
Despite the dominant displays from both his midfield teammates, it was Kwadwo Asmoah who stole the night. Missing much of last season with injury, the Ghanaian made up for lost time, returning to the left of the midfield three…..and only after the 95 mins were up did i realise that not once during the game had I thought of that French lad who used to play for us. I’m not normally one for letting the stats do the talking, especially as they often fail to give a true account of a players performance, however these two graphics from Squawka illustrating Asamoah’s performance as the game went on and the 91% of passes he completed give an idea of how instrumental he was in the victory. He pressed and harried, he broke up attacks, he anticipated passes, he pushed forward into the box and it was his pass for Khedira that opened up the Fiorentina defence for Juve’s winner.
Lest I get carried away and make it sound like a one-sided affair, there were a few negatives, namely Alex Sandro. His attacking game wasn’t up to its usually high standard, but it was in defence where he really showed poor judgement, allowing Tello to win a corner and then letting Kalinic get away from him to convert Fiorentina’s only effort on goal.
It was the only real low point of the game, largely due to Juve stepping off, sitting back, giving Fiorentina the ball and inviting pressure – Please, let’s not do this again.
A goal apiece, deadlocked….. What next? Cometh the hour, cometh the (€90m) man. Enter Gonzalo Higuain, strolling onto the pitch, unencumbered by his price-tag (or the unfair headlines about his weight). The former Napoli forward made an almost immediate impact, creating space in the Fiorentina box, pulling players with him, making intelligent runs between the defenders. Sure enough, the pressure paid off – Asamoah recieved the ball with plenty of space, passed in the direction of Higuain – Rather than try and take the ball with his first touch, Pipita cleverly continues his run, taking the defender with him, and freeing space for Khedira to have an effort on goal. In that kind of position and with only the keeper to beat, a goal looks certain…..but Pipita lingers….sees the shot saved and accelerates past Astori to fire home from a tight angle – And all this within the space of 9 mins of being on the pitch. A truly superb debut made all the more special by a winning goal.
With the result assured, Allegri introduced Patrice Evra and Hernanes to firm up the back line and cruise to a well-deserved 3 points and a first win of the 2016/17 campaign. Credit to the boss who went with the more attacking Alves and Sandro on the flanks in an effort to create from wide as well as subbing on Higuain at exactly the right moment.
A few brief mentions – Mandzukic looked a little ill at ease, working in isolation in the box with only Khedira to provide some height and muscle from midfield, while Dybala dropped deep and switched from left to right. The defence looked untroubled for most of the match. Bonucci did what only he can do, pinging some great crosses out from defence, trying to create from the back. Barzagli picked up a rather stupid, but entirely warranted booking for a clumsy challenge.
A confident victory to begin a tough season – Lazio, Inter and Sassuolo await us in the weeks ahead, as well as the Champions League draw on Thursday…..however we have picked up exactly where we left off last season, and that gives me hope for the year ahead. The team looks happy together, the players look as much of a family as they have done for the last 5 seasons, despite the many departures this summer. We can expect a new midfielder to arrive soon, along with the returning Juan Cuadrado who will offer that little something extra. Exciting times ahead. Fino Alla Fine, Forza Juve !!!
Man of the Match: Vote below
Flop of the Match: N/A
Pass Accuracy: 88%
Shots on Target: 4
Total Shots: 19
Ball Possession: 54%
Juventus: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Dani Alves, Khedira (Hernanes 87), Lemina, Asamoah, Alex Sandro; Dybala (Evra 84), Mandzukic (Higuain 66)
Fiorentina: Tatarusanu; Tomovic, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Astori, Alonso; Vecino, Badelj (Carlos Sanchez 65), Chiesa (Tello 46), Bernardeschi; Ilicic (Rossi 79); Kalinic
Post Match Comments:
Higuain: “I am very happy for my debut, for the victory and the goal. We must continue like this. It was very important to start with a win. We worked hard and the victory was deserved. I hope to repay the affection of the fans with many goals. I want to win as many titles as possible, but we’re just at the beginning. I dedicate the goal to everyone who had faith in me.”
Allegri: “The team played a very good first half, especially as we’re not in optimal form yet. I think we should’ve scored more than two goals, as Fiorentina only created one real chance. From a possible counter-attack for us, Alex Sandro lost the ball and we conceded on the corner. There was some fatigue, especially as Khedira had only been training for a couple of weeks. He was decisive in the two situations by running into space.When we had the game in hand, we didn’t hold the ball as well as we should’ve done. We needed to keep the pressure on and force them to defend around their own penalty area, which we didn’t do.”
Juventus 1 – 0 Fiorentina [Khedira]
Juventus 2 – 1 Fiorentina [Higuain]