In our preview of AC Milan vs. Juventus Tuesday, Adam mocked the numerous variations of clichés that are so ever-present in the press prior to a big game, especially one such as this, involving two teams which, so far, have been the only ones to set a serious claim on this season’s Scudetto. Yet looking at Juve’s 2-1 first leg semifinal win and all the possible ripple effects it will cause, a ‘big psychological advantage’ may just be the thing to end up in history books, so clearly dominating was the Bianconeri’s performance over the Rossoneri Wednesday. As for the cherry on the proverbial cake, it was provided by a wonderful double from returning player Martin “El Pelado” Cáceres, a perfect fairy-tale return for the man all Juventini wanted wearing Bianconero again. Marco and Lars combine to bring you Wednesday’s after-action report.
MATCH ANALYSIS (by Marco Pantanella)
Running, pressuring, ball possession. That is the winning credo of Antonio Conte, and Wednesday’s match display showed no different. Tactically the Juve manager reverted to a 3-5-2, a formation that is progressively earning the “Juventus official” tag this current month. Indeed come Summertime, when people look back upon the Old Lady’s 2011-12 season, along the words “tactical variation” and “phases” we will certainly find January/February associated with the five-man midfield option.
To battle against a team ravaged by injuries but nonetheless fielding the best their depleted roster could offer (the likes of Ibrahimovic, El Shaarawy, Seedorf, etc.), Conte proposed a starting eleven nearly 2/3 composed by benchwarmers, firm in the belief that his boys – from the fringe player to the first-team regular – would deliver their utmost best. We thus saw the introduction of new signings Martin Cáceres and Simone Padoin in midfield, as well as a novel striking partnership in the form of Alessandro Del Piero and Marco Borriello up front.
And deliver they did: a vital 2-1 away win, putting Juve with a foot and a half into the TIM Cup final. One of the boys in particular shone high above the rest. He was making his big return in Bianconero colors this evening, and what better way to celebrate it than scoring two goals against Juve’s deadliest rivals?
The match was a high-tempo affair right from the get-go, with Juve quickly on top in terms of pressuring & possession. And yet the first real chance of the match would come to the feet of an AC Milan player, Stephan El Shaarawy exploiting a long ball from Emanuelson, beating Barzagli inside the area, but unable to do the same on Storari (the angle was extremely difficult, it must be said).
Not to be outdone, Juventus responded shortly thereafter. It was first Marcelo Estigarribia (highly mobile on the left wing and giving Bonera many a problem, but inefficient with his crosses) penetrating inside the box, getting a lucky rebound and firing a shot wide from a great position. Less than a minute later, Emanuele Giaccherini followed suit this time from long-range, hitting it hard off Mexès and almost surprising Amelia in net, who had to scramble backwards to tip the ball over the bar.
During this whole team, the actual forwards from both teams (El Shaarawy excepted) were leaving somewhat to be desired. Ibrahimovic was completely absent, thoroughly marked down by his best bud Chiellini, Borriello spent most of his time on the ground complaining, and Del Piero… well, he did almost produce the play of the year (a backheel-flick to himself followed by a sombrero over Mexès) if only a lurking Milan defender had not nicked the ball away and prevented ADP from hitting the ball home. The half thus ended with a scoreless 0-0.
In the second half, Juventus took control and seized the lead. A great through ball by Giaccherini to Padoin saw the ex-Atalanta man battle with Thiago Silva, and with both men on the ground the ball landed to Borriello, who unleashed a left-footed effort to the far post. Amelia could only push it along the face of the goal, with Martin Cáceres racing full steam ahead to tap the ball into an open net. 1-0 Juve.
Milan tried to react. Allegri had already asked his team to push further high up the park, and this seemed to work for a short while: the Rossoneri were becoming more aggressive and multiplied their dangerous incursions, pushing Juve back into their own half. An angled Ibrahimovic free-kick (well saved by Storari) was the prelude to the Rossoneri equalizer. With Robinho thrown into the mix (on for Emanuelson), AC Milan would have an extra forward in need to be marked by the Juve defense, which incidentally allowed Stephan El Sharaawy to exploit a good Ambrosini headed redirect, free himself up, and tap the ball home from close range. 1-1.
