In his first game played as a 42-year-old man, Gigi Buffon put forth the kind of effort that had people busting out the same kind of ageless wonder lines during his final days as a 41-year-old. Save after save Buffon made, diving to his left and right, flying high to tip a shot or two over the bar, and just being the overall badass in goal that he’s been for the past two decades.
Even that wasn’t enough for Juventus to snap out of its funk.
For the third time in less than three weeks, Juventus laid an absolute egg in a game where we had hoped for much, much more. The overall product was a lot of the same, but the result wasn’t the same as the previous two, though — a completely uninspiring performance that was bailed out by a late Cristiano Ronaldo penalty kick tp give Juventus a 1-1 draw against AC Milan at San Siro in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals on Thursday night.
Oh, and there’s this little fact, too: Milan played the final 20 minutes down a man, yet Juventus couldn’t really muster any kind of serious comeback before Ronaldo’s penalty kick in the 90th minute that forced Gigi Donnarumma to make the kind of saves that the Gigi on the other end of the field was making all night.
Thursday night’s result — a stark contrast to Juve’s first two Coppa Italia games of the season — comes off the back of a bad 2-1 loss to Hellas Verona five days earlier over the weekend. And two weeks before that, it was another 2-1 loss, that time to Napoli at the San Paolo.
These three really performances in the last four games — two in league play and now this one in the Coppa Italia — have pretty much been the same kind of deal: Juve’s attack hasn’t looked anywhere near as dangerous as it had been looking when things might have been turning for the better in early January. And right before his penalty kick, it looked like the red-hot Cristiano Ronaldo — who was destined to not score in a game for the first time since the Supercoppa loss to Lazio on Dec. 22 — could even save Juventus.
And then there was a handball in the box, and then it got overturned by VAR. Ronaldo stepped up to the spot and hammered home a goal that completely bailed his team out.
For much of the first half, Juventus had nearly double the amount of possession as Milan had. However, when you look at what was actually being generated offensively, it was Milan who had the bulk of the scoring chances, outshooting Juventus 8-2 in the opening half. That trend continued for much of the second half as well. Juve’s possession rarely even dipped below 60 percent, and even then the offense was far from dangerous until the closing minutes of the game when there was finally some quick, crisp passing being done.
Final shot count: Milan 19, Juventus 13.
It wasn’t that close, though, folks.
If it wasn’t for Buffon — and to a lesser extent VAR — this game would have been 2-0 or 3-0 even before Davide Calabria went flying through the air struck the ball with his left hand. The man who turned 42 two weeks ago made eight saves, many of them really freakin’ good. There’s a reason why Juventus didn’t get blown out of the San Siro on Thursday night, and it’s the dude wearing No. 77.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Can you remember a game where one starting goalkeeper was wearing No. 77 and the other one was wearing No. 99? That’s gotta be some kind of record for highest combined total for kit numbers between two goalkeepers. (I have no idea, but it should be.)
- The announcers on the ESPN Deportes stream I watched kept referring to Buffon as “Nonno” and I found it quite amusing.
- Oh, and just for kicks, Buffon finished with 100 percent pass success rate. Because, when looking at what’s important in this game, it’s Buffon’s passing that mattered most.
- Good job, Nonno. You can stay around as long as you like.
- Theo Hernandez should get credit for an assist in this game. If Milan have 11 men on the field for the entire 96 minutes of game time, I’m thinking that Juve’s looking another loss right in the face.
- Then again, right before VAR happened, Juve were looking another loss right in the face — and I was writing this thread with the kind of anger (and disappointment) of seeing Juventus deservedly lose another game in which they played like garbage.
- I’m still trying to figure out what, exactly, Mattia De Sciglio was doing on Milan’s goal. That wasn’t just really bad marking, but he basically let Ante Rebic run right past him, get the shot off and then celebrate even before De Sciglio reacted to what had just happened.
- And yet, who ended up recording a team high in tackles for Juve? Mattia De Sciglio.
- Milan players were shown seven yellows (and a red) Thursday night. I think I know what Milan supporters are going to be complaining about in the minutes and hours following this game.
- It’s game like these where you really notice what a couple of injuries do to the options for Maurizio Sarri off the bench. There wasn’t a Douglas Costa to come on and try to change the pace of the game with his speed. There wasn’t a different right back option other than shifting Juan Cuadrado back into defense for Sarri to go to. (Danilo is just back from injury so I doubt he’s going to play heavy minutes the next few weeks.) Bringing on the three players he brought on were just about the only direction Sarri could have gone.
- Thank God for … God. Love you forever, Gigi.