Juventus-Maccabi Haifa: Giorgio Chiellini, Gigi Buffon Secure Three Vital Points
When Juventus took the field at the Stadio Olimpico against Maccabi Haifa on Wednesday, it had been over a month since they had last recorded a victory.
Obviously the international break had something to do with that, but still, it had been five games since the Old Lady had captured three points in either Serie A or the Champions League. And with two points in two games against Bordeaux and Bayern Munich, getting three points against Maccabi Haifa was crucial.
That's exactly what happened. The 1-0 scoreline was not what some what had hoped for, but three points were captured and that's all that matters when you're fighting to get back to the top of the group like Juve are right now.
Even before the game started, there were storylines developing. With the offense struggling to score, Ciro Ferrara decided to change his formation from his base 4-3-1-2 to a 4-2-3-1 with Diego and Sebastian Giovinco playing together for the first time this season.
People were wondering if Ferrara would change his tactics and even though this was a big game for the Old Lady's Champions League campaign, the rookie manager showed he was willing to mix things up.
However, it wasn't Juventus who had the first opportunity to score. It was Maccabi and Vladimir Dvalishvili who came extremely close to scoring in the game's opening minute. If not for a spectacular save from Gianluigi Buffon, then the entire Stadio Olimpico would've gone silent.
Instead, they were chanting Buffon's name. I guess the knee's feeling okay.
That defensive lapse woke the Juve players up, and from them on, they took control of the game and dominated possession. David Trezeguet, who was Juve's lone striker, won a free kick just inches outside of the box. Fabio Grosso then followed with a left-footed free kick was pushed away by Maccabi keeper Nir Davidovitch.
Juve continued to keep the pressure on the Isreali champions as Momo Sissoko and Trezeguet both saw their efforts whiz past each side of the goal.
The theme of the Juve season, no finishing in front of goal, continued in the first half. The halftime whistle blew and the game was scoreless. Nobody expected that to happen be the case.
That changed just two minutes into the second half when Giorgio Chiellini was virtually unmarked at the backpost in the six-yard box and headed home Diego's free kick.With all the offensive firepower on the field, the towering Italian defender might have been one of the last players you would think to put Juve ahead, but he did.
The goal didn't slow Juve down. Giovinco, Diego, and Mauro Camoranesi were on full display. Giovinco was causing havoc down the left flank—making defenders look stupid, sending in cross, taking shots. The little man was doing it all and those who were calling for him to play were looking awfully smart.
Diego almost saw his chip of the keeper fall bellow the crossbar and Trezeguet should've put away a one-on-one after a beautiful cross from Grosso against Davidovitch, who saved it with his right foot. Giovinco came close to doubling his side's lead with a rocket of a right foot, only to see it saved by Davidovitch. Juve still couldn't extend their lead, keeping people on the edge of their seats.
The frustration turned into concern, not because of how the team was playing, but because midfielder Felipe Melo had to be subbed off after a crunching tackle by substitute Tiago Dutra. The Brazilian left the field and was clearly in pain with tears running down his face after he was subbed off.
The game got worse for Dutra as just seven minutes after his tackle on Melo, he saw red for hacking down Chiellini. It was certainly deserved. Chiellini, for how tough he is, ran off the field, but you had to think that Dutra's tackle had to be incredibly painful.
Yet, even though Maccabi were down to 10 men, Juve couldn't extend their lead past Chiellni's goal. Amauri was brought on to replace Trezeguet with 10 minutes to go, but it was Maccabi who came close to tying, and then winning the game.
Luckily for Juve, they had Buffon between the posts.
Again Dvalishvili tested the Juve keeper. This save wasn't as spectacular as the one in the opening minutes, but it was just as important with the clock becoming an issue.
Camoranesi had a chance to put a perfect exclamation point on a fine performance after a brilliant feed from Diego. But much like what Juve's strikers have been feeling this season, Camoranesi banged one off the post leaving his teammates wondering what they had to do to score.
Maccabi had one last break on the counter and again it was Buffon to the rescue, performing yet another world-class save to deny Mohammed Ghadir.
Can you say Man of the Match? Give it to Superman.
It wasn't a pretty performance, but three points are in the bag. At the end of the day, that's all that matters at this point in time with the top of Group A still up for grabs.
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