Torino battled bravely against their city rivals and Serie A leaders Juventus after Cristiano Ronaldo won the day, converting a controversial penalty which saw him booked afterwards for taunting substitute goalkeeper Ichazo with 20 minutes left in the game.
Lying sixth in the table, Torino have only beaten their bigger neighbours once in the last 23 years. The win for Juventus came with another milestone for Allegri’s men, Ronaldo scoring the powerhouse’s 5,000th goal in Serie A, which leaves the leaders 11 points clear of Napoli before the second place team visit on Sunday.
Torino’s journeyman forward, Zaza did well to intercept Bonucci in midfield, only to gift and under hit pass back to Mandzukic which led to a trip by Torino’s back up goalkeeper leading to Ronaldo’s penalty conversion, claiming his 11th league goal of the season, leaving him joint top of the goalscoring charts with Genoa’s Krysztof Piatek.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri played his expected 4-3-3 formation, with Mandzukic, who scored the winner last time out in Serie A against Inter Milan, as the focal point of the front three, although we saw some rotation from Ronaldo from his left forward position into a more central role at times with Dybala flanking Mandzukic on the right side. Juventus were without suspended Bentancur through suspension and Benatia and Barzagli through injury. Allegri also opted out of playing his number one, Szczesny leaving him out of the game day roster completely.
Torino came in the game after a 0-0 draw against AC Milan last time out, their third game unbeaten in the Italian championship. Coach Walter Mazzarri’s top goalscorer Belotti started alongside journeyman strike partner Zaza with Torino setting up in a 3-5-2 formation.
In a largely scrappy contest on a difficult playing surface at the Stadio Olimpico, Torino may have made better use of the conditions, although neither side was able to play a free-flowing passing game, with Torino averaging just three passes per pass streak whilst Juventus only managing four passes per streak on average.
Torino managed to take advantage of both their playing shape, using two, active, mobile forwards as well as utilising long balls, of which 20% of their overall passes were long balls into the Juventus defensive third, winning 56% of aerial duels over Juventus.
In particular, Torino used the left side of the field to their advantage, using the left channel 41% of their attacking moments, compared to the right side for just 32%.
Set pieces play a part
With 12 attempts on goal, Juventus took advantage of their aerial prowess with Mandzukic and Ronaldo making their presence felt. A whopping 41% of their chances came through set pieces, with four shots coming from five corners and one shot coming from four free kicks. Along with the winning goal coming from the penalty spot.
Juventus thought they had a second through Mandzukic’s headed finish at the far post in the 72nd minute but Ronaldo was offside from Pjanic’s free-kick delivery.
Although Juventus eventually took control of the second 45 minutes, Torino might feel unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty in the 52nd minute, when it appeared Alex Sandro pulled down Zaza whilst competing for a delivery in the Juventus box. VAR was not requested upon this time.
The graphic below shows just how hotly contested this contest was between two aerially competitive teams. Juventus winning 45% of their aerial duels in the attacking third, with Torino winning 42% of their own aerial duels in their attacking third of the field.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise as we saw Torino attempt 21 crosses, using their two forwards to cause problems in the Juventus penalty area and utilising the ability to win the second ball, with 50% of their shots coming from outside of the 18-yard box. Juventus, on the other hand, attempted 17 crosses with 58% of their shots occurring inside the 18-yard box. With Mandukic a focal point at one end, competing in 8 aerial duals and Chiellini at the other end winning 100% of his aerial duels.
In a scrappy, contentious game, it was the ever non-conforming Zaza who played a crucial role in defeat against his former club. His error of judgement with a soft back pass to Torino’s back up goalkeeper was ultimately the difference between the two sides, with both Torino and Juventus creating chances few and far between.
Juventus will be the happier half of Turin, as they overcome a tough opponent who before the weekend’s fixtures were fourth in the goals against the league, with a goal difference of +2. Whilst Torino battle in the middle of the table, for now, Juventus continue to look down on the championship, 11 points clear after this game, undefeated with just one draw and scoring 33 goals so far this season.
Allegri’s men will now turn their attention to a faltering Roma side next as they look to assert their dominance over one of Serie A’s great clubs.
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