The verdict of the Serie A Sunday night’s “Champions League play-off” was clear. The match at the Allianz Stadium saw the rebirth of Milan and the ultimate demise of Juventus’ fantastic cycle as the Rossoneri put three past the Old Lady with goals from Brahim Diaz, Ante Rebic, and Fikayo Tomori.
It was the sweetest victory for Milan coach Stefano Pioli, who gave a chance as a starter to Diaz and saw the small-sized Spaniard reshuffling the cards in what initially seemed a pretty balanced match. Tonight’s win not only put Milan three points clear of the Bianconeri in the table but also gives them an advantage over Juve in head-to-head matches this season.
For Andrea Pirlo and Juventus, the future seems darker and darker as the Bianconeri are now seriously at risk of missing the Champions League train. There was not a single player to save in tonight’s setback, including an apathetic Cristiano Ronaldo who did little to prevent his side from sinking.
For a true season decider, it was nice to see that both coaches pretty much had their full rosters available despite their campaigns being plagued with multiple injuries so far.
Pirlo opted for his trusted 4-4-2 setup. There were no last minute changes in his lineup as Giorgio Chiellini was preferred to Leonardo Bonucci in defense and Weston McKennie was deployed as right wing-back, with Juan Cuadrado acting as right full-back. Stefano Pioli’s trump card was supposed to be Brahim Diaz, whom he deployed as trequartista instead of the more usual starters Ante Rebic or Rafael Leao.
There was much at stake and both sides were fully aware of that. As a consequence, the first half of the match turned into a tense chess game in which the defenses stole the stage and nullified the first cautious attempts from both sides.
It was a rough yet respectful encounter and referee Paolo Valeri made the right choice in letting the teams play and only using his whistle when necessary.
Juventus were more aggressive in the early stages but Milan grew minute after minute as Theo Hernandez gained more confidence and managed to breach into the Bianconeri‘s defense from the left flank multiple times. The first real shot came from Brahim Diaz but the Spaniard’s conclusion from outside of the box gave Wojciech Szczesny no reason for concern.
The Bianconeri‘s answer was mostly in a Giorgio Chiellini header that missed the target after Gianluigi Donnarumma had failed to catch the ball from a corner kick.
A goalless draw at half time seemed to be a fair outcome but – as it often happens in football – it was a single episode to alter the course of the game. Right before the break, It was Brahim Diaz to repay Pioli’s trust with a stunning right-foot curler that found the right spot into Szczesny’s top left corner.
The Polish goalkeeper propitiated Diaz’s chance with an ineffective clearance from an Hakan Calhanoglu free kick. Juventus protested over an alleged handball from the Spaniard in the build-up but Valeri confirmed the goal after checking the VAR.
The Old Lady tried to bounce back right after the restart. Rodrigo Bentancur received a brilliant back heel pass from Alvaro Morata and fired a shot at Donnarumma but found Gigio well alert.
On the other hand, Brahim Diaz continued to be an authentic scourge: His raid into Juventus’ area on 55 minutes forced Giorgio Chiellini to cause a penalty as he deflected the Spaniard’s shot with his arm outstretched. Kessié got a chance to double the Rossoneri‘s lead but Milan’s flawless penalty taker spoiled his perfect record from the spot as Szczesny redeemed himself and pushed back the Ivorian’s conversion attempt.
On 65 minutes, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s left knee raised a white flag and Pioli had to renounce to his totemic striker. He replaced him with Ante Rebic. His next change was Rade Krunic for Brahim Diaz as the former Real Madrid man had finished his job. Andrea Pirlo answered by sending in Dejan Kulusevski for Bentancur.
Zlatan’s exit turned to be a blessing in disguise for the Rossoneri, who doubled their lead with a sensational Rebic screamer on 77 minutes. The Croat got the ball twenty meters from the goal and fired it past Szczesny to place a two-goal cushion between his side and the trailing Old Lady.
That happened when Juventus were in their best moment, squeezing Milan back into their own half but still failing to cause any real trouble to Donnarumma. It was a real shocker for Andrea Pirlo’s band, who soon conceded again when Fikayo Tomori headed the ball home from another lethal Calhanoglu free kick.
At that point, not even Chiesa’s change with Paulo Dybala could change the situation. Juve pushed hard to pull at least one back for their pride but it was no use. It was the saddest night for the Bianconeri, who now find themselves in the fifth place of the table and out of the Champions League spots.
2011 – AC Milan have won a Serie A away match against Juventus for the first time since March 2011 (0-1 Gattuso), before the Allianz Stadium existed. Conquest.#SerieA #JuveMilan pic.twitter.com/xw5jVqlKQM— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) May 9, 2021
May 9, 2021 – Serie A 2020-21 Round 35
SCORERS: 45’+2 Brahim Diaz, 78′ Rebic, 82′ Tomori
|JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; McKennie (66′ , Bentancur (66′ Kulusevski), Rabiot, Chiesa (79′ Dybala); Morata, Cristiano Ronaldo (Buffon, Pinsoglio, Danilo, Bonucci, Demiral, Arthur, Ramsey, Bernardeschi) Coach: Pirlo
|MILAN (4-2-3-1): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Hernandez; Bennacer (80′ Meité), Kessié; Saelemaekers (80′ Diogo Dalot), Brahim Diaz (69′ Krunic), Calhanoglu; Ibrahimovic (65′ Rebic) (Tatarusanu, Kalulu, Gabbia, Romagnoli, Tonali, Rafael Leao, Hauge, Mandzukic) Coach: Pioli
REFEREE: Mr. Valeri from Rome
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Chiesa, Chiellini (J), Saelemaekers (M); Extra Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 4′