In their last match of 2017, Juventus defeated Hellas Verona 3-1 to stay within a point of first-place Napoli in Serie A.
While Blaise Matuidi scored an early goal, Juventus surrendered to sloppiness and inaccuracy quickly thereafter, inspiring Verona to create opportunities, even if Juventus did well to halt them.
Running too many risks in the second half, Juventus’ mistakes eventually allowed Verona to score an equaliser to apply pressure on the Bianconeri. Thankfully, Paulo Dybala sprung into life in the final 20 minutes of the game to score a brace and secure his team another three points.
The Bianconeri haven’t won away at Verona since 2001, so a win and a beautiful performance from Dybala ensured a good close to the year and kept the pressure on Napoli.
Whenever Juventus feel in control of the match, they lose interest and begin to surrender to sloppiness, losing possession easily to inspire the opponent into action. Juve must learn to never put the result into jeopardy and create nervy ends to games.
Manager rating out of 10
6 — Although Mario Mandzukic has always worked hard for the team, he is rarely the forward who creates danger. Perhaps another attacker would have helped elevate the level of play in the final third against Verona. However, a 3-1 win means Massimiliano Allegri has little to answer for, even if the team ran some risks. Dybala is clearly being managed well, while the side resolves problems with beautiful play when need be.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Wojciech Szczesny, 6 — A solid performance from the goalkeeper, but could he have done better on Martin Caceres’ goal?
DF Stephan Lichtsteiner, 6 — Delivered an assist and threw himself into every challenge but struggled defensively, losing his duels and allowing his opponent superiority.
DF Mehdi Benatia, 6 — Was effective with his clearances and interceptions, finding himself in the right place at the right time often. Uses his strength well.
DF Giorgio Chiellini, 6 — Did well to halt Moise Kean and contain Verona’s counterattacking threat. Strong and authoritative.
DF Alex Sandro, 6 — A better effort from the player. He has yet to really dazzle as he once did — especially going forward — but when he had the ball at his feet, he always delivered, whether it be a key pass or an accurate cross.
MF Sami Khedira, 6 — A good performance from Khedira, who was involved in the goals, delivered key passes and positioned himself well.
MF Rodrigo Bentancur, 5 — Disappointing. Bentancur ought to have made the most of the opportunity to start, but he was inaccurate with the ball and lost possession twice in the first half to inspire the opponent. That forced Allegri to take him off at the start of the second half.
MF Blaise Matuidi, 7 — Provided energy, accuracy and goals. Matuidi opened the scoring early on in the game and provided his usual experience and dynamism. Sadly, he was at fault for Caceres’ equaliser.
FW Paulo Dybala, 7 — It’s clear that the problem with Dybala has been psychological because up until his first goal, the forward barely made an impression or created the threats he was once capable of. But as soon as he scored with his weaker right foot, his play drastically improved, as he scored a quick second and provided a consistent threat going forward.
FW Gonzalo Higuain, 6 — A few mistakes but a lot of fight from the centre-forward, who always tried to create danger by dribbling well and taking shots. Not as accurate as Juve needed him to be.
FW Mario Mandzukic, 5 — Just as Allegri noted, when Juve are in control, Mandzukic takes his foot off the gas rather than help keep the team pushing forward. Subdued offensively and inaccurate in his play.
FW Federico Bernardeschi, 6 — One of the smarter players going forward with a good shot and inspired play, but he must work a little harder overall.
DF Andrea Barzagli, N/A — Came on to secure the result and ensure superiority.
MF Claudio Marchisio, N/A — Didn’t have much time but helped the team close out the game.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.