WHAT WE LEARNED: PORTO 2-1 JUVENTUS
Another aspirational tie in the Champions League and yet another fall from Juve against a team they were supposed to easily beat. This is Porto team that had not won any of its last 4 games and yet they looked like the experienced team against a shaky Juve from the beginning. What all Juve fans flashed back to was that initial first leg against Lyon last year, however anybody can argue that what we saw in this first leg vs. Porto way much worse. While some people knew of some of the quality that Lyon possessed through some players like Aouar and Depay, Porto is a team that nobody bothered to look at. This in turn makes everything worse, Juve was getting dominated through much of this match not by PSG, Bayern, City or Liverpool, but by Porto. In a year where we had hoped to turn the page on a disastrous Champions League campaign, it seems as though we are right back where we started.
Often many defer to signal out a single player for a loss, but in this case Bentancour quite literally cost us a goal and his reckless, frustrating and inaccurate play meant Juve failed to get anything going in midfield. Before people were even probably even tuning in, 1-0 Porto. As I have been warning and mentioning for weeks, the playing out from the back strategy has been like playing with fire for us, it hadn't cost any results until today. In a disastrous mix up in the back Bentancour passes it softly back to Tek and Taremi pounces on a loose ball and quickly poaches past Tek for an easy goal. 1-0 down early on is the worst, despite this Bentancour continued playing with fire and had multiple other dangerous passes in playing back to the defenders. He has been often assuming this bizarre role of serving as a third center back of sorts dropping extremely deep in between the defenders, this has not played out well. After the initial misfires at the back, Bentancour started completely missing open passes, one instance I remember he skied a pass meant for Ronaldo on the wing that missed by like 20 yards. Yes, Ronaldo didn't have a good game, but when you're getting service like that its hard to see any player performing. It seemed like Juve struggled with Porto's high press all game and the player least prepared to deal with it was Bentancour. It is now obvious we need a playmaker to dislodge this lack of creativity and innovation in the midfield, while I still have hope that Bentancour can possibly be good in the future it is true that we at least need Arthur back as soon as possible to provide something different, as it was a complete no show by all midfielders in this game. Its hard to see management not looking to make new signings here for next season.
Another worrying sign of the performance in the game were simply the little details, the things that we know usually work in a team. In this game what we saw was a complete abandonment of linkup play, there was no 2-3 passes linked together. We became a team like the likes of Burnley or West Ham in the Premier League, teams identified by their long ball strategy. This team has star players, and to see them abandoning any type of buildup for the likes of skying long balls on to the sideline is extremely worrying. Multiple times this game we saw long ball after long ball to the flanks, often many of these were sailing over players heads and ending up in row 10 of the stadium. No shots until the 41 minute, sums up the type of effort put in. Not to mention we saw multiple instances of just simple misunderstanding and miscommunication. I counted over three instances in which players were running into each other, Alex Sandro not moving out of Ronaldo's way, Chiesa and Rabiot running into each other, this was simply not acceptable. Lack of concentration was definitely a factor in Porto's second goal as well, nobody decided it was worth it to cover Marega their main striker into the box. Marega was simply way too open, everyone was caught ball watching at the start of the second half. Two goals at literally the start of both halves, something that is hard to swallow. One moment of brilliance from Chiesa meant that this tie is still up in the air, despite the complete no show from everyone else.
In the end an away goal, does little to settle the worrying trends in this team. If a penalty was given and converted at the end then that would have greatly changed things. It was and should have been given as a penalty on a foul on Ronaldo, however we are still left empty handed on a truly disastrous performance that could have ended worse. Porto had 2-3 other decent chances that would have been put away by a team with higher quality players. In the end Porto managed the game well, they defended with grit, locked down the penalty area and took advantage of Juve's blunders. What served as Juve's game winning recipe in games vs Roma and Inter, were now used against them in the Champions league. While there is still time to think and reflect on what to do for the second leg against Porto, there is little time to plan for Serie A. Time to turn around the season before it gets too late, costly results in the next few games and the league could be over for us in February.