The goal and the 10 minutes that followed were the “Milan moment” of the night. Ibra had a goal disallowed for handball, and would further be involved in the best Rossoneri chance of the half, after a fortunate bounce off Bonucci/Barzagli left him with only Storari to beat. However a last-ditch sliding tackle by Chiellini (who else?) would deny the Swedish striker the joy of goal. It was the turning point.
After two Vucinic and Quagliarella (on for Borriello and Del Piero) chances provided Amelia with yet more shot-stopping work, the Milan keeper could do very little in the 83rd minute, as a deflected Giaccherini cross was picked up by Martin Cáceres, and coolly deposited into the top-left corner of the Milan goal! An incredibly emphatic finish for the 2-1 tally, which capped the Uruguayan’s dream return and fire-started Juve’s night of celebrations.
LE PAGELLE (by Marco Pantanella)
Storari 6.5 – Could do very little on the goal by El Shaarawy, who was essentially left unmarked on Ambrosini’s redirect. The keeper sprung ready to action on a number of Milan chances however (esp. that low save on Ibrahimovic’s free-kick!) and seemed cool and in control on aerial balls particularly.
Barzagli 7.5 – Someone must find a nickname for Barzagli that in ONE word, summarizes just how good of a defender he is for Juventus right now. The challenge is ON, JuventiKnows readers!! In the meantime we shall just say that, as ever, he was absolutely imperial among those back three.
Bonucci 6.5 – When you’ve got two monsters like Barzagli and Chiellini alongside you, it’s really difficult to fu** things up. And yet, Leo has accustomed us to intermittent episodes of just that in recent years. But not today! A solid rock, just like his two colleagues.
Chiellini 7 – How is it that whenever Zlatan is on the field, Chiellini’s output augments ten-fold? Not that he really needed it, as the Juve center-back has been putting in a string of excellent performances recently. But today, he was especially ‘Giorgio of the Jungle’-like! Wonder why…
Cáceres 7.5 – A fairy-tale return! Two goals at the San Siro, the home of our fiercest Serie A rivals this year, in a night where the final result could prove decisive for next round qualification! What more can you ask from Cáceres? Actually, just about the same thing that Conte wants: a bit more cohesion & better positioning when tracking back in defense. We’ll let it slide tonight.
Padoin 6 – Good, no-nonsense performance by the ex-Atalanta midfielder. And great run preceding Cáceres’s first goal, which lead to Borriello’s shot and winning tap-in by the Uruguayan.
(70′) Marrone 6 – Conte brought him on to give more “offensive substance” to his team’s midfield. The youngster obliged.
Pirlo 7 – I’m running out of superlatives to describe this guy. If there is one man that should know what Andrea is capable of, it’s Max Allegri (actually not quite because he let him go, but certainly the rest of the AC Milan team). But despite the Rossoneri’s best efforts to shut him down, Il Pittore was ever-present in Juve’s plays, dictating the pace and even providing a few vital defensive tackles. Yes, you have read correctly: EVEN PROVIDING A FEW VITAL DEFENSIVE TACKLES. Oh, and then there’s this…
Giaccherini 6.5 – Initiated the cross that lead to Cáceres’s match-winner. Hard-working, industrious, and mostly qualitative performance by the ‘Little Goblin’ who, in these days where Marchisio needs to recharge his batteries, is a more-than-adequate substitute (and then some). Notice I said “mostly”, because there’s two things I wasn’t happy about today: his lack of focus on some of those offensive runs (on one, he slowed down and allowed Mexès to gain on him; on another he wasted a potentially good play with a bad pass), and also two repeat occurences of “stop-playing-and-throw-my-hand-in-the-air-to-call-for-a-foul-instead-of-continuing-to-play-till-I-hear-the-whistle”. Thank God Ibrahimovic really handballed that ball and more importantly, that the referee saw it.
