In a tough battle to get a result at the Allianz Stadium in Turin on Sunday evening, Juventus edged out AS Roma by a single goal, courtesy of a luckily deflected header by Rodrigo Bentancur which hit Moise Kean before finding its way into the net in the 16th minute. It was an interesting duel between very good teams, marked by a highly controversial moment in which referee Daniele Orsato may have unintentionally helped the home team hold onto their lead, but little can be said against the way the Old Lady kept their heads to make it all the way through.
This was the fourth Serie A win in a row for Juventus, who are now seventh with 14 points, the same tally as Lazio and Atalanta in fifth and sixth place, respectively. Roma remain fourth for the time being with 15, but they’ve missed an opportunity to move above Inter Milan in third, who have 17 points to their name.
Mourinho beaten with his own stick
Probably the most interesting aspect of the game was the fact that without knowing who managed which team, most would have thought Jose Mourinho was in charge of Juventus instead of Roma. The Portuguese tactician is known for his teams usually playing highly efficient, defensive football, in which they mostly concentrate on taking the sting out the opposition attack and, if they score, the way they defend their lead.
However, Roma have been playing quite differently since the former Porto, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur boss took charge this summer. It’s an attractive style, pleasant to watch for the neutrals, making use of the vast creativity of a number of players at his disposal.
But Juventus, loaded with experience, have shown the ability, as well as maturity, required to counter such opposition. There is no attacker in the world that would be likely to cause much trouble for Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, and the pace of Federico Chiesa and Moise Kean at the other end is a fine supplement to a strong defence. It could even be argued that Massimiliano Allegri’s team would’ve been placed even better to win this match had Alvaro Morata been ready to play for the start, but the Spaniard had to be content with a place on the bench before making an appearance in the final quarter of the match.
Juventus took their first shot after only 13 seconds through Federico Bernardeschi, but from that point on, Roma attacked relentlessly. Captain Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo Zaniolo and Tammy Abraham all looked lively. However, the home side were patient. They absorbed the pressure, scored very much against the run of play, slowed the game down, caused notable frustration for the visitors, and ended up keeping the points for themselves – pretty much the classic Mourinho style.
The penalty controversy
There will certainly be other opinions on the events that took place late in the first half, but it seems the referee made a serious mistake in the 41st minute which eventually cost Roma a goal. Abraham danced through the Juventus box, skillfully moved past Bonucci and was tackled at a crucial moment by Danilo, who appeared to have fouled the Roma striker. The ball went on to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was then brought down by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. It was at this moment that Orsato blew his whistle and pointed to the spot, just as Abraham placed the ball into the net.
It stood to reason to expect the referee, especially as experienced as Orsato is, to wait a second or two and see if the attacking team would score before giving the penalty, but he plainly did not do so. Several Roma players protested, but there was nothing anyone,
including the VAR, could do at that point. The play had been stopped before the ball went in, and there was no way the goal could’ve been allowed to stand. All the VAR could do was to check if Mkhitaryan had been offside and potentially dent Roma’s hopes even further. Obviously, there is only so much technology can do.
Fortunately for the visitors, the Armenian wasn’t offside.
But as luck would have it, Roma ended up wasting the penalty. Abraham wanted to take it ahead of Jordan Veretout, the regular penalty taker in the team, but the midfielder would have none of it and placed the ball on the spot. Szczesny, however, read his intention and saved the shot. Juventus got away with it, leaving the visitors incredibly frustrated as the score remained unchanged. The argument between Abraham and Veretout probably affected the midfielder’s concentration, proving once more that it’s extremely unwise to confront the designated penalty taker about taking his job from him.
With just one goal in it, the moment undoubtedly had a huge impact on the outcome of the match, and Roma will rightly feel that they have plenty to complain about, though it obviously won’t do them any good.
Zaniolo injured again
As strange as it may seem, the worst that happened for Roma in this match probably wasn’t the unluckily conceded goal, or the controversial penalty call.
At the age of 22, Zaniolo has already gone through two cruciate ligament ruptures in his career. Incidentally, the first one happened against none other than Juventus in January 2020. The pandemic-caused three-month break in the spring that year allowed him to be back in action for the final nine league matches of the season, but as he represented Italy in the UEFA Nations League against Netherlands in September, less than two weeks before 2020-21 started, the same thing happened again and he missed the entire campaign.
Zaniolo returned ahead of this season, and Mourinho can be said to have managed the attacking midfielder carefully up to this point. Even though the troubled player started seven of the eight league matches Roma have played, missing the one through suspension, not once was he allowed to complete the 90 minutes. He was also an unused substitute in the Europa Conference League opening 5-1 win over CSKA Sofia and made a 28-minute cameo in the second-round 0-3 victory away to Zorya Lugansk.
Naturally, he was expected to start on Sunday, but misfortune struck again as he took a knock to the problematic knee early on and left the pitch after 26 minutes. Everyone at the club is currently awaiting for the scan, the results of which aren’t likely to be known until Tuesday.
The medical staff have made an early assessment and reportedly expressed belief that the ligaments have been left undamaged this time, and that’s at least something that gives hope for a player whose talent is huge, hope that he’ll be back relatively soon and that his career may yet reach the heights that that talent deserves.