Juventus 2-1 Fiorentina: Champions kick-start title defence with a win

The Bianconeri have begun the quest for a sixth straight scudetti with a narrow victory over Fiorentina.

Juventus 2-1 Fiorentina: Champions kick-start title defence with a win
Gonzalo Higuaín celebrates his first goal for Juventus (Reuters)
Juventus
2 1
Fiorentina
Juventus: (3-5-2) Buddon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Dani Alves, Khedira (Hernanes 88'), Lemina, Asamoah, Alex Sandro; Mandzukic (Higuain 66'), Dybala (Evra 85').
Fiorentina: (3-4-3) Tatarusanu; Tomovic, Rodriguez, Astori; Bernardeschi, Vecino, Badelj (Sanchez 65'), Alonso; Chiesa (Tello 46'), Kalinic, Ilicic (Rossi 80').
SCORE: 1-0, Khedira 37'. 1-1, Kalinic 70'. 2-1, Higuain 75'.
REFEREE: Davide Massa. Booked: Kalinic (39') Vecino (44'), Barzagli (54'), Tomovic (90+1').

Goals from Sami Khedira and Gonzalo Higuan gave the reigning Serie A champions a winning start to the new seaon.

After winning five straight scudetti in a row, finding the motivation to keep winning might prove to be a hard task for many teams; that doesn’t seem to be the case for Juventus as they started another title defense with a win.

Fiorentina have been a regular in the upper portion of the table in Serie A over few past few seasons, qualifying to UEFA Europa Leage in the last four years, and even leading the table for a short period of time last term.

It was a tough start on paper for the defending champions but, after a small scare in the second half, Max Allegri's men were able to take the three points home.

Recent meetings

Fiorentina were arguably one of the toughest opponents in Italy for Juventus in the past few years, when only a few teams were able to trouble the Bianconeri. In the 2013-2014 season, when Juventus broke the record for most points in a season in Italy under Antonio Conte, Fiorentina beat them 4-2 in a terrific match after they were trailing 2-0 in the second half.

The same campaign they were only a few minutes away of eliminating the Bianconeri in the Europa League until Andrea Pirlo scored a fantastic free kick to send his team to the next round with a 2-1 aggregate victory. 

In the 2014-2015 season, Juventus won the domestic double, and were beaten by Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia despite turning it around in the second leg. That was one of the only five defeats Juventus ever suffered at the Juventus Stadium (inaugurated in 2011).

Champions carve open Fiorentina

Unlike last season, when Juventus struggled and suffered a shocking defeat against Udinese at home, the bianconeri started dominating the game and causing all sort of problems to Fiorentina’s defence right from the start. Sami Khedira had the first clear scoring chance after Ciprian Tatarusanu misplaced a pass in his box and left the German midfielder in a one-on-one against him but the missed and sent the ball over the crossbar.

Khadawo Asamoah, who was the game’s best player at that point, had another chance to open the score but his shot also flew over the crossbar.

In the 36th minute, Juventus would finally score after Giorgio Chiellini’s cross found Khedira and he sent the ball into the back of the net with a powerful header.

Juventus would have more opportunities to add a goal, but Paulo Dybala’s volley went wide and Alex Sandro missed a very clear one-on-one in the dying minutes.

Khedira celebrates his goal. | Image source: Juventus.com
Khedira celebrates his goal. | Image source: Juventus.com

Kalinic's goal not enough for a point

Juventus’ pressure and intensity dropped drastically in the second half, and the visitors started sitting back. Fiorentina didn’t create many chances but started getting more comfortable in the pitch. Then, in the 70th minute, Nikola Kalinic levelled the game with another header, this time from a corner kick.

Juve hadn’t done much in the second half but needed to go out and look for another goal to take the three points, and it didn’t take long for it to arrive. Only five minutes after conceding the equaliser Gonzalo Higuaín, who had just came into the pitch nine minutes prior, scored his first ever goal for the Bianconeri after Khedira’s shot was blocked by Fiorentina’s defence denying him the brace.

What's to come?

The win will give Juventus a lot of confidence after a slow start last season, especially considering many of the absentees today. Gonzalo Higuaín only played 25 minutes and Miralem Pjanic didn’t even feature at all, while Claudio Marchisio will be out until November, approximately. The depth in the champions’ squad improved drastically with the likes of Mario Lemina, Khadawo Asamoah and Mario Mandzukic showing they’re more than capable of starting when needed.

For Fiorentina, it was an expected defeat, but the team showed determination to level a game that looked very tough, even if parity lasted for only a few minutes. If they can show the level they did in the first half of the past season consistently, Paulo Sousa's men may finally qualify for the Champions League next season.