Estigarribia 6 – Had a bit of trouble finding space on the left this time. Even though he must have thrown in a few, surely, I don’t remember any mention of an Estigarribia cross during my Play-by-Play. Hard-work is ever-present with El Chelo, but his focus in front of net leaves still much to be desired (that diagonal shot wide after the lucky rebound springs back to mind)…
Borriello 6 – Gets an extra +0.5 for the shot that lead to Cáceres’s first goal. Other than that, a whiny more than productive match for the ex-Roma (and ex-Milan) striker, who spent more time flopping to the ground and complaining to the referee than being involved in vital Juventus build-ups.
(67′) Vucinic 6 – Brought on to inject some fresh juice into Juve’s attack, Mirko’s role was to contribute the ‘creative spark’ provided until then by Alessandro Del Piero. And Vucinic did just that, coming very close to goalscoring moments but lacking just a bit of that goalpoaching instinct in front of net!
Del Piero 6 – Uneventful match for Il Capitano. It could have potentially been a great showdown with former partner Filippo Inzaghi on the field, but Allegri left Pippo on the bench while ADP, despite a nice heel flick and a mid-range shot narrowly wide, didn’t otherwise stamp his mark on the game like he did against Roma. Pippo & Ale: the two ‘absents’ of the night.
(67′) Quagliarella 6 – Quags is really aching for goals, because his motivation when he steps on the field is obvious to everyone. But perhaps due to not playing consistently as a starter, he still lacks that bit of ‘goalscoring focus’ (either that, or it’s just effing bad luck – recall that slip at the end, right in front of goal). Came close to tapping in a winning rebound off a Mirko shot, and earned himself a yellow due to some excess tackling/pressuring verve.
Conte 7 – When three of your non-usual starters combine to produce a goal (Padoin run, Borriello shot, Cáceres tap-in), you know you’ve gotten your starting eleven right! What’s more, when one of these ends up scoring TWO goals in the night, including the one giving your team the victory (away, at that), you can really uncork the champagne. Not that Conte would ever do that. He’d probably leave the bottle on ice till May, and substitute the word ‘Cheers’ with “LAVORO LAVORO LAVORO”.
PLAY-BY-PLAY (by Marco Pantanella)
|•||Conte with a formation surprise: it’s a 4-4-2 after all. Cáceres and Padoin are starting as predicted, but the Juve manager has reverted back to his “roots”, fielding a wing-based (Giaccherini/Padoin) two-striker (ADP-Borriello) formation.|
|•||Conte’s bench options: Manninger, Lichtsteiner, Marchisio, Elia, Marrone, Vucinic, Quags.|
|1′||Referee Paolo Silvio Mazzoleni officiates. And we’re off!|
|3′||Juve with a high-tempo start to the match, right from the very beginning.|
|5′||Very speculative effort by Borriello, who tries a half-volley from mid-range. Abundantly wide.|
|6′||ADP tries to turn Mexès. He succeeds, ball lands inside the area for Borriello but he can’t get under control.|
|7′||Uhm… strike that previous formation. Seems like Juve are going with 3-5-2 again actually! Usual suspects in defense, but much like Lichsteiner did against Napoli & Udinese, it’s Juve’s RB-based player (Cáceres) that is effectively playing right midfield! Completing the line, right to left, we have Padoin, Pirlo, Giaccherini, and Estigarribia.|
|8′||El Shaarawy tries to penetrate from the left. Well-stopped by Barzagli.|
|10′||Dangerous move by Milan, helped by two consecutive lucky bounces. Seedorf and Zlatan combine to set up the Dutchman for a volleyed shot from just outside the area. Wide of Storari’s post.|
|13′||Touch, turn, and instantaneous long-range volley by Seedorf. Miles over the bar.|
