Following Juventus’ 2-2 draw with Udinese on Matchday 1, Allegri spoke about his need to adapt to the COVID-enforced five substitutions allowance. “There are many games, I still need to understand how to use five subs,” he said back in September.
For much of Sunday, however, he failed to recognise the importance of just one sub, or two, perhaps.
After Atalanta eased into the contest following Juve’s bright start, the Bianconeri never had control from there on out. Sure, they had periods of possession and pressure, but the 0-0 stalemate never felt entirely secure. Atalanta began to flummox the visitors with their work in wide areas while the midfield struggled to keep pace with Atalanta’s ever-interchanging and industrious triumvirate.
So, a trademark Allegri manoeuvre was expected on the hour in a bid to re-establish control, but nothing was forthcoming from the bench. In the home dugout, meanwhile, Gian Piero Gasperini sought proactivity and his changes further swung the pendulum in Atalanta’s favour. Off came the out of sorts Muriel, and on came Bianconeri slayer Ruslan Malinovskyi as the hosts went striker-less.
Juventini’s worst fears were realised when Malinovskyi, whose left boot may well be capable of quelling a potential Russian advance into his homeland, unleashed a guided missile beyond Wojciech Szczesny from 190 yards out with 15 minutes left. The Ukrainian’s effort boasted an xG of 0.02 as he netted his 14th strike from outside of the box since he arrived in Bergamo two-and-a-half years ago. Only Lionel Messi (18) has more during that time frame.
Nevertheless, Juve’s deficit sprung a previously idle Allegri into a state of reaction. In short, he panicked. Juan Cuadrado, Arthur Melo, Moise Kean and Serie A debutant Marley Aké were all brought on in the space of seven minutes as the visitors desperately went in search of an equaliser. The structure became haphazard and chaotic as Atalanta comfortably kept the visitors at bay in the minutes that succeeded Malinovskyi’s stunning opener.
That was until Cuadrado and Paulo Dybala combined to win a decisive corner for Allegri’s side. Dybala’s subsequent set-piece was headed home by Danilo to rescue a point for Juve and bail out the manager for his slack game management.