Juventus vs. Lazio: Winners and Losers from Italian Super Cup
Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala scored in the second half to lead Juventus to a 2-0 victory over Lazio in the Italian Super Cup in Shanghai on Saturday.
Following a first half that featured few clear-cut chances, Juve took the lead in the 69th minute as Mandzukic headed in a Stefano Sturaro cross. Just four minutes later, Dybala powered in the second with a high shot, his first touch after entering the match as a substitute.
The win means it's a record seventh Super Cup title for Juventus, one more than Milan. The Bianconeri will hope the triumph sets the stage for another successful season.
Last season, Massimiliano Allegri's men won Serie A and the Coppa Italia and also advanced to the final of the UEFA Champions League. After seeing veterans Andrea Pirlo and Carlos Tevez depart the club in the transfer window, Juve will have to settle on the right formula in order to claim a fifth straight league title.
Ahead, B/R chooses winners and losers from the match.
Winner: Juventus' Transfer Business
As previously noted, Andrea Pirlo and Carlos Tevez left Juventus over the summer, leaving coach Massimiliano Allegri with holes to fill in his squad. In a bid to replace Tevez, the Bianconeri signed strikers Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala from Atletico Madrid and Palermo, respectively.
One match is too little evidence to draw conclusions about either player, but both scored for Juventus on Saturday. Players and the club alike will be pleased with that.
Mandzukic started alongside Kingsley Coman at the top of Allegri's 3-5-2 formation but contributed little over the first 45 minutes. He had a big chance early in the second half, running onto a fine Paul Pogba pass, but he was unable to beat Lazio goalkeeper Federico Marchetti one-on-one. The Croatian made up for the miss with his goal in the 69th minute, a fine header.
Dybala entered the match in the 61st minute, replacing Coman, and needed only 12 minutes to find the net. Pogba served as provider, slipping a pass into the middle for Dybala to finish powerfully with his first touch.
Writing for B/R recently, Adam Digby argued that Dybala could turn into a star for Juventus:
Clearly far from realising his vast potential, there is huge scope for Dybala to improve substantially over the course of his initial contract with the club, and he could one day blossom into the kind of talismanic star that Tevez so clearly was. One major facet the latter brought to the pitch was his infectious work ethic, harassing defenders and looking to win back possession as quickly as possible.
According to WhoScored.com, the Boca Juniors star averaged 0.8 tackles and 0.3 interceptions in his final season in Italy, with the same source showing Dybala registered 0.7 and 0.5 in those respective categories. That hints at a similar willingness to work and is a trait which Allegri is almost certain to demand the younger man delivers every time he steps on the field.
Both Mandzukic and Dybala will soon face further tests, and Mandzukic in particular left plenty of room for improvement with his performance on Saturday. But with goals in the Super Cup, both players have made a strong start to the season.
Lazio were losers in an obvious and literal sense on the scoresheet, but they also failed in another respect.
The final stats, recorded by WhoScored.com, show Lazio outshot Juventus 7-6, but onlookers will have noted that Stefano Pioli's side struggled to threaten Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon regularly. Buffon was called into action three times to make saves, but he was rarely, if ever, troubled in the Bianconeri goal.
Wide attacker Felipe Anderson served as the key man for Lazio last season, registering 11 goals and seven assists in all competitions. On Saturday, the Brazilian was crucial to his side's forward forays again, creating danger with attacks down the right. Antonio Candreva posed a threat on the left, with both players trying to pick out target man Miroslav Klose in the middle.
Though Lazio occasionally caused problems for Juventus, the Biancocelesti lacked the requisite quality in the final third to break their opponents down. If they are to improve upon last season's third-place league finish, Lazio must improve.
Winner: Paul Pogba
Juventus underlined the importance of Paul Pogba to the squad by giving the French midfielder the No. 10 shirt over the summer. The number carries symbolic weight, and in his first competitive match wearing it, Pogba lived up to the billing.
In the first half, when both teams struggled to make an attacking impression, Pogba was one of the few bright spots. But as he orchestrated attacks, Juventus' front line of Mario Mandzukic and Kingsley Coman struggled to make an impact on the game.
Pogba freed Mandzukic with a perfect through ball early in the second half, serving up a glorious chance for the Croatian to score. Mandzukic missed, but Pogba's influence on the game was unmistakable. The Frenchman went on to record the assist for Dybala's goal to cap a fine overall display.
With Andrea Pirlo gone, Pogba will take on even more of a starring role for Juventus this season. Great things have been expected of the 22-year-old for some time now, and perhaps this is the season he will take another step forward in his career.
Euro 2016 is on the horizon, with France set to play host. If all goes to plan, Pogba could be one of the stars of the tournament on home soil. First, though, is the business of guiding Juventus to further glory in Italy.
As always, the Supercoppa carried with it a feel-good factor as Juventus claimed another trophy and the season got underway. But as hosts, Shanghai left plenty to be desired.
Most obviously, the pitch at Shanghai Stadium was poor. Even on the grainy television feed, one could see the extent of the uneven playing surface. In addition, the match appeared lightly attended, hardly an ideal situation if Serie A is hoping to grow in Asia.
Saturday marked the first time the Supercoppa had been played in Shanghai. One has to wonder if it will return.