|15′||I was just about to type “Borriello’s being way too whiny and not hard-working enough” (two tumbles inside the Milan box from very little contact), but just now the ex-Roma forward runs back to pressure Seedorf and contributes to winning the ball back for Juve.|
|16′||Overlap on the right by Cáceres. Tackled by Thiago Silva. CK Juve. Nothing comes out of it.|
|17′||EL SHAARAWY! Long aerial pass by Emanuelson , the Pharaoh leaves Cáceres to the cleaners and hooks the ball completely free inside the Juve box! He then skips past Barzagli with a deft touch, but is left with an impossible angle to try a shot! It is so wide of Storari’s post it directly goes into throw in, but that was a very dangerous chance right there!|
|19′||Juve off on the counter with Pirlo, then Estigarribia down the left wide. The winger’s cross is deflected into corner. Off it, offensive foul by Bonucci and FK Milan.|
|23′||A good Juve build-up ends with a Cáceres cross towards the middle. Borriello misses it and it lands for Estigarribia, whose right-footed effort is… not even worth a mention.|
|24′||Antonini gets free on the left and is through into space, but thankfully the offside flag is up. That would have been a very dangerous opportunity for Milan otherwise.|
|26′||Argh. ADP steals the ball from Thiago Silva near the Milan box, but then has no passing options. Play dies down.|
|28′||The change in Juve’s formation is making itself felt (especially the absence of Marchisio & Vidal). For as much as the Bianconeri are dangerous on the wings, this is counter-balanced by a free-roaming Milan midfield in the center. Most of the Rossoneri attacks are coming through there.|
|30′||GRRRRRRRRR!!! All Borriello has done so far is flop at the slightest touch of a Milan defender!! Almost “Amauri 2.0″ to borrow Aaron’s expression. If that’s what you’re going to do all match pal, you should have stayed in the changing room.|
|32′||ESTIGARRIBIA!!! Off another good Juve counter, the Paraguayan finds himself inside the Milan box in a good position to cross!! But he waits too long and sees his effort deflected! However the ball bounces back to him and he goes for the shot… wide!!|
|34′||GIACCHERINI!!! Well-struck mid-range effort by the little goblin!! The shot is deflected and takes a dip that almost surprises Amelia, who is forced to tuck the ball over the bar!|
|38′||Play is stopped because Thiago Silva’s down. Appears a thigh strain of some kind, but he seems able to continue.|
|40′||OMG! Del Piero almost executes the play of the year. Off a long ball forward, ADP backheel-flicks it to himself and pulls a sombrero over Mexès, but before he can get a shot in Bonera’s foot flicks the ball away. If only he had managed to pull the trigger…|
|42′||Yellow card Ambrosini for a tactical foul on Cáceres, off on the counter.|
|44′||Van Bommel fouls Pirlo on the left. FK by Andrea slammed in, rebounds to Giaccherini outside the box who goes for the volley. Deflected away.|
|45′||Barzagli has so far, and once again, been AB-SO-LU-TE-LY royal in Juve’s defense.|
|46′||Half-time. 0-0 after 45 minutes between ROssoneri and Bianconeri.|
|46′||We’re back with no changes for either team.|
|47′||Yellow card Mexès for a very late tackle from behind on Borriello.|
|48′||FK Juve from the left. Pirlo strikes it with venom, searching for Bonucci inside the box. Ambrosini’s header gets in to deflect. Nothing comes out of the corner.|
|50′||Poor ADP effort from mid-range. Over and wide. Just a minute earlier, Pinturicchio had a good opportunity to make something happen as he received a low cross from Giaccherini, but was too slow to act and the play died down.|
|51′||Elia & Vucinic warming up for Juventus, Maxi López for AC Milan.|
|53′|| GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL JUVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!
