Chiesa Leads the Way as Juventus Shatter Milan Unbeaten Run

The pitch has spoken, and the bragging right are for Juventus. Andrea Pirlo’s Bianconeri came out as the winners in the first decisive battle for the Italian title as they shocked Milan 3-1 at the Stadio San Siro in the night when Federico Chiesa passed his trial of fire and the Rossoneri discovered themselves vulnerable again after a long time.

Never had Chiesa been so decisive since joining Juventus four months ago but tonight he paved the way to the Old Lady inflicting the Diavolo their first domestic loss this season (and the first in 27 games) with a high-quality brace. His goal tally could have raised to three if not for the post denying an early effort of his, but the Azzurri talent’s exploit was enough to cancel Davide Calabria’s temporary equalizer for the Rossoneri.

Weston McKennie added up to the count to round up the score and send a clear message to the Italian football fandom: The battle for the Scudetto is alive and Juventus have much to say about it. With tonight’s win, Pirlo’s band reduced their gap from Milan to seven points with one match still to recover.

The most expected Milan – Juventus match-up in years was deprived of many of its potential protagonists. On top of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alvaro Morata’s injuries, the coronavirus equally added to both team miseries removing two potential starters from each side and forcing the coaches to scratch their heads to come up with their starting XI.

Andrea Pirlo, who couldn’t count on Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro, lined up Juventus with a 4-4-2 formation with Danilo and Gianluca Frabotta as full backs, and Federico Chiesa deployed as right wing-back with Aaron Ramsey on the opposite flank. Adrien Rabiot retook his starting spot in the middle of the park next to Rodrigo Bentancur. With Morata still unavailable, Paulo Dybala was again Cristiano Ronaldo’s attacking partner.

The latest COVID-related news, with Ante Rebic and Rade Krunic testing positive in the morning, totally disrupted Stefano Pioli’s plans as he was forced to hijack full-back Davide Calabria to midfield alongside Franck Kessié. Diogo Dalot filled in Calabria’s slot as right back, while Jens Petter Hauge won his first cap as a starter to make up for Rebic’s absence in Pioli’s usual 4-2-3-1 setup.

Milan went very close to draw first blood on 6 minutes already as a colossal defensive miss from Rodrigo Bentancur set Samu Castillejo free to test Wojciech Szczesny’s gloves, but the Polish shot-stopped lived up to his fame as one of the best in the Italian top-flight.

Juventus’ reaction was deadly, and only the goal sticks denied Federico Chiesa the joy of an opener as his terrific volley at the end of an extended build-up crashed into Gianluigi Donnarumma’s right post and made it rattle.

That was a red flag for Milan – which Pioli’s side didn’t seem to pay attention to as three minutes later the former Fiorentina man hit the target. Chiesa’s movement to get free of Theo Hernandez was beautiful, but even better than that was Paulo Dybala’s reverse back-pass that set him free. Chiesa’s conclusion left no chance to Donnarumma and so, on 18 minutes, it was 1-0 for Juventus.

Four minutes later, Rafael Leao’s curl form the edge of the box gave Szczesny quite a scare, but immediately after that it was still Chiesa to ravage through the Rossoneri defense and call Milan’s goalkeeper to action again.

While Juventus built up on their pressure, Milan mostly tried to take advantage of the Bianconeri’s mistakes at the back. On 27 minutes, Hauge caught the ball from a mistaken Ramsey pass and served Rafael Leao, whose next effort prompted a sensational answer from Szczesny.

But perhaps the goalie’s most difficult save came a few minutes later as he had to spring to his right to defuse a quasi-own goal from Aaron Ramsey, who risked pushing the ball into his own goal in an attempt to prevent Hakan Calhanoglu from shooting.

After suffering in the initial stages of the game, the Rossoneri progressively took control and had their equalizer on 40 minutes, when Davide Calabria showed that perhaps he could also have a chance as an attacker with a fine finish into the top left corner from a Rafael Leao service.

Pirlo’s side, however, was furious at referee Massimiliano Irrati as they claimed there was a foul from Calhanoglu on Adrien Rabiot in the build-up.

At half time, the score was 1-1 and the big match was fully living up to the expectations despite the multiple notable absentees from the pitch – with Cristiano Ronaldo surprisingly adding himself to the list as he was nowhere to be seen for the full first half.

Two minutes after the restart, Diogo Dalot was the next to test Szczesny with a tricky right-foot shot, drawing yet another save from the Polish international.

But, after a dull mid-portion of the game when the match momentum seemed to have slowed down, it was Chiesa’s showtime again. The 23-year-old received Paulo Dybala’s suggestion from the left side, bested Hernandez once again and fired a deadly left-foot screamer that had no answer from Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Then – much to the Rossoneri’s relief, he left the pitch for Dejan Kulusevski to come in, while Weston McKennie replaced Paulo Dybala. Andrea Pirlo must have thought that it was to time to preserve the hard-gained lead. Stefano Pioli’s answer to that was sending in Brahim Diaz for Jens Petter Hauge.

On 71 minutes, finally came Cristiano Ronaldo’s first spark of the night as he released McKennie with a perfectly timed pass. The American’s shot was palmed away by Donnarumma.

But McKennie’s next attempt had better fortunes and brought Juventus to 3-1 to put a serious claim on the game. Much of the credit for the winner, however, must go to Dejan Kulusevski, who produced himself in a steady progression into Milan’s box from the right side and served the American a golden assist that he only had to push into the net.

Milan had been two goals down a few times already this season and always managed to come back. But doing so against the incumbent Italian champions was probably too much to ask and indeed the score didn’t change anymore. Their fantastic unbeaten run is over, but that’s only going to make the race for the Scudetto more exciting.


January 6, 2021 – Serie A 2020-21 Round 16

SCORERS: 18’ Chiesa (J), 40’ Calabria (M), 61′ Chiesa (J), 76’ McKennie (J)

MILAN (4-2-3-1): G. Donnarumma; Diogo Dalot (80’ Conti), Kjaer (80’ Kalulu), Romagnoli, Hernandez; Calabria (80’ Maldini), Kessié; Castillejo (86’ Colombo), Calhanoglu, Hauge (67’ Brahim Diaz), Rafael Leao (Tatarusanu, A. Donnarumma, Duarte, Musacchio, Frigerio) Coach: Pioli
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Szczesny; Frabotta (86’ Demiral); Bonucci, De Ligt, Danilo; Chiesa (63’ Kulusevski), Bentancur (73’ Arthur), Rabiot, Ramsey (73’ Bernardeschi); Dybala (63’ McKennie), Cristiano Ronaldo (Buffon, Pinsoglio, Chiellini, Di Pardo, Dragusin, Portanova, Fagioli, Da Graca) Coach: Pirlo

REFEREE: Mr. Irrati from Pistoia
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Romagnoli (M), Bentancur, Danilo (J); Extra Time: 1st Half 0′, 2nd Half 5′

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