Whilst Catania can boast that they have remained unbeaten at home for over a year prior to the match, Juventus could boast that in 46 years, the Sicilian club has never managed to win a match between the two sides in home turf. Two difficult teams, two different approaches and two sides desperate to garner points made for a very exciting battle.
It was a match of oddities to say the very least. Every aspect of the game was rendered surprising – least of all was hearing the fans cheering on for the away side. Marco Giampaolo, the Catania Coach renowned for playing an effective form of catenaccio in which his team maintain a tight and well organised defence surprised the crowd by unleashing a hungry Sicilian side that outpaced and outclassed their opponents in search of a goal – leaving his defence is a state of shambles. They imposed their aggressive nature, they toyed with the Bianconeri defence and they occupied the flanks to leave the away side bewildered for a large portion of the first half. The only predictable aspect of their game was that they were unable to finish their chances in clinical fashion to gift Juve a chance to snatch the lead.
The Old Lady had their best players suffering to string together a decent move whilst their more average players helped to claim maximum points on the night. Alberto Aquilani, the man who holds the keys to the Juventus engine, misplaced more passes than was once deemed possible and lost possession far too frequently to warrant anymore minutes on the pitch. Meanwhile Milos Krasic seemed overwhelmed by the high intensity of his opponents and disappeared into the background as the Sicilians double-marked him to dazzling effect. The winger alongside the Captain who marked his 250th win in Juve colours both missed shockingly easy chances at goal. Whilst even the likes of Marco Storari and Leonardo Bonucci performed out of character as the goalkeeper made some terrible decisions with regards to his positioning whilst the latter took it upon himself to charge down the pitch in search of a goal instead of guarding the rear. Thankfully Storari eventually rediscovered his goalkeeping mind as the game progressed.
On a positive note, the future Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini guarded the Bianconeri defence with every inch of his body as he ensured no further concessions whilst the night belonged to Fabio Quagliarella who deserved to be awarded a hat-trick. The latter has been a true revelation for the giants as he guarantees a goal almost every game and his movement and excellent knack at delivering a fine finish made him the perfect summer purchase. Still, it was the Bianconeri’s unsung heroes who left a memorable impression on the night. Simone Pepe made an excellent run to latch on to Vincenzo Iaquinta’s pass to half volley the ball and clinch a first goal whilst the latter worked tirelessly to spring the offside traps, set up another goal and create an increasing number of chances to ensure the result. His willingness to move to the right to take advantage of the space on the flank and deliver accurate crosses earned him two fine assists and his work for the team thoroughly warranted the pleased embrace of his Coach.
The victory is yet another triumph for Luigi Del Neri who managed to take on the tactical brain of his counterpart at Catania and poke holes at it to claim a vital victory. He did not stop barking out orders from the side-lines all night long as he demanded full concentration from his squad but it was his ability to get his team to raise the bar and take the game beyond Catania that ensured him a special win over a famously difficult side. What is even more impressive is that he did this all without having Krasic’s heavy input, Aquilani’s mastermind and the Captain’s special tricks. He built this side to win and they did so by creating endless chances thanks to his offensive play, strong defence and ingenious ability to translate his ideas to the team. In only a matter of months he has turned a Juve side void of a genuine striker into Serie A’s most prolific scoring team whilst shoring up the defence to minimise attacks from opponents. Most importantly, he has brought back the Juve mentality that sees the squad fight till the end of each match.
The problem with this Juventus is that while they remain undefeated in 15 matches, only six of them are wins as they fail to deliver this sort of spirited performance at a consistent level to accumulate maximum points. Perhaps it is lack of necessary squad members that could effectively contribute to the team or perhaps it is because of the low average age of the squad. However, this club has a real chance of achieving something important this year so they must find a way of delivering in reliable fashion.