A twisted ankle isn't the most pleasant of sensations. Most of us respond by rolling around on the ground, yelping in pain. Last night at Stamford Bridge, Arturo Vidal responded by driving through the defence of the reigning champions of Europe and belting a terrific finish past Petr Cech.
Having already suffered a wince inducing twist when his boot was caught on the turf shortly beforehand, the Chilean seemed to aggravate the injury in the act of scoring. But with his team still trailing 2-1, instead of taking the weight off it and looking for treatment, Vidal hobbled back to the halfway line as fast as he could, forming his fingers into a heart shape and aiming a quick fist pump in the direction of the 3,000 tifosi up the other end his only concessions to celebration.
West London last night bore witness to the paranormal phenomenon that's swept Italy throughout the last year. The team that cannot and will not be beaten. Against Chelsea Juventus again demonstrated their Michael Myers-esque ability to survive seemingly fatal blows. The better side throughout the first half hour of the Group E opener, they then conceded two goals in two minutes to the Brazilian wonder kid Oscar – the first fortunate, the second fantastic.
With their Coach hidden away in a dark corner of the directors’ box and the hosts suddenly rampant, the Bianconeri could easily have folded. But I'll save you the false sense of jeopardy. None of us really believed it was over at that point, did we?
Juve called upon the same indefatigable spirit that carried them through the last Serie A campaign unbeaten, compensating for flaws such as their lack of a clinical finisher up front, although – having nut-megged Cech to make it 2-2 and been the width of a crossbar away from a winner during his 15 minute cameo – Fabio Quagliarella will be hoping Beppe Marotta sticks a 'vacancy filled' notice in the window at the Juventus Stadium.
No one embodies that spirit better than Vidal. Simply remaining on the pitch was impressive enough in the circumstances, but the former Bayer Leverkusen midfielder continued to dash around in that admirably frenetic style of his in the second half, and created the opening for Quagliarella's second chance with a classy slide rule pass.
What was most impressive about Conte's Juve as we became familiar with them this time last year was that no transition period was needed for them to go from being unfancied outsiders to the dominant force in Italy. Similarly last night, despite not having competed in the Champions League for three years and having so many tournament debutants – including the two scorers – in their side, they immediately appeared to be on the same level as Chelsea.
Vidal may personify their spirit, but it’s important to remember who it emanates from – the man sat in the shadows in the stands last night.
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