Juventus not up to task as win streak ends versus valiant Bologna side
It was bound to happen, Juventus' rivals were hoping for it, and with the Bayern Munich challenge coming up, it was almost to be expected. After managing 15 consecutive Serie A wins, the Bianconeri could only muster a draw against a spirited Bologna side who continue to impress under Roberto Donadoni. A 0-0 scoreline, the first time in four years the Old Lady's squad couldn't even manage a shot on target.
This is a Rossoblu side that defeated Milan, beat Napoli and held Roma. On Friday evening, Juventus found out why. Determined, physical and perfectly organised, the home side were excellent at frustrating their technically superior opponents. However, what was most impressive was the ambition shown by coach Donadoni, who has done wonders for the squad's self-esteem.
Had the Felsinei possessed better technique, they certainly would have scored, but their many individual errors, including misplaced passes and poor decision-making, made it difficult for them to penetrate an experienced Juve back line. Yet despite their flaws, they never lost the will to keep going, believing in their strength to spring a surprise, and having a coach on the sideline who makes offensive substitutions, despite the quality of the opponent, encouraged them even further.
Sadly for Juventus, they couldn't overcome the tight defending; there was simply no room to operate. Predictable with their style and narrow in the first half, the away squad struggled to create space for themselves and lure the opponent in a different direction. Bologna did well to close down all the spaces in the middle and on this occasion, the Bianconeri failed in to find another route to goal, perhaps distracted by their upcoming Champions League clash.
Allegri attempted to rectify the situation by changing to a 4-4-2 formation in the second half, removing a rusty Roberto Pereyra for Juan Cuadrado, but the Rossoblu's midfielders never gave up the fight, snatching a point from the game to keep Napoli's hopes of winning the Scudetto alive.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Gianluigi Buffon, 6 -- Always alert and focused, he came to the side's rescue to produce a good first-half save that denied Mattia Destro, and he wasn't really tested thereafter.
DF Stephan Lichtsteiner, 6 -- Played a very cautious game and did well defensively, but without his thrusts forward, the team looked very narrow.
DF Leonardo Bonucci, 6 -- Always capable of a foolish mistake or two, he can be a bit aggressive with his challenges and inaccurate when clearing the ball. But barring the odd mistake here and there, few are better at his role.
DF Andrea Barzagli, 7 -- Excellent as usual in reading the game, he spots trouble from a mile away and runs across the pitch to deny the opponent. Experienced and reliable.
DF Patrice Evra, 6 -- Certainly not the offensive threat Alex Sandro is, but the intelligence is there to see. Some great passes, and he came close to breaking the deadlock.
MF Stefano Sturaro, 6 -- His determination makes him interesting to watch, but his technique isn't the greatest and he must work on his accuracy. Gets into good positions and always fights for possession.
MF Claudio Marchisio, 6 -- Started off well but struggled thereafter to provide the quality required to control the game.
MF Paul Pogba, 6 -- An emotional player, when Pogba is frustrated, his game suffers. He doesn't have the composure required to keep calm and excel at the basics. He offers a beautiful demonstration of his technique on occasion, but he disappeared at certain moments of the game.
MF Roberto Pereyra, 5 -- Struggled to keep up with the requirements of the game and his intellect wasn't on show as it usually is, which is to be expected after the injury. Looking out of sync with the rest of the squad, he struggled to really push the team forward in his role as trequartista.
FW Alvaro Morata, 6 -- He made some excellent runs, was rather good at holding up the ball and fought hard to win possession, but the lack of space made it difficult for his particular talent to shine.
FW Simone Zaza, 6 -- His touch is heavy, and while he worked well with Morata in an attempt to overcome Bologna's tight defending, reading the game well on occasion, his execution was disappointing.
DF Juan Cuadrado, 6 -- Brought on in a bid to change tactics and exploit Bologna's weaknesses, the player moved well and always looks exciting, but he almost runs without direction. Needs to develop his understanding of the game.
FW Paulo Dybala, 5 -- His arrival on the pitch made no impact.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Minarzouki.