Juventus, having sealed their 31st (yes that’s right, I said T-H-I-R-T-Y O-N-E, count ‘em and shove your asterix) Scudetto last weekend, they dragged their partied out and hungover selves to Bergamo for a match against relegation threatened Atalanta. Here’s what unfolded at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia.
MATCH ANALYSIS by Adam Digby
The Bianconeri came into this match with nothing to play for but, as Angelo Alessio explained in the pre-match press conference, they were chasing the record points tally gained under Fabio Capello. With a heavily rotated squad, Antonio Conte intelligently drew upon the desire of the fringe players to counter the Orobici and their desperation for points.
Having cleverly explained that Gigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Kwadwo Asamoah were ‘injured’ (come on, ‘Did not play – drunk’ would look awful on the box score!), the coach gave a rare start to Marco Storari between the posts while Martin Caceres and Luca Marrone formed the back three with Giorgio Chiellini. Further forward there were yet more new faces as Mauricio Isla and Paolo De Ceglie occupied the wing-back berths as Simone Padoin and Emanuele Giaccherini joined Andrea Pirlo in midfield. The underused Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella were also given the nod in attack, giving la vecchia Signora no fewer than eight changes from the title clinching win over Palermo in the previous outing.
Atalanta, desperate for one last point to guarantee their Serie A safety, were struggling for players with Franco Brienza, Guido Marilungo, Igor Budan and Riccardo Cazzola all missing. That problem was made worse as Stefano Colantuono was forced to discipline on loan Inter striker Marko Livaja for the second time in a month after a training ground fight. The Bergamaschi lined up in a 3-5-1-1 formation in order to stifle the attacking opportunities for the visitors.
However, the use of players with points to prove almost paid off immediately as
@TeamGREASE sorry I mean Giaccherini almost beat Andrea Consigli but his weak shot was saved by the talented ‘keeper. Atalanta’s already weakened lineup was then made even worse as they were forced to replace fullback Cristian Raimondi with Luigi Giorgi after just six minutes.
The desire of Juve remained high as they pressed and harried their overmatched opponents constantly, condensing the pitch and giving Atalanta less room to breathe than the Bergamo Carabinieri had given the travelling fans outside the stadium. The game had just begun to descend into a fast paced midfield war when, as usual, the bearded genius of Andrea Pirlo took centre stage.
As always seems to be the case, the man Claudio Zuliani refers to as simply ‘Mozart’ found the kind of time and space that only he can and used it as wonderfully as always, stroking an immaculate pass over the melee of players around him to pick out Matri’s brilliant run from deep. While everyone else sat open mouthed at the grace of ease displayed by Pirlo, the much maligned Matri needed only one touch before placing an equally beautiful finish into the top corner. It was a truly stunning goal and one which fans of Matri will point to as proof positive he is just the man needed to come off the bench next season. 1-0 Juventus.
Shortly after, German Denis – laughably linked with a move to Turin in recent days – hit the post with a trademark header and then an episode equally typical of Serie A took place. The electronic communication system used by the match officials malfunctioned and, rather than actually talking to each other, the game was stopped for almost ten minutes while it was repaired. It was the kind of incident that could only happen in Italy and one which does nothing to help the already battered reputation of a league that is now close to falling behind Portugal in terms of coefficient ranking.
The supporters in the stands became understandably frustrated at the stoppage and, as Calcio fans do, began to amuse themselves by throwing things at each other. It began with some unsavoury chanting, progressed to firecrackers before ending with chunks of the stadium bathrooms being launched across the barriers. I’m sure somewhere in Italy there is an age old adage to describe what being hit by the porcelain from a toilet bowl means but it would undoubtedly only be lost in translation! Conte and the Atalanta players each went to talk to their respective Ultra in order to calm the situation down before it worsened and they were helped by the referees finally fixing their own problems and allowing play to continue at long last.
Cristiano Del Grosso missed by some distance before Fabio Quagliarella’s stunning touch required a smart stop from the overworked Consigli. Caceres, looking rusty from a combination of car crash, bus ride and beers/smokes, made a terrible blunder but Denis was unable to find a way past Storari who tipped the well struck volley onto the post. Giacomo Bonaventura almost went one better as Davide Biondini Nocerino’ed (it’s Torinese for ‘deflected’) the ball on the upright.
