Juventus left for dead by a superior Bayern Munich

Posted by Mina Rzouki

You have to be perfect to be the best, but tonight Juventus weren't even good. The Old Lady refused to show up on Tuesday night; in her place arrived her haggard twin who was both terrified and imprecise. Defeated 2-0 by a mighty Bayern Munich side that exhibited class, unity and confidence, the sleeping Italian giant will need to wake up to keep hopes of a comeback alive.

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It looked to be all over after the first minute where a deflected David Alaba shot humiliated Gianluigi Buffon to gift the Bavarians the dream start. They don't call them Dusel-Bayern (lucky Bayern) for nothing. Of course, it looked barely surprising. The minute Andrea Pirlo loses possession is midfield, one must worry and almost immediately, Juve's fears were confirmed. The fullback took charge and struck.

It is here that what Gazzetta dello Sport immediately wrote in the aftermath of the game rang true: "Betrayed primarily by their experienced champions, Buffon and Pirlo." The goalkeeper insisted that the direction of the football changed to throw him off guard and Buffon more than made up for his error by producing sensational saves thereafter.

Conceding a goal failed to deter a determined Juventus side and they took hold of possession and began to push forward. That motivation to make amends lasted only a few moments before Bayern exerted control. The asphyxiating pressure, the compact organisation and the determination to win every ball on the ground or in the air is what allowed Jupp Heynckes' men total control of the game.

Juventus simply couldn't respond. Every inaccurate ball that was passed was done so in haste to avoid the pressing. No correct decisions were made simply because there was no time. Possession was snatched off them so quickly; every ball going forward was intercepted while every pass seemed imprecise.

Yet the Old Lady persisted by playing the ball out from the back regardless of the hunger in Bayern's eyes. Many called it naivety, but for Juventus it's a way of life. They don't know how to play any other way. Mistakes were going to be made but Antonio Conte wanted them to remain faithful to their style of play.

The problem wasn't that they weren't clearing the ball effectively; it was that for much of the first half, they were not compact enough. Gaping holes were easily found and exploited by a squad that possessed exemplary levels of fitness and the sort of pace that discouraged organisation.

For Heynckes, Toni Kroos' injury may just have been the blessing in disguise he required. In his place, Thomas Mueller shifted to the middle while Arjen Robben came on to terrorise Federico Peluso on the right. It was then that the Germans exerted their strength. With the Dutchman inflicting his pace and cunning ability to overcome his markers, Juve's defence was pulled out of shape on several occasions.

The objective quickly changed from scoring an away goal to avoiding a mauling. Bayern looked like a pack of starving lions circling their prey.

Arturo Vidal's emotions betrayed him and he was far too guilty of committing silly fouls but at least he was attempting to win back possession. Claudio Marchisio, on the other hand, was simply absent -- unacceptable for a player celebrated for his usual ability to rise up to the challenge. Meanwhile Pirlo simply wasn't allowed the room or time to put in the majestic performance many Italians were expecting. He couldn’t dictate the tempo, find the right path or even keep hold of the ball. Continuously robbed of possession, the Germans neutralised his threat effectively to force Juventus into the bluntest of performances.

For many, this was Conte's mistake. Outdone tactically, his decision to play two forwards coupled with the length of time it took him to make the right substitutions to effect the game frustrated the fans. Perhaps he made mistakes, but the forwards disappointed him deeply. One needs only look to the example set by Mario Mandzukic. He pressed the ball, filled the gaps and pulled markers away to put in the kind of performance worthy of trophies. He worked tirelessly to snatch back possession to make the Bianconeri's task of playing the ball out from the back that much harder.

Meanwhile, neither Alessandro Matri nor Fabio Quagliarella even attempted to react quickly, cover space or apply a hint of pressure. Juventus were forced to defend for their lives. Despite their many inadequacies on the night, the squad's greatest failure was the fact they failed to test a truly suspect Bayern back line. Their weaknesses left unexploited, only Bavarian strength was put on show.

The moment Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic came on, the Old Lady looked alive. The substitutes ran at the defenders, provided accurate passes and pushed up to keep Bayern from attacking them. They gave Conte a sliver of hope.

It was perhaps too little too late and the Bianconeri must now pray for an absolutely perfect and attacking performance should they hope to qualify. Their undefeated run in Europe has come to an end and it's a lesson well learnt. Mistakes were bound to be made but let's not discount the Old Lady yet -- it's not over until the fat lady sings.

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