Juventus vs. Everton: 8 Observations from Guinness International Champions Cup

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Juventus vs. Everton: 8 Observations from Guinness International Champions Cup
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Tim Howard won AT&T Park on Wednesday night.

Fans at AT&T Park were already satisfied with Everton's thrilling penalty-kick victory over Juventus during Wednesday night's Guinness International Champions Cup match. 

 

The fact that it was American Tim Howard playing the role of hero to chants of "USA! USA!" was just a bonus. And a big one. 

Everton advanced to the next round against Real Madrid or the Los Angeles Galaxy when Howard denied Federico Peluso to seal a 1-1 (6-5) victory in penalty kicks after goals from Everton's Kevin Mirallas and Juventus' Kwadwo Asamoah left the game tied after regulation.  

On a typically chilly "summer" night in San Francisco, Bleacher Report was fortunate to be in attendance along with 22,208 fans who bucked the whole Americans-will-never-embrace-soccer thing (thanks a lot, Homer). 

Let's find out what we learned other than that the local seagulls around these parts are OK with trying to crap on more than just baseball players late into the night. 

For his own sake, thankfully Marouane Fellaini's giant poo target/afro had already left the pitch by the time of The Great Seagull Invasion. But anyway...

 

Let's Get the Obvious Out of the Way: Americans Love Tim Howard

To absolutely no one's surprise, American No. 1 goalkeeper and now-longtime Everton stalwart between the sticks was the object of AT&T Park's adulation during pregame introductions. And whenever he did something awesome. Or simply took a goal kick. 

Sure, the New Jersey native was far from his "home" of New Jersey, but being the only American on the pitch who has also flourished on the European stage, the crowd's love was always going to be his to lose. 

It also helped that Howard bailed the Toffees' back line out repeatedly in making a myriad of tough saves. 

By the time of Asamoah's 80th-minute equalizer, Howard had no chance at making a save. 

The second-most emotional player-related responses were courtesy of the jumbotron. 

Jeers won the night when U.S. Men's National Team player and television pundit Eric Wynalda's made an appearance on a Geico commercial, and when a gel-haired Cristiano Ronaldo advertised protein.

 

But They (Rightfully) Love Andrea Pirlo, Too 

It may simply be because San Francisco just lost its onetime favorite bearded athlete Brian Wilson to a rival team, or more than likely it's out of respect to the bearded Italian legend, but it was clear when Pirlo first stepped on the pitch as a second-half substitute that the fans adored him. 

In what was a decidedly pro-Everton crowd, the Italian Maestro was immediately shown respect as the stadium rose to their feet for a standing ovation at the sight of him about to make his entrance. 

From his deep-lying playmaking position, Pirlo showed a few glimpses of his ability with pinpoint-placed long passes, but otherwise didn't make a huge effect in the run of play. 

He did, however, have a chance to send Juve to the next round when taking a potentially deciding penalty, but to absolutely everyone's surprise, Pirlo blasted his shot a clear two feet wide of the post. 

 

Fans Can Play, Too, Go on and Brush That Penalty Off 

When Asamoah stepped up take his turn at the penalty spot against Howard, an overzealous fan decided to do the honors for the Ghanaian. 

"Jungle Bird" charged the pitch and lined up for his/her brush with fame against Howard. His moment in the spotlight was for naught, as the attempt went straight to Howard, who didn't have to move. He was then taken off by security to a vociferous applause, in spite of the fairly lousy penalty effort. 

See the video here, via Deadspin. 

Oh, and an unfazed Asamoah then calmly converted his penalty. 

 

Arturo Vidal Has a Cannon 

Juve's Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal not once but twice nearly scored a golazo for the Italians with a long-distance blast. 

Vidal almost opened the scoring for Juventus early on in the first half when a Tevez corner was easily cleared by the Everton defense straight for a waiting Vidal. Vidal blasted a volley from just outside the 18-yard box that glanced past Howard's outstretched arms but also outside Howard's goal. 

Later in the 56th minute, his beautifully struck free kick curved around the Everton wall and only a diving Howard could make a fingertip save to deny Vidal. 

 

Everton Looks Dangerous on Set Pieces 

Both of the Toffees' most dangerous moments in attack came off of set pieces during a scoreless second half. 

First, in what appeared to open the scoring for Everton, Steven Pienaar swung a free kick in front the left flank. Juventus goalkeeper Marco Storari stayed on his line expecting an Everton player to get a head on it. 

Instead, his curling ball curled past everyone including Storari, who was left motionless as the ball trickled by. Phil Jagielka charged in and may or may not have made contact with the ball which eventually trickled into the back of the net. It mattered not, though, as the linesman ruled that an offside Jagielka did make contact, in spite Jagielka's protests that the ball was untouched. 

Either way, Roberto Martinez had to have been pleased with his team's preseason execution. 

Masashi Hara/Getty Images
"Juve, you guys steal our kits, bro?"

 

Can't Tell if Juventus is Arsenal or Sweden 

Juventus trotted on to the pitch in their new, non-traditional kits. Sure, their blue and yellow kids looked neat and all, but they were oddly reminiscent of Arsenal's brand-new away kits, too. 

Their fashion-related follies would not be excused on Twitter. 

 

The Fernando Llorente-Carlos Tevez Partnership Will Flourish 

New boys Tevez and Llorente were added to shore up the Juve front line, a perceived weakness for the two-time defending Serie A champions. 

Neither Tevez nor Llorente made the scoresheet in defeat, but but the potential for things to come was evident from the start. 

Tevez, revitalized and relieved from his tenuous time at Manchester City, looked like a man possessed (in spite of being continually booed) with his dangerous runs switching seamlessly from the right and left flank. 

Meanwhile, Llorente played the part of a traditional target man, holding up play brilliantly and controlling long passes from his midfield. As the chemistry between the two continues to grow and Llorente's layoffs begin to sync better with Tevez' darting runs, Serie A defenses will be on their heels. 

 

The Perfect Celebration

OK, he just had to do it, didn't he? 

Mirallas, the match's Most Valuable Player, scored the opening goal with a darting run from the right side, cut inward through Juventus' backpedalling defense and slotted a low powerful shot that beat Storari to his near post. 

In a baseball stadium, of course, Mirallas celebrated in the most fitting of ways: he ran toward the adoring fans and swung a fake bat, threw his hand to shade his forehead as if to watch his home run fly into the distance. 

It was just perfect. (And it's not because local baseball fans haven't seen too many of these from the hometown team this year...WE SWEAR).



 

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