Juventus, what a Joya! The Bianconeri resorted to their Argentinian striker Paulo Dybala to bend Milan’s strenuous resistance and retain their top spot in the Serie A league table, one point ahead of Inter. The Old Lady danced a dangerous waltz with the Devil. They risked getting burned, but eventually came out as winner thanks to their proverbial cynicism, making the best out of one of their few scoring chances.
Just like it happened against Inter in the Derby d’Italia, Maurizio Sarri won thanks to one of his changes, and what a sounding one this was – for the Tuscany coach pulled out no less than his Football Majesty Cristiano Ronaldo tonight, sending him to the locker room in advance for the second time in four days.
Was that a tactical decision or a precaution induced by CR7’s rumored injury? One thing is for sure: The Genius of Madeira didn’t look happy, and literally went to the locker room after the change, rather than watching the end of the game from the dugout with his teammates.
Milan continued with their unfortunate tradition which has seen them losing all their games played at the Allianz Stadium in the short history of Juventus’ new den. The Rossoneri collected their 7th seasonal loss and built along their negative record of their worst Serie A start since the 1941-42 season. But, there’s a but.
Stefano Pioli’s boy’s performance was encouraging and would have deserved a better outcome, hadn’t their house of cards fallen at the hand of La Joya Paulo Dybala’s disruptive shot. Milan’s new coach has been reshuffling his cards multiple times so far, looking for the perfect blend to save the Rossoneri poor season. While results and points might still be lacking, what seen tonight against an insanely stronger opponent casts a timid ray of light over the red-and-black’s disastrous domestic campaign.
Pioli confirmed his former Empoli midfield line composed by Ismael Bennacer and Rade Krunic, along with Brazilian playmaker Paquetá. Frank Kessié was rumored to have been left out due to disciplinary reasons. Andrea Conti was given another chance on the right defensive side in place of Davide Calabria. Redeem time also for Suso, who substituted Samu Castillejo in a three-man attacking line.
Maurizio Sarri made two changes versus his winning lineup from one week ago in the Derby of Turin: Alex Sandro replaced Mattia De Sciglio as left-back, whereas Gonzalo Higuain joined CR7 on the front line to replace Paulo Dybala from the start. Matthjis De Ligt, who had missed the mid-week Champions League game in Moscow, recovered from his injury and retook his place next to Leonardo Bonucci in defense.
The first chance was for Juventus, as Cristiano Ronaldo served a brilliant filtering pass to Gonzalo Higuain, which Gianluigi Donnarumma awkwardly deflected with his feet. A couple of minutes later, however, Suso found Krzysztof Piatek in the middle of the box with a long-range cross: The Pistolero’s header conversion was weak, and ended out of target.
In the 24th minute, the Rossoneri had probably their best chance of the whole game, with Andrea Conti Conti serving Paquetá in the box for another header. Wojciech Szczesny literally flew to chase the ball away from the top left corner of the goal.
Juventus’ offensive midfielder Federico Bernardeschi produced himself in a brilliant dribbling along the Rossoneri’s area, but his shot ended above the crossbar. Cristiano Ronaldo’s first shot materialized in the 42nd minute and was easy prey for Gianluigi Donnarumma. That was CR7’s only spark in a pretty colorless performance, which saw him eventually substituted in the second half.
Before half-time, Theo Hernandez’s long-range challenge was parried back by the Bianconeri goalkeeper, and just one minute later Szczesny distinguished himself again for another good save on a conclusion by Krzysztof Piatek.
Early in the second half, a shot by Federico Bernardeschi and a curl by Blaise Matuidi scared Milan’s goalie, continuously targeted by Juventus’ supporters from the stands with derogatory chants questioning his integrity as a man. The Rossoneri restarted unbalanced, and risked many times to be punished by Maurizio Sarri’s troops’ counterattacks.
The Comandante pulled off Cristiano Ronaldo after 54 minutes only, sending in Paulo Dybala, and six minutes later also sent in Douglas Costa – their Champions League hero of Moscow – in place of Federico Bernardeschi.
Stefano Pioli’s immediate answer was calling Giacomo Bonaventura to action. Later in the game, he also substituted Krzysztof Piatek with Rafael Leao, but the Portuguese did little use of his 25 minutes of play – resulting once again more fanciful than useful.
Before he was pulled out, PIatek had been offered by Paquetá a great pass along the offside line, giving Szczesny another chance to shine. Juventus’ reply was in another shot by Blaise Matuidi, well served by Douglas Costa. In the 74th minute, a free-kick by Hakan Calhanoglu forced Wojciech Szczesny to dirt his gloves again to push the ball away from the danger area.
Two minutes later, Juventus found their hero in Paulo Dybala, who finished for the best after a lovely flank-play by Gonzalo Higuain had set him free to dribble Alessio Romagnoli and look Gianluigi Donnarumma in his eyes before putting the ball past him.
The Bianconeri then switched into game management mode, but couldn’t prevent Hakan Calhanoglu from testing their keeper again from long range. Stefano Pioli drew his last card as he sent in Ante Rebic for Paquetá, but despite much pressure, Milan didn’t pose any more serious threat to the goal guarded by a monumental Wojciech Szczesny.
It was, on the other hand, Gonzalo Higuain to come closer to score the second with a missile shot from inside the box. Gianluigi Donnarumma’s big hand eventually waved away another challenge by Paulo Dybala well into stoppage time, which would have made for a too severe punishment for a keen Rossoneri side.
November 10, 2019 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 12
SCORER: 77′ Dybala
|JUVENTUS (4-3-1-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, De Ligt, Alex Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic, Matuidi (71′ Rabiot); Bernardeschi (61′ Douglas Costa); Higuain, Cristiano Ronaldo (55′ Dybala) (Pinsoglio, Buffon, De Sciglio, Khedira, Ramsey, Danilo, Can, Rugani, Demiral) Coach: Sarri|
|MILAN (4-3-3): G. Donnarumma; Conti, Duarte, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Krunic (62′ Bonaventura), Bennacer, Paquetà (85′ Rebic); Suso, Piatek (67′ Rafael Leao), Calhanoglu (Reina, A. Donnarumma, Calabria, Biglia, Caldara, Gabbia, Rodriguez) Coach: Pioli|
REFEREE: Mr. Maresca from Napoli
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Cuadrado (J), Krunic, Bennacer, Hernandez, Calhanoglu, Suso (M); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 4′