Feature Photo: JuventusFC (@juventusfc)
If Juventus end up extending their fantastic Scudetto streak to seven titles, Massimiliano Allegri and his boys will remember those five minutes in mid-second half when they managed to switch the momentum of last night’s match with Milan as one of those moments that made the difference. With a wheezing Napoli being held onto a 1-1 draw by Sassuolo earlier in the afternoon, the Old Lady widened again their gap versus the pursuing Neapolitans to +4 after beating the Rossoneri 3-1.
But a two-goal handicap is a severe punishment for Gennaro Gattuso’s squad, which had managed to balance Paulo Dybala’s rapid lead with a goal by the last man the Allianz Stadium hoped to see scoring: Leonardo Bonucci, with his glorious past in Turin. Gattuso saw his men taking control of the game for some good 20 minutes, hitting a crossbar with Hakan Calhanoglu, before Juventus’ deadly one-two put an ultimate damper on the Rossoneri‘s flebile hopes of making it to the Champions League next year.
Juventus are by far the strongest club in the current Italian football panorama, and that is all that needs to be said to explain why the Bianconeri will likely raise their 7th league trophy in a row. No club from the Belpaese can currently match chairman Andrea Agnelli’s organization, when it comes to experience, mental fortitude, and solutions of play.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri’s resources seem to be endless: Juan Cuadrado set his foot on the pitch for the first time since December 23 last night, and put his stamp on the match with an imperial header to bring Juve ahead. Midfielder Sami Khedira, who had been basically watching the game from the pitch without paying the ticket for 70 minutes, suddenly woke up and, after serving Cuadrado the cross for his conversion, took care personally of setting the score to the final 3-1.
For the home match at Allianz Stadium, Allegri recurred to a 3-5-2 lineup featuring an all-Argentinian attacking line with Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala. Douglas Costa was left on the bench for 45 minutes, before coming into play during the second half. Gattuso risked giving a new chance to his number 9 Andre Silva, who had been decisive in Milan’s last two wins in a row, but last night the Portuguese striker went back in the shadows with a tasteless performance.
Juve tried to draw first blood after only six minutes, with a shot by Gonzalo Higuain parried back by Milan’s goalie Gianluigi Donnarumma. It was, however, just a final rehearsal of what was going to happen two minutes later, with Higuain’s attacking partner Dybala replicating exactly the same attempt. La Joya‘s shot from 20 meters was well-directed and tricky, but the Gigio Donnarumma of this season is far from the wonder boy seen in action last year…
The Diavoli had the merit of keeping their spirit high, and found an equaliser in the 28th minute. Hakan Calhanoglu shot a corner kick from the left side, and Leonardo Bonucci pushed the ball past Gianluigi Buffon with a powerful header that silenced the Allianz Stadium. Now, an unwritten law in these cases prescribes that, as a former Juventus player, you would not to be supposed to celebrate against your former club.
Still, Bonucci had been whistled at by the black and white fans every single time he touched the ball since the very first minute. “You know what? I’m going to celebrate,” must the current Rossoneri captain have thought as he run to rejoice under the stands sector occupied by his current supporters.
The second seasonal goal for the Nazionale’s center back – one of those many Milan players regenerated by the “Gattuso therapy” – gave a healthy boost of confidence for the visitors, who did play better than their counterparts for the following twenty minutes, and would probably have deserved to cash in more than a woodwork hit by Calhanoglu in the 51st minute.
But that is when the Bianconeri showed their maturity, and managed to get off the ropes and reverse the match momentum right when Milan were starting to believe it possible to make it out of Turin with three points. Allegri drew a lucky card by sending in Juan Cuadrado for an abulic Blaise Matuidi, and Juventus quickly sent a warning sign with a penetration by Higuain that forced Donnarumma to a great save, even if the Argentinian started from an offside position.
In the 78th minute, Sami Khedira – one that was not even supposed to play, after having suffered a knee injury during the recent Germany-Spain friendly match – chipped the ball from the left to offer the Colombian midfielder a great chance to celebrate his comeback on the pitch with a goal. Cuadrado slammed it in with a header as impressive as Bonucci’s one, and from then on it was all downhill for Juventus.
Khedira’s late 3-1 goal only served the purpose of showing how cynical and lethal the Old Lady can be, the German pouncing on a ball in the Rossoneri’s box and pushing it again into their goal with a quick and sharp shot. The action originated from Douglas Costa shepherding Bonucci and Suso in the far left corner, only to cross the ball in for Paulo Dybala, who then turned it into a golden pass for Khedira.
Suso tried to scare Buffon from the free kick spot in the 88th minute, but saw the 40-year-old portierone deflect his shot and receive applauses form the Allianz Stadium – applauses that were extended to the full Bianconeri squad a few minutes later, when referee Paolo Mazzoleni blew the final whistle.
While Napoli were gasping and panting to come out of the Mapei Stadium with at least one point, Juventus took the luxury of beating one of the best performing clubs in the league, just three days before facing a crucial Champions League battle with the Galacticos. The difference between the two clubs that have been animating the Scudetto battle so far is all here, and – as usual – commentators from the social mediasphere were ruthless:
March 31, 2018 – Serie A 2017-18 Round 30
SCORERS: 8′ Dybala (J), 28′ Bonucci (M), 79′ Cuadrado (J), 87′ Khedira (J)
|JUVENTUS (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Benatia, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner (46′ Douglas Costa), Khedira, Pjanic (75′ Bentancur), Matuidi (61′ Cuadrado), Asamoah; Dybala, Higuain (Szczesny, Pinsoglio, De Sciglio, Rugani, Howedes, Marchisio, Sturaro) Coach: Allegri|
|MILAN (4-3-3): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie, Biglia (75′ Montolivo), Bonaventura; Suso, André Silva (65′ Kalinic), Calhanoglu (80′ Cutrone) (A. Donnarumma, Storari, Antonelli, Musacchio, Zapata, Locatelli, Mauri, Borini) Coach: Gattuso|
REFEREE: Mr. Mazzoleni from Bergamo
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Benatia (J), Rodriguez, Biglia, Montolivo (M)