Debutant Hamza Rafia Goal Saves Coppa Italia Day for Juventus

Hamza Rafia is the name. Of all the things Juventus fans could expect from their Round of 16 game against Genoa, the less likely was that they would need 120 minutes and a goal from a 21-year-old debutant to overcome the Grifone‘s resistance and sneak into the Coppa Italia Quarter Finals – where they will meet Sassuolo or SPAL.

And so, Andrea Pirlo confirmed to be a good scout when it comes to picking up from the Bianconeri‘s U-23 side. After aggregating Gianluca Frabotta to the first squad, he launched French-Tunisian midfielder Hamza Rafia – whom Juventus signed from Lyon in 2019 – and the youngster did not disappoint as he scored the goal that set the score at 3-2 on 104 minutes.

It seemed another day in the office for the Old Lady, who gained a double lead with Dejan Kulusevski and Alvaro Morata, but Lennart Czyborra and Filippo Melegoni had a different opinion and took the game into extra time. That is good news for Antonio Conte’s Inter, who will face Juventus on Sunday in the Derby d’Italia and had also needed extra times to dispose of their Coppa Italia opponents earlier in the afternoon.

Perhaps Pirlo paid a price for lining up an extremely young side, with three U-23 players (Rafia would be sent in during the second half): Center-back Radu Dragusin, and wing-backs Wesley and Manolo Portanova.

Genoa’s Davide Ballardini, on the other hand, was more conservative with his choices. He lined up striker Gianluca Scamacca – who’s been linked with the Bianconeri in the past few days – and midfielder Nicolò Rovella – who’s already promised to Juventus for the next season.

Twenty-three minutes into the match, the game seemed already done and dusted for the home side, who broke the stalemate after 180 seconds with a Kulusevski header from a Giorgio Chiellini cross and then doubled their lead as the young Swede served Alvaro Morata a fine assist for the Spanish’s conversion.

But Lennart Czyborra reopened the games five minutes later, making the best out of a Paolo Ghiglione cross from the right side on which Brazilian wing-back Wesley was caught by surprise. The two sides went for the break with Juventus leading 2-1.

In the second half, Pirlo’s band failed to close the match and were punished on 75 minutes as 21-year-old Filippo Melegoni conjured a brilliant curling effort from outside of the box for which the eternal Gianluigi Buffon had no answer.

Pirlo started to scratch his head. This was not how the game was supposed to go. The coach sent in Danilo and Leonardo Bonucci in defense, then also resorted to his heavy artillery as Cristiano Ronaldo made his entrance to the pitch just before the extra time.

But rather than Ronaldo, it was 21-year-old Rafia to save the day for the Bianconeri as he converted – not without difficulties, if truth be told – an Alvaro Morata cross into Juventus’ third, decisive goal. He was the hero of the night, in a night that could have been even longer for the Old Lady – had Arthur not managed to push back right on the goal line a late Ivan Radovanovic header.



January 13, 2021 – Coppa Italia 2020-21 Round of 16
JUVENTUS-GENOA 3-2 after extra time

SCORERS: 2′ Kulusevski (J), 23′ Morata (J). 28′ Czyborra (G), 74′ Melegoni (G), 104′ Rafia (J)

JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon; Demiral (65′ Danilo), Dragusin, Chiellini (65′ Bonucci), Bernardeschi; Wesley (88′ Cristiano Ronaldo), Arthur, Bentancur (46′ Rabiot), Portanova (77′ Rafia); Kulusevski, Morata (Szczesny, Pinsoglio, Frabotta, Capellini, Ramsey, Ranocchia, Felix Correia) Coach: Pirlo
GENOA (3-5-2): Paleari; Goldaniga, Bani, Dumbravanu (97′ Males); Ghiglione, Rovella, Lerager, Melegoni (91′ Radovanovic), Czyborra (97′ Ebongue); Scamacca, Pjaca (Marchetti, Zima, Criscito, Zajc, Destro, Caso, Badelj, Masiello, Shomurodov) Coach: Ballardini

REFEREE: Mr. Chiffi from Padova
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Bentancur, Bernardeschi (J), Dumbravanu, Ghiglione, Goldaniga, Bani, Rovella (G)