Well, we have good news and we have bad news. The good news is that Fiorentina still sit in second place, 4 points back from Inter Milan and leading Napoli on goals. Josip Ilicic also remains perfect on penalties for the season. The bad news is that that's pretty much all the good news from this one.
The match started about as perfectly as Paulo Sousa could have imagined. In the 2nd minute of the match, Giorgio Chiellini clipped Federico Bernardeschi in the area, conceding the penalty, and Ilicic powered it past Gigi Buffon to shock the Juventus fans.
Juventus responded minutes later, with Paul Pogba releasing Patrice Evra down the left in the 6th minute to cross to an unmarked Juan Cuadrado (of course), whose looping header dropped into the net behind Ciprian Tatarusanu to draw the Bianconeri level and get the support back on their feet.
The rest of the half settled into a pattern: Fiorentina pinging around the defense and the base of the midfield without threatening Buffon's goal, with Juventus trying to break quickly after winning the ball with some very rugged tackling. The only real opportunities for the rest of the half came from set pieces, with Josip Ilicic hammering a free kick into the wall from a promising position and a couple of long crosses into Tatarusanu's box causing a nervous moment or two. The half finished up at 1-1, a fair reflection of the overall play.
After the break, things resumed much as they had before, although Juventus got even more physical in the middle, to the point that Sousa called referee Daniele Orsato over to talk things over, albeit without any satisfactory conclusion for the Viola mister. Tempers began to flare as Orsato began dishing out yellows and fouls with abandon, slowing the pace of the game, which had been quite open, down to a crawl, which probably benefited Allegri just fine. Eventually, Pogba played Cuadrado through on the break; Tatarusanu saved his low shot well, but Mario Mandžukić was first to the rebound and easily slotted home for the lead 80th minute.
Sousa responded quickly, using all three of his substitutions and throwing bodies forward, but the Gigliati never looked like breaking through and conceded again on the break in stoppage time, Cuadrado playing Paulo Dybala through for a one-on-one with Tatarusanu; he rounded the keeper and tapped it in for a final score of 3-1.
Three things we learned
1. Paulo Sousa still doesn't have an adequate Plan B. Ilicic drifted out of the game early and never came back, leaving Borja Valero as the only link between midfield and attack and Nikola Kalinic completely isolated up top. Instead of bringing on Khouma Babacar to chase long balls or Giuseppe Rossi to unlock the defense, he stuck with the same system and players for too long, and had no clue how to dig back out after going behind. Obviously, there's no shame in a loss to Juventus in Turin, but the uninspired performance--the penalty was the only shot on frame--is concerning.
2. Squad depth remains an issue. This is always the issue for clubs that are just below the financial elite in every league: they can assemble an excellent and entertaining first XI, but lack the resources to carry replacements of similar quality. This is the bane of every fourth- or fifth-wealthiest club in every league. It's not just the quality depth, though, it's that different players provide different tactical options. Matías Fernández and Khouma Babacar are good players, but are the only remotely attacking options available from the bench (until Jakub Błaszczykowski gets healthy, at least). Rossi's still hesitant, and nobody else has the quality to change a match yet.. If the DVs don't want to shell out for a top-notch player or three, they do need to provide decent players who are different from Sousa's current options if they want to push for a Scudetto.
3. Vincenzo Montella may be gone, but Fiorentina still can't beat the big boys. Losses to AS Roma, Napoli, and now Juventus are pretty disheartening, and the win over Inter feels like an eternity ago. I don't know if it's mindset or bad luck or something else entirely, but a win or two over some of the traditional powers (and AC Milan doesn't count right now) would mean a lot more than just three points.
Well, folks, that's about it. Time to go sob into some appletinis, or grieve however else you choose. Do it quickly, though, because Matos Ryder and Carpi comes to town on Wednesday, and all three points are a must.