Juventus vs. Benfica: 5 Things We Learned

Anthony LopopoloFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2014

Juventus vs. Benfica: 5 Things We Learned

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    Benfica wrapped up their domestic title almost two weeks ago and are now back in the Europa League final.

    They came out and defended. They had to know that a 0-0 draw was enough, and it was. Benfica and Juventus finished the second leg of this Europa League semi-final scoreless, and Benfica advanced 2-1 on aggregate.

    It was desperate football, but it was smart, too. Benfica never looked like they were scrambling. When Benfica lost players, they only looked stronger.

    Benfica never played with 9 or 10 men tonight on the pitch in Turin. Spirit of Eusebio was there for the whole 90'. Well done to Benfica.

    — Soccer Translator (@worldfootballcm) May 1, 2014

    The final was supposed to be a celebration for Juventus. It is in Torino under two weeks from now, but Juventus will not be playing at home.

    Here are a few things to consider from a wild night.

No Goals from the Juventus Strikers

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    For a moment, the whole stadium went mad. Dani Osvaldo scored in the 80th minute, but it was offside.

    That was the closet Juventus would come to the one and only goal that would have won them the game and the tie.

    Only twice in this Europa League campaign has a striker scored for Juventus. Carlos Tevez has scored just once in 12 games in European competition all season, Fernando Llorente just twice.

    For all their goalscoring exploits in Serie A—they have 34 goals combined in the Italian league, tied for the most of any partnership—it is Tevez and Llorente who ultimately failed the Bianconeri in Europe. They just weren’t there when Juventus needed them.

Vidal Makes His Return

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    Arturo Vidal started his first match in three weeks and stormed the pitch early. He is a midfielder who enjoys a good run forward, and against Benfica he kept on attacking.

    It is clear that Juventus missed his presence in the intervening days. They play with much more balance with him; he is their equilibrium.

    It is all the running he does, all the ground he covers, that is irreplaceable. Vidal was forced to rest his injured knee and saw only limited playing time in the match against Sassuolo on Monday.

    But he could not last the 90 minutes and slowly faded away from the game.

Juventus Fail to Take Chances

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    They kept on building to a crescendo, but it never came. They created a lot of danger—Vidal’s header at the end of the first half was only saved off the line by the defender Luisao—and they kept surging forward. They managed 54 dangerous attacks, according to UEFA.com, but only two were of high quality.

    Juventus tried to break down Benfica, who were playing well behind the ball. However, the Bianconeri were mostly limited to speculative shots from outside the box.

    Juventus have struggled to score routinely in these last few months of the season, usually a maximum of a goal or two per game. Despite all their chances—they attempted 19 shots to Benfica’s four, according to WhoScored.com—Juventus lacked that killer edge.

Benfica Potentially Lose Three Players

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    There was nothing left to give. Benfica finished the match with nine men, and they may lose up to three players for the final.

    Enzo Perez was sent off early in the second half, while Lazar Markovic was red-carded after being subbed off.

    Eduardo Salvio handled the ball late and gave up a free-kick, earning himself one yellow card too many. He too will miss the final.

    Then at the end it was Ezequiel Garay who was carried off the field. He took a nasty hit to the face from Paul Pogba, who landed on the 27-year-old defender with his studs.

Young Slovenian Calm in Net for Benfica

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Jan Oblak had played just twice before in the Europa League, but he replaced Artur Moraes in goal at Juventus Stadium and did a fine job.

    Threats were coming every way. Andrea Pirlo even took a fair few shots from afar. But the 21-year-old goalkeeper was sharp and steady. When the shots came at him, he gobbled up the ball. No fuss.

    He simply did not give out a bad rebound. He parried away a stinging free-kick from Pirlo and was cool even after Benfica went down to 10 men.

    Oblak now has 19 clean sheets in 23 games this season.