Life in the Old Lady yet
They may not be the force of old but I was mightily impressed with Juventus. For me they were probably the best team to arrive at Eastlands so far this season and this encounter was probably the most interesting game to grace the pitch since the 2010/11 campaign began.
Juventus seemed well up for the game and pressured us on the ball at every opportunity. We couldn’t seem to get a grip on the game at first but gradually came into proceedings. Although Juventus seemed to have more control in the first half, it was still a surprise when Vincenzo Iaquinta powered them into the lead with a blistering effort from some way outside the area. I believe the shot was slightly deflected off Kolo Toure’s head, but nevertheless Hart was at fault here.
Our other dependable Argentinean Pablo Zabaleta, later injured with hamstring trouble, simply could not deal with Milos Krasic. The Serbian winger rampaged down the right wing for the entire first half. Although he was eventually booked for diving in the area (the referee could’ve easily caved in here) he was easily the most dangerous player I have seen at Eastlands this season. Mancini must take the credit for gradually nullifying the Krasnic threat, switching Boateng over to left back in the second half to keep the Serbian quiet.
Flashes of the potential brilliance of our attacking play shone through with Adam Johnson’s goal. An excellent through ball from Yaya Toure connected perfectly with Johnson veering run, and the winger took his goal fantastically well.
In the second half we had our chances but as the game approached 60 minutes Juventus had already decided upon their strategy. Playing against a bank of four and five is hard at the best of times, but it was made even harder against the defensive discipline of Luigi del Neri.
And then of course came the biggest let off of the night. Alessandro Del Piero is a player who needs no introduction, and whilst he is far from the player he was, he was a central element of Juve’s strategy at Eastlands – defend to the hilt, counter attack when possible and if the opportunity presents itself, draw fouls around the edge of the penalty area – then give the ball to Del Piero. So it was that this scenario played out in the dying embers of the game, with Del Piero’s resulting free kick smashing against the bar and crashing onto Joe Hart’s line in the style of Geoff Hurst 1966. Replays confirmed that the ref had got it right. Looking at the game as a whole, we had certainly got away with a point.
We didn’t really perform well against the Geordies either. Early on, after Tevez had once again stepped up to the plate by converting a penalty, it had looked like
With a forward quartet of Tevez, Silva, Milner and the supporting Yaya Toure, we lacked ideas. At this stage in the season I can only put this down to lack of understanding, with Yaya had a particular off day. I have written previously of my concern that we don’t have enough versatility up front and that a quality target man might give us this. But still, with the quality of that forward four we should be doing better against a team like
It was left to our boy wonder of the moment, Adam Johnson, to provide the answer. Benched after the Juventus game, he came from the sidelines into the limelight seconds after being introduced by Mancini, driving a low shot from the right into the corner of
Mancini may well focus on Adam Johnson’s shortcomings, but the Italian must also admit that the winger has saved our blushes on a number of occasions this season. After Tevez, and in the absence of a second striker, Johnson represents our next best goal threat. And although his crossing is not yet the best, his trickery often unsettles teams and ups the tempo of our play. The crowd also love him. And given his recent 1st half
When all is said and done, we cannot complain too much about Mancini either. Seven games into the season and we are a clear second in the league, having already played Spurs, Liverpool and
Mancini’s caution may well be because of injuries, and with Kolarov, Boateng and Balotelli firing on all cylinders we could see a more adventurous approach. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that as we turn our attention to facing Blackpool, we are second only to