Juventus can hold their heads high in valiant Champions League defeat

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2015-6-8 22:23:01

The Champions League is both the last and the most prestigious game of the European club season but sometimes it fails to live up to its billing. Not this year though - the result may have been expected, but the game wasn't. Rather than stay back and be dominated, Juventus went all out against favorites Barcelona to provide one of the most entertaining finals in recent history.

While Barcelona eventually won 3-1, it was not the one-sided contest some expected it to be. Barca scored first within the first five minutes, making people feel a rout was about to begin. Some good goalkeeping from Juventus' veteran Gianluigi Buffon and persistence helped Juventus get back into the game, before equalizing in the second half with some fancy interplay inside Barcelona's penalty area. Juventus had some good chances but Barcelona's Luis Suarez put them ahead before Neymar's late goal in the final minutes guaranteed the result.

The game was special as both sides came out to play, attacking from the start. Despite Barcelona's midfield and forward superiority, there was no ultra-defensive play from Juventus. This showed in the stats as Barcelona had the lion's share of possession at 68 percent, but only a 17-14 edge in shots. For shots on goal, Barca only had a 8-6 advantage.

In past finals, we have seen dour matches characterized by dogged defending and "parking the bus," when the less talented team puts almost their entire squad behind the ball.

Atletico Madrid found out in last year's final it was not the right way to protect a one-goal lead when they tired themselves out and gave away an equalizer in the final minutes, though Chelsea won in 2012 by being defensive and relying on counterattacking.

Juventus should be accorded credit for not taking this road, especially given their status as the best defensive team in this year's Champions League. Nobody expected them to reach the final, but they will be expected to do just as well in the next Champions League. It is about time Juventus had some continental success, seeing that they have already dominated Italy with four straight league titles. They may find it hard to hold on to Paul Pogba, their 22-year-old midfielder who is being chased by what seems like half of the leading clubs in Europe.

It may be too soon to say Italian soccer is on the rise again, but Juventus' showing, as well as two Italian clubs reaching the semifinals of this year's Europa League, are positive for Serie A.

The author is an editor with the Global Times. hiltonyip@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: Extra Time

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