Emerging from a tightly contested affair with the Rossoblu, it marked a 13th victory in a row for coach Massimiliano Allegri’s men and came courtesy of a moment of brilliance from Juan Cuadrado.
It was a stark contrast to last weekend’s comfortable triumph away to Chievo, and the former Milan boss was pleased with his side’s efforts. “Tonight’s game brought us back to earth,” Allegri told reporters at his post-match press conference. “To win the league you need to pull through and win matches like this.”
That feeling stemmed from Genoa’s determined efforts to frustrate the Bianconeri, who—despite enjoying 60.2 percent of possession in the first half alone, according to WhoScored.com—struggled to create any meaningful goalscoring opportunities early on.
Then, in the 30th minute, the ball came out to Cuadrado on the right flank. Armando Izzo looked to close down the Colombian, who then simply left him standing with an incredible piece of skill before firing a low cross-shot towards goal from a tight angle.
Fortunately for the Italian champions, it took a decisive deflection off Genoa defender Sebastien De Maio and subsequently looped up over Mattia Perin. With the goalkeeper beaten, the former Fiorentina winger ran off to celebrate, dancing once again with Paul Pogba and clearly happy with the win after the final whistle.
“Genoa are a great team, they played a good game, but we wanted to win to claim first place,” he told Mediaset Premium (h/t Italian Football Daily). “We didn’t play our best game like last one, but we fought until the end to get a result.”
Few players did more than him to secure the victory, with the graphic in the tweet above showing the full extent of his contribution. Taking two shots while completing both of his attempted take-ons and 24 of his 30 pass attempts (75 percent), he was a constant problem for the Genoa back line and a vital outlet for his team-mates.
Yet that attacking output is no more important than the work Cuadrado did defensively, dedicating himself to closing down opponents. He recorded three tackles, two interceptions and two clearances, and he also recovered the ball four times.
Great defending from Cuadrado. https://t.co/H6wNaAZ5vn— Khaled Al Nouss (@KhaledAlNouss) February 3, 2016
Clearly adhering to that task, it was a much-improved display and one that bodes well for the future as Juventus look to defend their title once again. When he is on song, that ability to blend pace and trickery on the wing is an unstoppable combination for even the best defences, and it can be an extra weapon for Allegri to deploy.
With Mario Mandzukic already absent through injury and Simone Zaza’s red card against Genoa meaning he will serve a suspension, the coach may perhaps be prompted to occasionally utilise Cuadrado in a more advanced role for a short time.
Wherever he is used, the 27-year-old must be ready to perform at the same high standard, and it was no surprise to see how defenders reacted to him on Wednesday evening. Unable to cope with Cuadrado’s ability, Genoa players constantly hacked at him, and statistics courtesy of WhoScored show he was fouled a game-high seven times.
Able to create chances for himself and others, Cuadrado may become even more important to the Bianconeri in forthcoming matches against Napoli, Inter and Bayern Munich. Cuadrado may not be the first name on the Juventus teamsheet but could find himself as one of the most crucial to their title bid.