The second half saw yet more chance as Storari again saved well from Bonaventura before Matri gave his detractors yet more ammunition as he somehow failed to connect with a superb cross from Isla that was begging to be dispatched goalwards. Consigli made a vital one-on-one stop versus substitute Arturo Vidal before Giaccherini hit the side-netting from another difficult angle.
Other than seeing Nicolas Anelka make a sub appearance there was little further action as the game petered out, perhaps due to the fact everyone in the stadium learned other results had gone Atalanta’s way and they were safe from relegation no matter the score.
LE PAGELLE by Adam Digby
Marco Storari 6.0 - Much like Gigi Buffon in recent weeks he had very little to do and could probably have brought his post-Scudetto cigar with him out onto the field. An easy game for a man who is undoubtedly the best second choice ‘keeper in the league.
Martin Caceres 6.0 - Loses a mark for the chance gifted to Denis but on the whole the Uruguayan had a superb game. Completed a frankly ridiculous 96% of his 105 attempted passes whilst adding two tackles – one when he was the last man in defence – three interceptions and seven clearances. His pass to create a chance for Giaccherini was sublime and, as a reserve with much to prove, he did well and hopefully will feature more in the last two matches.
Luca Marrone 6.5 - Another faultless performance in Conte’s new role for him as the vice-Bonucci. He didn’t punch any armed robbers but kept his game simple and effective. Great to see him with such confidence despite rarely playing and, again, he is one who should see heavy minutes over the remaining two fixtures.
Giorgio Chiellini 7.5 - No Bonucci and Barzagli? No problem! Realising he was without his usual running mates, Giorgio decided he’d cover for them by himself, stealing his team-mates best traits. Engaging his ‘Barzagli Wall Mode’ setting, nothing got past the big number three and, as well as commanding the backline like Leo he also passed like him, connecting on 97% of his seventy passes and 18 of 18 long balls. A display that showcased everything great about Chiellini.
Mauricio Isla 7.0 - Finally, almost a year after arriving in Turin, the real Isla was on show. Much like Chiellini, this was a 90 minute of everything good about the Chilean utility player and highlighted just why Beppe Marotta was willing to pay so much to prevent Udinese selling him to Inter. His running and ability on the ball should please everyone who holds the Bianconeri dear. Well, unless you’re Stephan Lichtsteiner that is!
Simone Padoin 6.0 - Solid, unspectacular and workmanlike, Padoin did all the ordinary things he does well and didn’t try to do more. As people far cooler than I might put it, Padoin gonna Padoin.
’69 Arturo Vidal 6.0 - Should have buried the one-on-one but has been so good lately nobody will complain.
Andrea Pirlo 8.0 - Loses a mark because, well, giving a ten is not the done thing and another for making me realise I’m out of superlatives for describing his ability. Pirlo even managed to pick up a yellow card to ensure he is suspended next week meaning a) he gets a rest and b) can turn up at the trophy presentation in a smoking jacket and monocle while carrying a cane. You know you’ve thought it.
Emanuele Giaccherini 6.0 - His running off the ball stretched the defence and his pace clearly terrified the Atalanta defence. Problems only started when he was in possession, then he scared the side netting and fans in the first three rows. Ok, sorry Grease, that was unfair, he played well and deserves to play out the season.
Paolo De Ceglie 5.5 - Almost scored which would’ve seen our own Aaron Giambattista explode and defended his flank well. His crossing looked rusty but that’s indicative of his lack of playing time. Needs to improve in the remaining games or could find himself on the way out this summer.
’76 Federico Peluso sv - Barely noticed after his introduction, did very little during his time on the field
Alessandro Matri 7.0 - One great goal from his one attempt on goal but that airshot was abysmal as he managed to feed both sides of the argument about his future in a single game. As always his runs were eye-catchingly brilliant but his final product is, for want of a better phrase, hit and miss.
Fabio Quagliarella 5.5 - A poor display from the spectacular striker as he looked devoid of confidence. The midfield battle robbed him of his preferred style of play as the game became one in which Matri was far more comfortable and it was no surprise to see him taken off early in the second half.
’69 Nicolas Anelka 6.0- Decent movement and strength up front, but affected the game only minimally.
Antonio Conte 7 - Rotated well, keeping just enough elements of the first team to see off his former club. His changes worked and Juve got the win. Job done!
Atalanta 0-1 Juventus – Goal and Video Highlights