Juventus' bid to finish the 2018-19 Serie A season unbeaten came to an abrupt end Sunday as the Italian giants suffered a 2-0 loss away to Genoa. The Bianconeri were without star forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who was rested.
The defending champions were the last unbeaten team remaining in any of Europe's top five leagues―Serie A, Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and Ligue 1―but were undone by one of their own. Stefano Sturaro, who joined Genoa on loan in January before making the switch permanent, came on as a substitute to open the scoring.
Goran Pandev added to the lead, securing the upset.
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri rotated his team following the 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid in midweek, but the starting XI still featured plenty of quality. Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala, Miralem Pjanic, Leonardo Bonucci and Alex Sandro were just some of the regular starters who featured Sunday.
They were supplemented by several fringe players, and many of those made a poor impression. Daniele Rugani in particular struggled, as noted by sportswriter Adam Digby:
Meanwhile, somewhere in Qatar, Medhi Benatia is laughing his a** off at the “defending” from Daniele Rugani there pic.twitter.com/tkwX5dzthQ— Adam Digby (@Adz77) March 17, 2019
Juventus came out flat and were bailed out by the video assistant replay in the first half, as it took away a penalty for the hosts. The VAR also took away a Paulo Dybala goal, however.
Genoa remained the hungrier team and were rewarded less than two minutes after Sturaro came on the pitch. Bianconeri fans were hardly surprised:
It HAD TO be Sturaro. You knew it.— Juvefc.com (@juvefcdotcom) March 17, 2019
And less than 10 minutes later, Pandev sent the Marassi into a delirium, with some of the home fans taking their celebrations a tad too far:
Juventus have a massive lead over second-placed Napoli, so the defeat won't hurt too much. Allegri knew he was taking a risk by not playing Ronaldo or Giorgio Chiellini, but it's a risk the Bianconeri could easily afford. Their main focus is on the UEFA Champions League, as they have the Serie A title all but locked up.
But losing out on a second unbeaten campaign will hurt nonetheless. Juventus won the title without suffering a single defeat in the 2011-12 campaign, which remains one of the biggest accomplishments in club history.
They'll have plenty of time to think about their lost opportunity during the international break. The Old Lady won't return to action until March 30 when Juventus host Empoli.