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Juventus and their coach Massimiliano Allegri are like the Asso Pigliatutto (Ace-take-it-all), the key point in a popular Italian card game, which enables its holder to capture all the cards on the floor. The dominant Bianconeri didn’t leave anything to their opponents this year either, as they wiped out Milan 4-0 last night in a one-sided Coppa Italia final, to conquer their fourth cup in a row, and most likely their fourth consecutive National title-league cup double.
The Rossoneri’s feeble resistance was swept away in the space of 15 minutes – that’s how much it took for Juventus to score four times, after the first half at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome had resulted in a boring goalless draw. Defender Medhi Benatia jumped higher than anybody in the 55th minute to convert with a header from a corner kick, then Milan were condemned by two macroscopic blunders by their goalie Gianluigi Donnarumma, before an own-goal by Nikola Kalinic set the score to 0-4.
Four Coppa Italia in a row, and seven consecutive Scudetto – the last one to be officially certified this weekend, with only the law of numbers still leaving a theoretical possibility for Napoli to threaten the Bianconeri. President Andrea Agnelli’s Juventus created the most dominant dynasty in calcio since the times of the Grande Torino.
It started with Antonio Conte and his three titles in a row, and unexpectedly became even more successful since Massimiliano Allegri sat on the Old Lady’s bench. The Tuscanian coach, widely believed to be a second-choice solution, basically “the less worst available” at the time of signing his deal, took a pleasant revenge over his detractors, leading the Bianconeri to four domestic clean sweeps, and two Champions League finals.
Juventus’ supremacy in Italy is far from being put under discussion, even if some of their senators – Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini – were to call it quit or leave the club at the end of this season. Last night’s hammering clearly showed that seconds are still very distant from Madama in the land of food and calcio.
But the final round of Coppa Italia 2017-18 was also set to be an emotional football moment, likely the last confrontation between the most two famous Gianluigi in Serie A. It should have been an ideal handover between the 40-year-old legendary Buffon, who’s on the verge of retiring, and the 19-year-old rampant Donnarumma. The past and the future of Italian goalkeeping.
The outcome of the confrontation was merciless, with the old lion Buffon clearing all the Rossoneri’s attempts (pretty weak attempts, to tell the truth), while his presumed successor between the Nazionale goal posts fell victim of the most classic of goalkeeper dramas – committing a mistake right while he was playing at his best, and then losing concentration and focus for the rest of the game.
A painful, but maybe necessary wake-up call for a talent who’s been arguably hyped and celebrated in the last two years, but has also been through an evident involution this season, leaving his fans with the dilemma of whether continuing to count on him as their future goalkeeper, or letting him go and accommodate his influential agent Mino Raiola’s pressure.
Still, it wouldn’t be fair to put all the blame of last night’s slaughter on the shoulders of Donnarumma, as the pounding came at a point in which Juventus was already taking full control of the game – and the young goalie had had his merit in keeping the score even for some time.
With Gonzalo Higuain left on the bench, one could expect Paulo Dybala being the leading attacking force for Juventus, but all the Argentinian’s scoring attempts were indeed frustrated by Donnarumma – including a super-save in the 55th minute on a powerful sharp shot, showing that talent is still there. On the subsequent corner kick however, the match took a clear direction, with Medhi Benatia taking off and putting the ball past him to bring the Old Lady ahead.
There was still time for another save by Gigio on a new long-range shot by Dybala, before Douglas Costa could double the lead for his side. The Brazilian tried the same solution, a powerful conclusion from outside the box, but this time the Rossoneri keeper shockingly failed, and saw his hands bent by the shot.
Donnarumma completely lost it his three minutes later, when he failed to block an easy header, and delivered the ball right on the feet of a lurking Benatia. All the Moroccan center back had to do was push the ball in the net to tally a surprising brace, and likely become the first defender to score twice in a Coppa Italia final…
When Benatia made it three, coach Gennaro Gattuso had just tried to reshuffle his offensive cards by sending in Nikola Kalinic in place of Patrick Cutrone. The home-grown number 63 was actually impalpable last night, but his explosion will still go down as one of the few positive notes in Milan’s disgraceful season. The former Fiorentina striker did even worse, if possible. He did score one goal, but in the wrong side, deflecting a corner kick cross past Donnarumma with a suicidal header.
Last night’s match was therefore a painful confirmation of how miserably Football Director Antonio Mirabelli’s market strategy failed – at least for what concerns the offensive side – with contributions by Nikola Kalinic and André Silva being close to zero, and the best forward turning out to be a 19-year-old youth club player.
Even Suso, who had played an important part in keeping the Devils afloat during a staggering first half of the season, progressively vanished, and last night didn’t go further than showing his trademark move (move inward, switch the ball on the left foot, bend shot) that most opponents know by now.
The match risked taking a derisive turn when, with Juventus leading by four, Paulo Dybala saw Milan’s goalie far from his posts, and tried to surprise him with a lob shot from 40 meters. It ended above the crossbar. It would have been too much.
Referee Antonio Damato decided to blow the final whistle without extra time, despite having initially signaled two minutes. He looked like Iker Casillas asking the referee to end the 2012 European Final before stoppage time, with Spain leading 4-0 over Italy.
“Respeto para Milan.”
At full time, captain Leonardo Bonucci was seen conversing with some supporters close to the lower stands. He must have had much to explain, together with the whole Milan proprietorship, for what was supposed to be the season of rebirth – and is rather turning into a desperate chase to the last available Europa League slot.
The other captain, Gianluigi Buffon, collected another trophy in a fantastic 22-year-spanning career, and with class left the honor of raising the cup to another veteran, midfielder Claudio Marchisio.
Juve took it all once again. Next year, the defending champions for any trophy within the Italian borders will still be them.
May 9, 2018 – Coppa Italia 2017-18 Final
SCORERS: 56′ Benatia, 61′ Douglas Costa, 64′ Benatia, 76′ Kalinic (o.g.)
|JUVENTUS (4-3-2-1): Buffon; Cuadrado, Barzagli, Benatia, Asamoah; Khedira, Pjanic (87′ Marchisio), Matuidi; Douglas Costa (73’ Bernardeschi), Dybala (83’ Higuain); Mandzukic (Pinsoglio, Szczesny, De Sciglio, Alex Sandro, Howedes, Rugani, Lichtsteiner, Sturaro, Bentancur) Coach: Allegri|
|MILAN (4-3-3): G. Donnarumma; Calabria, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie, Locatelli (80’ Montolivo), Bonaventura; Suso (68’ Borini), Cutrone (62’ Kalinic), Calhanoglu (Storari, A. Donnarumma, Abate, Zapata, Musacchio, Antonelli, Biglia, Mauri, André Silva) Coach: Gattuso|
REFEREE: Mr. Damato from Barletta
NOTES: Attendance: 66400; Yellow Cards: Douglas Costa (J), Calabria (M); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 2′