Emery caught his chance. Villarreal defeated Juventus and knocked them out of the Champions League
This game was in some ways a compilation of some of the other matches we had already seen in the return session of the 1/8 finals. In some ways it was a match between Real Madrid and PSG, in other ways it was Manchester United against Atletico. Here, all the factors that had played in the previous matches were the most striking. For example, the expected activity and powerful pressure of the hosts with some bad luck at the end.
“Juventus, who were the clear favorites, could have led 2-0 already by the middle of the first half. Morata and Vlahovic had the most spectacular chances but they failed to convert them. It was not possible to score before the break, although the Turin side’s lead looked enormous. A goal against Villarreal was a matter of time, and it would have been a matter of time. It would have followed the logic of the first half. If it were not for the fact that the chances created have no cumulative effect – you can create ten chances, but the opponent will score from just one.
And we were not talking about the kind of opponent that huddled in panic or trembled in front of the favorite. “Villarreal’s Unai Emery clearly knows what he can do, what he can do, how to assess and position himself. He will not try to play for extravagance and openness in Turin. He will wait and be patient because he has to, because that’s the best chance, even if it’s not immediate and obvious.
The Reward of Patience
Indeed, Villarreal had to wait until the end of the match. Although it can’t be said that it got tougher as time went on. It often happens when one of the teams is pressing, it gradually pushes the opponent in the second half, because he is running out of strength. In this case it was the opposite. “Villarreal played with such restraint, not because of the lack of strength, but to implement their tactical idea.
“Juventus, on the other hand, thought they were going to be in control and sooner or later would turn into a goal or two. It was hard to believe that, after the first-half chances, they were lacking. And the Turin players were too complacent. Therefore, the second half of the game was toothless on their part. Villarreal, on the other hand, got their chance. Juventus collapsed after just one mistake – Rugani tripped Coquelin. In terms of knockout effect, it was similar to the way Donnarumma’s mistake ruined the whole of PSG, which had played more or less decently before it. The patience of Emery and his team bore fruit.
You could say it’s a coaching failure as well. Allegri couldn’t help but see that his team was stuck in possession of the ball in the second half and was no longer aggravating. But he didn’t even make pace-sustaining substitutions. The same Emery released systematically Chukweze, Coquelin and Moreno – the latter two eventually played a key role at the end of the game. Unai kept the rhythm of the game and freshness in the right areas.
What did Allegri do? Just waited. “Juventus were content with a nil draw at home, which at most would have taken them into extra time. He did not try to finish them off, saving substitutions for that very extra time. A real winner coach. It seemed as if it had not occurred to him that if Villarreal scored at the end of extra time, it would be a failure. That’s pretty much what happened.
After the first goal, Allegri threw in Dybala and Bernardeschi. But his team was already mentally hamstrung and could not pull itself together, the new players did not fit into the scheme and tactics, because there were none left. There was only a sense of despair and the proximity of failure. Shivers and numbness were what Juventus displayed until the final whistle. Some might say they didn’t make it to 0-3, but look at the Juventus players’ actions in the second half and especially after conceding the first goal.
They managed to score a deserved 0:3 in only ten minutes. At the corner Torres scored at point-blank range when the defenders parted in front of the ball. The second penalty was earned by Villarreal in a curious style – the Spaniards had plenty of time to stand with the ball in the opponent’s penalty area before de Ligt’s hand was tipped in.
It probably lacked the leadership qualities of Bonucci and Chiellini, who would hardly have allowed their partners to fall apart like that. But if the loss of a couple of veterans is so terrible for a top team, is it such a top team? Juventus’ departure in the 1/8 finals of the Champions League for the third year in a row kind of hints. And it is a repeat of the Turin side’s biggest loss in the Champions League. Three times they have lost this way. The previous time was in the quarterfinals in 2018, against Real Madrid. The Spaniards again. By the way, this UEFA Champions League draw is in danger of becoming an English-Spanish one. After all, three teams each represent these countries. Apart from Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Atletico and Villarreal, the only teams worthy of a place in the quarterfinals are Bayern and Benfica.