Juventus claimed a much-needed victory in Serie A on Saturday evening as Juan Cuadrado struck late on to sink Fiorentina.
Following an attacking exhibition against Zenit last Tuesday, Juve returned to their toothless, unimaginative selves with the ball as the visitors appeared in total control of the contest. Chances, however, came at a premium for both sides.
The game turned with 20 minutes remaining after Nikola Milenkovic was shown his second yellow card for a foul on Federico Chiesa. Milenkovic’s dismissal sparked Chiesa and the Bianconeri into life as they pushed for a late winner. Then, thanks to the brilliance of substitute Cuadrado, Juventus snatched a 1-0 victory at the death.
The victory leaves them eighth in Serie A and level on points with Fiorentina. They’re 14 points adrift of the league leaders, who both dropped points on Sunday and four off Atalanta in fourth.
Here are three takeaways from Juve’s ugly triumph over Fiorentina on Saturday.
Daniele Rugani? Why were you all so worried?!
The fear among Juventini was palpable before kick-off. Following an injury to Giorgio Chiellini in the warm-up, Daniele Rugani was in the starting XI, partnering Matthijs de Ligt.
A player deemed surplus to requirements at both Rennes and Cagliari should not be starting a Serie A match for Juventus, period. But here we are.
Nevertheless, fears over a Rugani disasterclass and a Dusan Vlahovic field day were way off the mark. While De Ligt matched up with Vlahovic and dominated that duel, Rugani went about his defensive work as dutifully as he could.
Did your heart leap into your thorax every time the ball went near him? Probably. But, Rugani displayed an assuredness in possession that we didn’t foresee – especially after a shaky opening few minutes. Against a Fiorentina side that pressed high and effectively for, albeit, brief periods of the game, the Italian was measured with the ball at his feet.
Rugani ended the bout with a respectable 87.8% pass completion, completing 43 of 49 attempted passes. Only Manuel Locatelli and Danilo completed more passes than the reserve defender.
Defensively, his task was a simple one with De Ligt stuck to Vlahovic and the infield drifts of Riccardo Saponara covered by either Locatelli or Danilo. Nevertheless, Rugani deserves credit for not being sucked out of the defensive line.
He ended the game with three combined tackles and interceptions, two blocks (joint-team high) and five clearances (only De Ligt registered more). Rugani proved adept at covering the front post when Fiorentina, particularly Cristian Biraghi, crossed from the left. His positioning in this regard was faultless, and he deserves credit for such an assured display considering he was thrust into action right at the last.