Udinese vs Juventus Throwback: Quaglia and Di Natale Stun Ranieri

Udinese beating Juventus in an all-Bianconeri affair is not a common sight in Serie A. But when you have two strikers like Fabio Quagliarella and Antonio Di Natale on your side, everything is possible. That was the case on January 28, 2009, when the Zebrette shocked Madama with two goals from their stellar attackers on a cold mid-week Serie A matchday.

To their credit, Juventus didn’t feature their most spectacular lineup. Those were challenging times at Continassa as the Bianconeri had just made it back to Serie A after the Calciopoli tsunami wiped them out of the top-flight map three years earlier.

Claudio Ranieri was at the helm since the previous term. Sir Claudio didn’t know that, only a few years later, he would shock the Premier League by winning a fairy tale title with Leicester. His current task was bringing the fallen-into-disgrace Bianconeri back to glory and he seemed right on track as he had grabbed a commendable third place in the table last time round, securing Champions League football for Juve at his first attempt.

But Juventus were still searching for their lost identity. Their pre-Calciopoli backbone was still there, with players like Gianluigi Buffon, Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved having honorably decided to stay at Juve during the shameful Serie B season. Except for Buffon, though, they were all way past their prime.

Juventus’ new signings were an assorted lot of trials and errors, ranging from the solid Czech right back Zdenek Grygera to midfielder Christian Poulsen – Francesco Totti’s Danish nemesis at Euro 2004. But perhaps what best conveys the idea of the Bianconeri’s low-profile approach was their drab front line. Upfront, on top of Vincenzo Iaquinta (who had moved to Juve after making a name for himself right at Udinese), the Old Lady featured the Italian-Brazilian Amauri Carvalho and the diminutive Sebastian Giovinco, a technically gifted youth club product who would prove too minute for top-class football.   

Udinese, on the other hand, answered with Fabio Quagliarella, who was cementing himself as one of the most promising up-and-coming strikers in Serie A, and the phenomenal Totó Di Natale, who was already the state of the art when it came to goalscoring skills in the Italian top-flight. Di Natale was en route to becoming the overall top scorer in Serie A for the 2000s decade and would grab back-to-back capocannoniere titles in 2010 and 2011. He was a force to be reckoned with, still he chose to remain at Udine for most of his career, achieving legend status in the Friuli region.

That is to say that, despite their quasi-unknown international pedigree, Udinese were a side not to mess with in those days. The Friulani might be a constant, dull mid-table presence nowadays, but in the second part of the 2000s they were often battling for Champions League football and even once had a thrilling run in the top European competition’s group stage.

Coached by the experienced Pasquale Marino, the Zebrette had started the 2008/09 season in emphatic fashion, winning six out of their initial nine games to even climb top of the table (!). But then, something has suddenly broken in Marino’s war machine as Udinese collected only three points in the next ten matches.  

So, when Udinese prepared to receive Juventus at the then Friuli Stadium on January 28, 2009, Marino’s fate was hanging by a thread. Juve were second in the table, still hoping to mount a challenge for the title and break José Mourinho’s Inter dominance. The odds were clearly in the most famous of the two Bianconeri side’s favor.      

But Udinese started strong and threatened Juve with a powerful Quagliarella header that called Buffon to action. It was a warning sign. On 20 minutes, Colombian defender Cristián Zapata recovered the ball at midfield and triggered Di Natale’s counterattack. Totó was just unstoppable for the imposing, yet slow Juve defenders. His pass for Quagliarella was perfect, the Neapolitan-born forward did the rest by dribbling past his marker and slotting the ball past Buffon. The Friuli Stadium went in raptures.

Juventus’ reaction was slow to come and posed no serious threats to Samir Handanovic, who, at 25, was enjoying his second season as Udinese’s starting goalkeeper. On the other hand, it was the Zebrette who continued to attack, and Buffon had to remind the audience that he was still the best goalie in the world with a superb save from Mauricio Isla.

A Grygera header that sailed off target was Juve’s only noteworthy chance as Udinese prepared to strike again. On 74 minutes, Gaetano D’Agostino triggered another fast break for the Friulani, serving Di Natale the chance for a brilliant solo show. Di Natale’s foray into the Old Lady’s box ended with a shot at the far post that left no chance to poor Buffon.

From the penalty spot, Iaquinta eventually halved the gap and made Juventus’ defeat a little less painful, but Ranieri’s band surely felt the hit. Ranieri’s Bianconeri never fully recovered from the setback. They eventually ended second in the table, but 10 points adrift of league winners Inter and were never a serious contender for the Scudetto.

Moreover, poor Ranieri became the first Juventus gaffer to be axed in the middle of a season since 1970, as he was replaced by youth club manager and former Bianconero Ciro Ferrara as caretaker with two games to go and the club at risk of missing a Champions League spot.

For Udinese, that win over Juventus helped steer them back on track. Marino saved his job, and his boys achieved a honorable sixth place finish to ensure qualification for European football again. They also had a thrilling run in the UEFA Cup, as they succumbed to Werder Bremen in the Quarter Finals, but only after collecting such illustrious scalps as Borussia Dortmund’s, Tottenham’s, and Zenit St. Petersburg’s along the way.


January 28, 2009 – Serie A 1995-96 Round 21

20′ Quagliarella (U), 74′ Di Natale (U), 77′ Iaquinta (J, pen.)

UDINESE (4-4-2): Handanovic; Coda, Zapata, Domizzi, Pasquale; Isla, D’Agostino, Inler, Asamoah; Quagliarella (85′ Floro Flores), Di Natale (80′ Pepe) (Belardi, Felipe, Ferronetti, Obodo, Sanchez) Coach: Marino
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon; Grygera, Mellberg, Legrottaglie, Molinaro; Marchionni (46′ Iaquinta), Sissoko (83′ Poulsen), Marchisio, Nedved; Giovinco, Amauri (80′ Trezeguet) (Chimenti, Chiellini, De Ceglie, Ekdal) Coach: Ranieri

REFEREE: Mr. Tagliavento from Terni
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Pasquale (U), Legrottaglie, Nedved (J)