“You need a little bit of luck to win in the Champions League,” says every single Coach in the tournament at one time or another. “The strongest team doesn’t always win.” This week we saw Lady Luck turn her back on Juventus to embrace Milan and Napoli. Ultimately, that was the real difference between the sides.
Italians don’t start strong in Europe, as everybody knows, so there was always going to be the risk of upsets early doors. Few would’ve bet on Juve being the only side without a victory in Matchday 1, as their trip to Copenhagen appeared considerably simpler than taking on Borussia Dortmund or Celtic. Instead it was a mirror image of last season’s 1-1 draw with Nordsjaelland, dominating and firing from all angles while unable to get the victory. There’s something rotten in the State of Denmark – and it’s Juve’s luck. And their aim...
Milan, on the other hand, continue to scrape results they barely deserve. Whatever disastrous run of luck they have in terms of injuries, at least incidents on the field balance them out. Whether it’s a last-gasp penalty or a freakish deflection, the Rossoneri always seem to find a way to snatch a result from the jaws of defeat almost by accident. Neil Lennon complained that Celtic were “the better team for long periods,” but they must take the blame for their inability to score from set plays against a Milan side notoriously abysmal in that area.
Napoli had some good fortune too, but at least they worked to push it in their direction. If Roman Weidenfeller hadn’t handled outside the penalty area, Gonzalo Higuain would’ve scored a second goal anyway, so the red card was only a trade-off. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hitting the bar was good luck, but so was Borussia getting one back when Juan Camilo Zuniga decided to do a scorpion kick into his own net. What we can all agree on is that Lorenzo Insigne’s free kick needed no fortune to help it in, as this was an absolutely divine finish. Of all the changes Rafa Benitez has brought to the Partenopei, perhaps the greatest contribution is putting his faith in Insigne after months of Walter Mazzarri giving the pint-sized home-grown starlet only snippets of games.
So we’re back into the Champions League and start out with two wins and a draw for the Italians. That’ll do nicely.