|53′||The Goal: Marvelous through ball for Padoin, through in between two Milan defenders!! Thiago Silva shoulder-barges him down but the ball lands to Borriello who goes for the shot!!! Amelia spills it, straight into the path of Cáceres who just has to tap the ball into the empty net!!! 1-0 Juventus!!!|
|54′||It’s a goal on his second “debut” for the Uruguayan defender!|
|55′||STORARI! Great save on a Ibrahimovic free-kick, who had taken a bounce off the ground. Very dangerous, but the Juve keeper was ready!|
|58′||Van Bommel tries his luck from mid-range. Wide.|
|59′||Zlatan wreaking havoc in the Juve box. He tries to set up Ambrosini with a backheel. Well closed-down by Chiellini.|
|60′||Pirlo foul on Van Bommel. Good Milan chance off the FK. Meanwhile Robinho is about to come on for the Rossoneri.|
|60′||Seedorf’s FK is well off-target.|
|61′||DEL PIERO!!!! ADP moves in centrally and fires a shot off from 25 yards! Just a yard wide of Amelia’s left-post!!!|
|62′||Substitution Milan:: Robinho comes on for Emanuelson.|
|63′||Goal Milan El Shaarawy.|
|63′||The Goal: Antonini cross from the left, redirected header across goal by Ambrosini. Robinho slips, but El Shaarawy’s right behind him with a cool finish out of Storari’s reach. 1-1.|
|67′||Substitution Juve:: Double sub for Conte, who takes off Del Piero & Borriello to insert Quagliarella & Vucinic into the mix.|
|68′||Milan goal disallowed for handball. Off a Van Bommel deflected shot, ball lands to a completely free Ibrahimovic who has no trouble beating Storari. But the ball had touched his hand off that first touch.|
|68′||Really not happy with Giaccherini on that last play. When Zlatan handballed, Giac literally stopped playing while within challenging distance of the Swedish forward. The Juve player’s hand went up to claim the foul, but what if the referee had missed it?|
|69′||Substitution Juve:: Marrone comes on for Padoin.|
|71′||CHIELLINI!! Saves the day by throwing himself in front of a Ibrahimovic shot, after the Swede had somehow simultaneously gotten rid of Barzagli and Bonucci inside the box!!|
|72′||Good counter Juve, Giaccherini sends Estigarribia into space on the left, but the winger can’t adjust his cross towards Quagliarella.|
|73′||Yellow card Quagliarella for a clumsy tackle on Thiago Silva.|
|74′||VUCI-QUAGS!!!! Ball into space centrally for the Montenegrin, who tries to place it low towards Amelia’s far corner!! Parried away by the keeper, and Quagliarella is just inches away from tapping in the rebound!!!!|
|76′||VUCINIC again!!!! AAAAAAAAAARGHHHHH!!!!!! Mirko inside the Milan box, hooks an aerial ball and turns to skip past one, then two Milan defenders, very slowly. But he cannot pull the trigger and the ball is cleared!!!!!!|
|78′||Ugh. A great move forward featuring Pirlo and Giaccherini is wasted by the latter’s poor pass towards Quagliarella.|
|79′||Fu**! Another Milan mistake sends Giaccherini on by himself again on the left wing!! But he runs out of juice and with Mexès hot on his trail, executes a horrible cross that goes nowhere.|
|81′||Antonini roams forward. Stopped by Bonucci. Milan win a corner. Straight into Giaccherini in the wall.|
|83′|| GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL JUVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!
