Juventus were dead and buried in the Italian capital after an hour. Absolutely dead. José Mourinho’s switch to a 4-2-3-1 had facilitated, arguably, Roma’s best performance of the season and they were more than deserving of their 3-1 lead ten minutes into the second half.
The Bianconeri were once again too passive in their approach. They didn’t take advantage of the hosts’ vulnerable build-up by rarely pressing, while their zonal marking from set-pieces proved disastrous. Federico Chiesa had limped off with a serious-looking knee injury (since revealed to be a season-ender) and Paulo Dybala’s moment of brilliance from the edge of the box to cancel out Tammy Abraham’s opener was Juve’s sole sign of life from an attacking perspective.
The Bianconeri were destined for their darkest day in a campaign bereft of light.
Understandably, calls for Massimiliano Allegri’s head, who wasn’t even on the touchline, were widespread. The manager had been comprehensively outwitted by an old foe who many regard as similarly pre-historic. For 70 minutes, Mourinho had produced his finest coaching performance in a LONG time only to succumb to the most unexplainable comeback you’re likely to see this season.
It took just seven minutes for a beleaguered Juve to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead and while the manner and swiftness of their turnaround were incomprehensible, Allegri made two crucial changes that set the stage for the Bianconeri’s resurgence.
While it was the suave Marco Landucci that patrolled the away dugout on Sunday, you have to imagine that there was plenty of communication between the bench and Allegri up in the stands as the contest transpired. Thus, we’re going to credit the Juve boss for facilitating his side’s comeback on Sunday evening.
Here are the two crucial changes that he made.
1. Alvaro Morata replaces Moise Kean up front
This was hardly genius but Alvaro Morata’s introduction just after the hour proved pivotal in Juve’s turnaround.
On a rare start, Moise Kean was nullified by Roma’s Chris Smalling. The Italian forward struggled as the lone forward and his ghostly display rather epitomised Juve’s woes in the opening hour of proceedings. Before his withdrawal, Kean touched the ball just 14 (!) times (the lowest among Juve starters who didn’t blow up their knee) and completed nine passes. He was completely anonymous and his mere three pressures depict just how passive Juve were in the defensive phase while he was on the pitch.
The young forward was rightfully hooked and Morata’s impact was immediate. Four minutes after his arrival, the Spaniard beat Roger Ibanez down the right before teeing up Manuel Locatelli with a fine left-footed cross to halve Roma’s 3-1 advantage. That sequence consumed the majority of Morata’s 15 total touches, but it handed a lifeless Bianconeri the requisite spark.
The Spanish striker was handed more freedom off the bench on Sunday. He was more dynamic than usual with his responsibilities as a target-man reduced. Morata, and Juventus, benefitted greatly as a result.