Claudio Marchisio didn’t score the goal, but he lifted his arms and put his head back. It was Paul Pogba who finally broke down Bologna: a simple touch with the outside of his right foot and a super strike to get the only goal Juventus needed.
It was the 29th win of the season for Juventus—a club-high. It was he 11th time in all competitions that the Bianconeri won by a score of 1-0. And they wouldn’t stop until they got that.
Bologna don't look like a team that offer much of a resistance—they are currently sixth-last in goals conceded, and they are living dangerously, just outside the relegation zone—but many times the whole squad played behind the ball. Bologna put just two shots on goal, and the first came in the 82nd minute. They never really thought about scoring.
Pogba did. He put seven shots on net—more than any other player on the field, per WhoScored.com—and the goal was the culmination of all that work. In the first part of the game, he found himself in a position to score, but he released a shot without any sting.
He did eventually get his seventh goal in Serie A. Without Fernando Llorente posing much of a threat, Pogba overran Bologna and opened up space for himself. The Juventus manager Antonio Conte chose to rest Carlos Tevez in anticipation for the Europa League semi-final tie against Benfica this coming week, and so he was not there to make all the runs.
Sebastian Giovinco covered for his teammate, and he took the attention away from the powerful Pogba. Giovino made tackles and drew fouls, while Pogba jumped into the open channels.
He is not having the most consistent season. Llorente called it a “small crisis” in an interview with Tuttosport (h/t goal.com). Pogba’s contract runs until the summer of 2016, and he has not yet signed an extension.
Paris Saint-German continue to pester Juventus about a transfer, according to reports, but maybe it is not the burden of all those rumours that has weighed down on Pogba. Maybe he is just a 21-year-old trying to find himself.
“It's normal that you can spend moments of this kind, especially at 20, when you may feel more pressure,” Llorente told the Italian newspaper, “and maybe you are less experienced at managing the effects of fatigue.”
But Pogba does not seem to lack confidence. He is audacious. When he shoots inside the box, the result is sometimes tame, a shot lacking any ferocity.
It is outside the box when he scores. but he is audacious, and it is almost as if he waits for those perfectly still moments: a volley, an opening in the defence, a second of time. This goal was his first in the league since January 18, but he has played better the past couple of weeks. He is growing and helping.
In the first half, Juventus were thinking about scoring, but they weren’t actually doing it. They did not give up—as if they ever do.
In the second half, Pogba took down the pass from Mauricio Isla out wide, settled down the ball and rifled the opener. He walked away with Giovinco tugging on him like a kid for a sidekick, Pogba’s eyes menacing, celebrating in the corner.
Before it was Arturo Vidal doing the scoring when the forwards could not. Now that he is injured, Pogba has stepped up and commandeered the midfield. Andrea Pirlo is the graceful influence, but on his side is the brawn, Pogba muscling the opposition out of the way. There is always someone on Juventus reinforcing a weak seam; there is always a supplement.
The rest was not easy. Bologna summoned up the courage to push forward, and in the final minutes of stoppage time, Juventus were scrambling. And so Conte jumped into the arms of his staff when the referee blew the final whistle. They were relieved.
Juventus could win the title next weekend if results go their way. They have already racked up 90 points—normally enough to win the league by now—but they still could grab 100. No Serie A team has reached that total before.
And Pogba has never played so many games before: 44 and counting.
Updated on April 18 at 17:03 BST.
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