|83′||The Goal: Would you fu**ing believe it?? Through ball into space for Giaccherini, plenty of space to cross from the left! Giac’s delivery is met by Ambrosini, who with a very poor header deflects the ball straight to Cáceres just outside the Milan box! With a lovely curling effort, the Uruguayan delicately places the ball towards the top-left corner into the back of the net!!! Absolutely no chance for Amelia. 2-1 Juventus!!!|
|84′||What a return for Cáceres!! Just magical stuff at the San Siro!!!|
|85′||Substitution Milan:: Maxi López comes on for Van Bommel|
|87′||Antonini with a dangerous offensive incursion on the left. His cross is cleared.|
|87′||Pirlo channels his inner Zidane and executes a lovely 360º!! The San Siro crowd (Milanisti included) goes wild.|
|88′||Danger Milan!! Zlatan centrally, slides it for Maxi López through on goal but the Argie is just a hair offside! PHEW!|
|89′||Through ball for Quags on the right, who rifles in a shot from a very difficult angle. No danger for Amelia.|
|91′||El Shaarawy shot from mid-range, deflected just a yard wide off the post by Robinho.|
|92′||QUAGLIARELLA!!!! AAAARGHHHHH!! Fantastic ball by Pirlo for Eta Beta, he’s onside and through on goal!! His first touch (outside-of-the-foot for himself) is excellent, but then he slips and loses his footing!!!|
|92′||Imperial BARZAGLI to stop another Milan incursion. An absolute MONSTER!!!|
|93′||Full-Time!!! JUVENTUS BEAT MILAN 2-1 in the 1st Leg of the Coppa Italia Semis at Stadio Meazza di San Siro!!|
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP (by Lars Aabjerg Pedersen)
A win in Milano… Over Milan! That always makes my heart swell with pride and joy. It might just stem from the fact that when I started following Juve (1990), AC Milan for numerous years were the team to beat in calcio, while Inter were almost to be considered loveable (it’s true!) losers, giving you a cheap laugh over a very expensive but perennially failed project.
Therefore, in my personal book, Milan have always been Juve’s main rivals. Not an “evil” rivalry like with their bluer cousins but certainly a fierce one, as it is about being the classiest and best team in the Serie A, nothing less (irregardless of some minor upsets in recent calcio history)…
Thus I read some real significance into tonight’s victory, even if it was ‘only’ a Coppa Italia game (with the inevitable tinkering that goes with it) and a weakened Milan side. Psychologically, Milan would of course have loved to end Juve’s unbeaten run in light of their head-to-head fight for the Scudetto, while conversely, Juve take a boost from the fact that even the San Siro was not capable of stopping Conte’s ‘Juvenaught’ this time around either. Also, while it is a strong concern the Bianconeri have issues beating the minnows, it is something that can be fixed easier than an ongoing complex against the big boys, from which Milan seem to be suffering.
Furthermore, the Coppa is not just any competition for the Bianconeri this season. Winning a trophy, at long last, will be documentation that the side is progressing and maturing in a way that has not been seen post-Calciopoli. I for one will wear the Coppa ‘target’ patch and silver star on my Juve jersey with a lot of pride, should we actually succeed in winning our tenth one this year. And regarding the Scudetto-race, I fully believe that winning breeds winning, thus a strong cup run will only strengthen our position in the league standings.
And who knows, maybe next year the Juve jersey could look something like this (a good year indeed):
Finally, the result and performance in this game showed of course that the Winter mercato has been a rather sucessful one. Both Padoin and Borriello were decent, and Cáceres… oh my word! If ever there was a homecoming this was it! I don’t suppose he will keep on scoring at this rate, as he can only face Milan on his debut(s) so many times, but what a come-back for the long stockinged (and ditto-haired) Uruguayan! Especially his wonderful match-winning strike sent quite a few of us dreaming of things to come for this team. Welcome home, Martin!
All in all, this fine showing from the Juventus squad bodes very well for the future. If only such determination (and its just rewards) will carry on against the weaker sides in the league from now on, it’s hard to see this Old Lady falter in the hunt for what will be the ultimate prize this season, the S.......!
We shall find out about that soon enough, starting with the game against Bologna…
In Conte We Trust!
|GOALSCORERS: 53′, 83′ Cáceres (J), 62′ El Shaarawy (M)|
|MILAN (4-3-1-2): Amelia – Bonera, Mexès, Thiago Silva, Antonini – Emanuelson (61′ Robinho), Van Bommel (85′ Maxi López), Ambrosini – Seedorf – Ibrahimovic, El Shaarawy. COACH: Allegri.
(UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Roma, Mesbah, Zambrotta, Cristante, F.Inzaghi).
|JUVENTUS (3-5-2): Storari – Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini – Cáceres, Giaccherini, Padoin (70′ Marrone), Pirlo, Estigarribia – Borriello (67′ Vucinic), Del Piero (67′ Quagliarella). COACH: Conte.
(UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Manninger, Lichtsteiner, Elia, Marchisio).