Pep Guardiola, Max Allegri find positives in Bayern, Juventus 2-2 draw
Every match has its own narrative and the sequence in which things happen sometimes matters more than the result. At least that was the impression after Bayern's 2-2 draw away to Juventus.
"I complimented [Juventus coach Max] Allegri on a tremendous performance from Juve," said Bayern boss Pep Guardiola. "This is one of the most special days of my career ... to come here and play like that. We played a very good game."
And Allegri? "In general, we played a really good game, we could have won it tonight," he said. "This game must give us confidence that we can take on one of the best teams in the world and handle it, that we can deal with one-on-one situations, especially at the back."
You may conclude that both these men are "glass half-full" types, and you'd probably be correct. Because what we saw Tuesday night was the prototypical game of two halves or, perhaps more appropriately, a game of two-thirds and one-third. Bayern didn't just dominate the first 60 minutes -- they camped out in Juve's half, sending Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller right up in Gigi Buffon's grill. They went 2-0 up, but it could easily have been more. All the home side had to show for it was an errant finish from Mario Mandzukic and an appeal for an Arturo Vidal handball.
Then came the last half-hour. Perhaps knowing they had little to lose, Juve streamed forward and this time it was Bayern who were rattled. In came the fresh legs of Stefano Sturaro and Hernanes, for Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira, and out popped two goals plus at least two other excellent chances.
A headline in Munich's Suddeutsche Zeitung about the game read "Unnecessarily Exciting" and from Bayern's perspective, that was undoubtedly the case. A 2-2 away draw is not a bad result, but to most it would become a poor performance when you can't hang onto a 2-0 lead with half an hour to go. Yet Guardiola sees the bright side of that first hour.
The argument works in reverse for Juve. A reflection on just want went wrong in that first hour seems more apt than celebrating the comeback. You spent the majority of the game getting pounded, being second to every ball and unable to cross the half-way line with any sense of control. (And make no mistake about it, it was a case of "being unable" rather than "choosing not to" -- Allegri himself admitted afterward that it wasn't his game plan to park the bus... Bayern did that for him.)
And yet because of the two late goals -- several outlets noted with pride that Juve became only the third team to score more than once against Bayern this season -- all of a sudden it's as if everything is fine. "Juve, What Lions!" was the headline in the Turin daily "Gazzetta dello Sport."
Maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe Allegri and Guardiola simply have sunnier dispositions. Perhaps more likely, they know their squad and their players far better than I do and they know that to get the best out of them you need to dish out far more carrots than sticks. Perhaps they're also employing some selective memory as well.
A longtime Pep-watcher suggested that with the Bundesliga all but locked up and his final months as Bayern boss ticking away, these days he's all about performance and execution. And those first 60 minutes were so perfect, such a utopian blend of pressing, possession and movement that Guardiola would have been happy his side hit those peaks even if he'd lost the game.
That might be over the top -- it's easier to say stuff like that when you're in the drivers' seat for qualification as Bayern are now -- but there's more of a kernel of truth to it. How he wins games matters to Guardiola far more than it does to others, possibly because he knows full well that his squad is so good that they can mail it in and still beat most opponents both in Europe and in the Bundesliga.
As for Allegri, he went so far as to say that the result doesn't change much in terms of advancing. They were going to have to beat Bayern either at home or away and, while they couldn't do it at home, the performance suggest that they can do it away. "And so it becomes like a one-off game," he said. Which isn't exactly true, of course, because it's the kind of one-off that Bayern can win or draw (0-0 or 1-1) whereas Juve pretty much need to win (improbable 3-3s or 4-4s aside). Still, there's something to be said for positivity.
I guess that's the message coming from these two. You can focus on Juve's initial hour of utter futility or Bayern's latter half-hour of wobbles and chaos, pointing the finger of blame. Or you can go yin to that yang and instead praise both Bayern's start and Juve's finish. Allegri and Guardiola have opted for the latter, at least in public. Whether they sing a different tune in private to their players is anyone's guess. The simple fact of the matter is that a lot went wrong for long stretches of the game for both clubs and you'd imagine they'd want to address that.
Sometimes positive reinforcement can work wonders. Guardiola showing them the first hour of the game and simply telling them "when you play like this, nobody can touch you" might well be more effective than pointing out individual or isolated mistakes by Vidal, Joshua Kimmich and Manuel Neuer. Similarly, Allegri replaying the ending of the game to his men might teach them that if they are fearless and kick it up a notch the way they did after Bayern's second goal, they can overcome anyone -- even one of the two best sides in the world.
That said, sequence matters. Had it been Juve going 2-0 up and then drawing 2-2, the mood would be distinctly different. So too if that had been Bayern getting pummeled for an hour. Great managers shape their message to the situation and in the case of these two, they deliver a spoonful of honey wherever possible.