I've been suffering from a pretty nasty sore throat lately. To fight this illness, I've been taking plenty of cold medication. As a result, I've been a bit cloudy lately. Coincidentally, Juventus played like a team wasted on cold medication during the first half.
For the most part (in the first half), the team was out of it. But not all players' performances were alike. A few, like Marcelo Estigarribia, Leonardo Bonucci, and (to a lesser extent) Arturo Vidal, played so badly that they brought the whole team down despite others' efforts. To be fair to Artie Vidal, he did play well for about 15 minutes.
His 15 minutes would come to an abrupt end late in the match. Vidal challenged Van Bommel from behind in the 89th minute, and he was promptly sent off. Earlier in the match, Sulley Muntari had made a similar challenge, but he only received a yellow.
Of course, some could consider his tackle payback for an earlier unjustice done unto Vidal. Van Bommel fouled Vidal (which was called), and as he walked by Artie, Van Bommel sent his knee into the back of Vidal's head.
Of the three bad performers, Bonucci's mistakes hurt the team the most. While Vidal's red card killed the surging momentum Juve had been enjoying, Bonucci's enabled Milan to take an early 1-0 lead. The goal, courtesy of ex-Juve man Antonio Nocerino, came off of an intercepted Bonucci pass.
Incidentally, he had had a pass picked off earlier as well. The pass was actually picked off by Urby Emanuelson, who then relayed the ball to Nocerino. Nocerino fired off a shot, and it was deflected into the goal by Bonucci himself.
Bonucci made a few more minor errors, but he was also strong in some areas. He had seven interceptions, three more than Chiellini and four more than Barzagli. He was also seven for seven in long-ball attempts. Still, his mistakes were extremely costly, and that cannot be ignored. It was a bad match for Leo.
The final member of that trio, Marcelo Estigarribia, was not so much poor as he was uninspiring. Juve needed creative and threatening play from the wings, and indeed this is how they later took control. Instead, Estigarribia offered up hustle and little ingenuity. His crossing was also poor, particularly evident when he attempted to switch to Stephan Lichtsteiner and the ball went way wide and out of bounds.
Those three were not the only poor performers today. The referee and his linesmen were also quite poor. Both sides had goals, true goals, not awarded. Milan's goal came first, a Muntari header that definitely crossed the line but did not touch the ground. Buffon kept a hold of it and wisely kept the play going. Still, there should have been a goal awarded to Milan.
This was later "evened out" so to speak, by a disallowed Alessandro Matri goal. The goal was called off due to Mirko Vucinic being offside. However, Matri was onside, and Vucinic was not involved in the play. It was another terrible call from the same linesman who missed the second Milan goal.
So, in reality the scoreline should read 2-2. Still a draw. But there were even more bad calls.
As I said above, Muntari was only given a yellow for a challenge very similar to the one Vidal was sent off for. In addition, there was that attack on Vidal by Van Bommel that was ignored. Rounding these bad calls out, there were several times when a proper advantage was not called on fouls. This hurt both sides, as there were several different times when an advantage had not been given.
While there were many poor performances from all sorts of people on the field today, many others had great games. This particularly applies to some of Milan's players. Robinho, for a time, was a big trouble for Juve's defense. His dribbling cause all sorts of problems for Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini. Sulley Muntari, the Inter reject, also had a fine performance. Of course, the goal scorer Antonio Nocerino was another player who played exceptionally today.
On the other side of the pitch, Giorgio Chiellini was perhaps Juve's best man today. The distinction goes to either Chiellini or Matri, both of whom were at their top during the second half. Granted, Matri was only on in the second half, as he came on for Quagliarella.
Juve's troubles mirrored certain tactical decisions by Conte. His 3-5-2, usually very effective, failed today. Perhaps it was because Milan had had a recent look at it. When he switched to a 4-3-3, and took off the struggling Marco Borriello for Mirko Vucinic, the team began to improve by a large margin. The midfield, where Andrea Pirlo had been struggling and Claudio Marchisio had been non-existent, turned their game around totally. Marchisio in particular had a way better second-half performance.
The other substitute Conte employed was Simone Pepe, who provided some sorely needed attacking impetus for Juventus. He was the special ingredient missing, and he helped unlock Milan's defense.
But Pepe, Matri, Marchisio and an improved Chiellini were not enough to give Juventus the victory today. It was still a gritty come-from-behind draw, but had Vidal not been sent off things could have turned out differently. Additionally, had Juventus minimized their mistakes, things may have turned out differently.
Next week, a home game against Chievo Verona awaits. Chievo is the type of team that Juventus need to be beating, especially after only drawing Milan today. At least they're still undefeated.
Praise Conte, and Forza Juve.
You can follow David on Twitter: @DTenenbaum
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