Second-half comeback gives Juve reason to believe ahead of Bayern trip
Juventus and Bayern Munich met in Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie and produced a captivating 2-2 draw. With the tie very much in the balance heading to the Allianz Arena on March 16, we asked Raphael Honigstein and James Horncastle to assess the state of play.
James kicks things off:
Recovered yet, Raf?
I write to you after seeing Pep Guardiola get quite prickly in Turin. He didn't seem to appreciate the implication that Bayern wasted their first-half domination, got complacent and then took their foot off the gas at 2-0. While impressive, it did take me aback to hear him say on TV in Italy that "to come here and play like we did is one of the most special days of my career."
He chose to look beyond the result, which he appeared to imply isn't the typical thing in Italy. But to take him up on this point, while awe inspiring at times in the opening 45 minutes, this wasn't the ruthless, otherworldly football that discombobulated Roma at the Stadio Olimpico last season. Maybe his opinion owes something to the injuries Bayern had and respect he has for Juventus. "I didn't expect to come here, win 7-0 and for Juventus not to be able to get out of their own half," he bristled.
People have got to be realistic. How did you see it? To me it had shades of Arsenal vs. Barca in 2010.
Buon giorno James,
Good to hear from you again. Arsenal vs. Barca in 2010? Wow, that's some compliment for Bayern, but perhaps not so much for Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller. Who was the Nicklas Bendtner on Tuesday? Jokes aside, you're right in the sense that the draw flattered the home side here. In a wider sense, it also confirmed what we suspected of Bayern: they're as good going forward as they've ever been at the moment, and they can dominate teams with a million passes, but as soon as the ball is near their own box, problems can arise.
In Germany, Joshua Kimmich got a lot of criticism given his failure to clear the ball in the run-up to Paulo Dybala's goal. Guardiola was having none of it. He called the 21-year-old's performance "perfect." Kimmich has little to no experience as a centre-back and acquitted himself fairly well considering the circumstances, but the "lack of coolness" in the last 20 minutes or so that Arjen Robben bemoaned also affected much more seasoned players.
In my view, not enough has been made of Manuel Neuer's floated goal kick wide right that put immediate, unnecessary pressure on Philipp Lahm. Lahm's header bounced off Paul Pogba; what followed was the equaliser. Neuer did a similar thing last season, playing a quick goal kick out to Juan Bernat in the first leg of the Barcelona semifinal. Instead of slowing things down and wasting a bit of time with 20 minutes to go at 0-0, his attempt to launch a quick attack backfired as Bernat lost the ball and Lionel Messi broke the deadlock.
Bayern got a lot of the big things right in Turin, and in fairly impressive fashion, but they'll need to pay more attention to those small things if they want to lift the trophy again.
Arise, Lord Juan Cuadrado!
I'm anointing him as the Bendtner of this piece, Raph. OK, it wasn't a chance to win the game -- rather, it was one to equalise before Stefano Sturaro actually did -- and I don't think I'm being too harsh in expecting him to have done better. But good of the Old Lady to show up in the end, wasn't it? Fashionably late after an hour.
Max Allegri felt Juventus should have trusted their defenders more. Instead, in those opening stages, the midfielders and strikers helped out so much they forgot they were midfielders and strikers. Also, how imprecisely Juventus played out from the back in this game was highlighted as an area they have got to improve ahead of the second leg. They couldn't keep the ball. They couldn't build.
"We couldn't get out," defender Leonardo Bonucci said. "We couldn't find an out to one of our strikers. You defend, defend, defend and in the end you concede."
For all the doubling up Juventus did on the flanks, Robben came close to making an Ashley Cole out of Patrice Evra, while Stephan Lichtsteiner will regret not getting closer to Douglas Costa for the cross that brought the opening goal.
It was a strange game. Bayern had 71 percent possession in the first half, but Juventus had some golden opportunities -- for instance, the ball over the top for Mario Mandzukic after two minutes. There was another up and under for Dybala too, which, to be fair, was difficult to bring down and control. Should he have done so, though, Bayern would have been in trouble. A Dybala cross also narrowly escaped a sliding Mandzukic as well. The Croatian buried a similar but more difficult chance away at Manchester City.
A more courageous approach in the first half against that Bayern defence could have made things very different. As would referee Martin Atkinson awarding Juventus a penalty for a hand ball by Arturo Vidal or disallowing Muller's goal because of an infringement by Lewandowski or by calling a foul on the Pole as Bayern broke forward to double their lead.
Hindsight is 20/20, and the first 45 minutes perhaps shouldn't be seen through the prism of the final half-hour, when the state of the game changed. Bayern were 2-0 to the good. In some respects, Robben's goal was the best thing that happened to Juventus. The super computer switched off, or let's say the screen saver came on, and as has been the case so often this season Allegri effected a change from the bench that got Juventus a result that keeps them alive.
Other teams would have thrown in the towel. Juventus didn't. "Be Heroes" was the prematch choreography, and Gazzetta dello Sport on Wednesday hailed Juventus' players as lions, with Mandzukic's performance singled out for special praise. He battled all night, set up Dybala to get Juventus back into the game and then Cuadrado for what should have been an equaliser. Substitutions and a riskier, bolder attitude turned the game.
Many Juventus fans feared the worst when Hernanes appeared in Claudio Marchisio's place in the second half. But he did well, and Alvaro Morata was the one who set up fellow substitute Sturaro to make it 2-2. The second half has to be the starting point for Juventus -- reason to believe. Bayern are superior but not unbeatable.
You just made me realise that I've got my Bendtner-Bayern comparison the wrong way round, James! Apologies to all concerned.
How's this for a historical precedent: the result that came to my mind immediately on Tuesday was Bayern's 2-2 draw at AC Milan in the 2007 quarterfinals. It was a fantastic result, the Germans' best in Italy in years, and many Bayern fans entertained thoughts of reaching the semis. But then, in the return leg, Carlo Ancelotti's slightly creaking but still purring machine produced a master class, becoming the first European team to win in the Allianz Arena with a 2-0 result.
Bayern were utterly lost that night, unable to get a single shot on target. No, I don't think the second leg will play out that way. Bayern have become too good going forward, too tactically adept to not find a way through, even against the best-organised sides in Europe. But that result from the second Ottmar Hitzfeld era still stands as a warning that progression should never be taken for granted against an Italian heavyweight.
Juventus' ability to capitalise on mistakes, to stay in matches and to bounce back mirrors the traditional "virtues" of German football; that's probably why Bundesliga teams and the national team often struggle to prevail in these duels with continental opposition. Lahm was right when he said that "the Champions League was the winner" on Tuesday. The second installment promises to be just as thrilling.
Who, if anyone, will be Juventus' Clarence Seedorf and Pippo Inzaghi, eh? Can't wait to find out.