Juventus 2 - 0 Udinese
Sunday September 14 2014
If you were expecting change with Max Allegri then you're not going to like reading today's match report. If you wanted Juventus to remain the same despite Antonio Conte's departure, then you will enjoy reading this narrative.
Honestly though, if you didn't look at the bench you would have sworn this was last year's team, with some changes though. Roberto Pereyra is a definite upgrade in the middle of the field over last year's midfield sub Simone Padoin (sacrilege! I know!). As much as some fans would like to blame Allegri for Juve's strange season-opening injury bug, Juve have been lucky to start the season with a soft schedule which has allowed the team to break in some new faces.
Juventus marked their first home game of the 2014-15 season with a pretty commanding performance. At times it looked like they were coasting a little bit. especially in the second half, but for the most part this was a blemish-free victory. They were a 100% at home last season, and they maintained that streak today too, with minor hiccups on the way.
The first half consisted of Juve penning Udinese back in their first half, and the customary early goal too. This time it was Carlos Tevez, who was a game-time decision due to injury, benefiting from a pull-back by Stephan Lichtsteiner which was deflected into his path. Tevez did well to keep his shot low, and it flew past Orestis Karnezis in the Udine goal in the 8th minute.
The away side were lucky to go into halftime just the one goal down as Juve swarmed all over them, clocking ten shots in the first period alone. At that point the absence of Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal through injury was barely felt, while wily veteran Antonio Di Natale was a non-factor. Pereyra shot way over when set up by Fernando Llorente. Tevez shot over soon after, and both Paul Pogba and Lichtsteiner could have done better with further opportunities before the break.
Udinese manager Andrea Stramaccione was the first away coach to pull out a win at Juventus Stadium when with Inter Milan, and dug some tricks out of the bag to start off the second half. He pulled off forward Luis Muriel and brought on Bruno Fernandes to quell the tidal wave of Juventus possession in midfield, and the move immediately paid dividends as suddenly Udinese looked like they belonged.
A couple of times Udinese threatened to tie the game as Juve looked a little wobbly at the hour mark, and then Igor Bubjnic got behind the defence to slot past an otherwise idle Gianluigi Buffon. However the Croat was pulled back by the assistant referee's flag as he looked to have strayed just offside.
After the scare though, Juventus bounced right back and Claudio Marchisio took advantage of a gap in the backline to hammer home a second and seal the game. Marchisio has been pulling the strings in the absence of Pirlo, and while there is no replacing the master, Il Principino was a pretty competent replacement completing 92% of his passes for the day.
Udinese played like a beaten side for the last quarter of an hour, and gave Allegri the chance to roll out subs Kingsley Coman and Alavaro Morata, both making their Serie A home debuts. Indeed Morata almost scored in the limited time he was on the pitch, which is remarkable as he was widely expected to be out until October.
Buffon: 7 - It's only a seven, but it's through no fault of his. He really had little to do all day.
Caceres: 8 - The Uruguayan had an excellent game out on the right, made three interceptions and was generally solid all around.
Bonucci: 7 - Kept close tabs on Di Natale all game.
Ogbonna: 7.5 - Haters gonna hate, but that's two games with him in the backline, and two clean sheets. One interception, eight clearances and two shots blocked - his best game for Juve so far?
Lichtsteiner: 7.5 - Never any doubts about him, like clockwork he motors up and down the wing, all game.
Pereyra: 7 - Wayward in front of goal, his movement and passing were decent.
Marchisio: 8.5 - Excellent with or without the ball, took full advantage of his opportunity to start.
Pogba: 7.5 - Always a threat to score when he had the ball, had the Udinese midfield chasing him all afternoon.
Evra: 6.5 - Played more of a supportive role in midfield, was not really needed to add firepower up front.
Tevez: 8 - Injury? What injury? He was his harrying best chasing everything down, being a menace in attack.
Llorente: 7.5 - Udinese had no answer for his hold-up play, allowed Juventus to gain a foothold deep in their territory.
Allegri: 7 - If you were hoping to see something different about how Allegri will approach the Champions League, you wouldn't have seen it today. In his defence, why rock the Serie A boat when it's still sailing merrily along. Now if he can get Tevez to break his CL drought, we'll be even more appreciative of Allegri