Juventus welcomed the return of coach Antonio Conte to the Juventus Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, a cold Coppa battle against Cagliari. Both teams not surprisingly practiced widespread rotation, with Cagliari even fielding a Primavera defender and Juventus rotating in players like Padoin, De Ceglie, and Isla. It wasn’t a particularly enthralling match, but in the end, Juventus advanced to the quarterfinals where they will play Reggina or Milan.
MATCH ANALYSIS (from Juventus.com)
The Bianconeri crowned Antonio Conte’s return to the Juventus Stadium dugout by booking their place in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals with a 1-0 win over Cagliari. Conte’s presence on the touchline warmed the hearts of Juventus fans on a bitterly cold night in Turin, and his team claimed the victory they fully deserved when Giovinco capitalised on a moment’s hesitation in the Rossoblu rearguard to strike the winner with 57 minutes played.
As expected, Conte made wholesale changes for the Bianconeri’s debut in this year’s domestic cup competition. Marrone replaced Chiellini in defence, Isla and De Ceglie came in on the flanks to support a midfield trio of Vidal, Padoin and Pogba, while Bendtner partnered the returning Giovinco in attack. Juventus created several chances to open the scoring in a lively opening period. With just seven minutes played, Giovinco found himself in a strong position to beat Avramov but failed to apply enough power to his goalbound attempt.
Bendtner was next to go close three minutes later, jinking past Perico before sending his right-footed effort wide of the target. The Dane was again at the centre of the action in the 20th minute, only for Avramov to thwart his low strike with a smart diving save. Vidal, a late inclusion in the starting line-up at the expense of Giaccherini, saw his night come to a premature end after taking a knock on the halfway line, hobbling off to be replaced by Asamoah. Joining the Chilean in the dressing room before the end of the first-half was Bendtner, who pulled up after showing plenty of bravery to win a challenge with Perico. Matri came on in place of the on-loan front man.
Despite producing a host of opportunities in a controlled second-half display, just one goal proved to be enough to see the the Bianconeri safely through to the next round, with Giovinco pouncing to sweep home from close range following some haphazard defending by the visitors. Conte will have welcomed the opportunity to cast his eye over those who have seen less game time throughout a busy opening half of the season, and will now lead his side into a quarter-final tie against either Milan or Reggina.
Yesterday was the day of 12. The match against Cagliari, played on 12/12/12 and settled by Giovinco (number 12), 12 minutes into the second half for his 12th goal with Juventus. But in the post match there are other numbers that characterise this Coppa Italia match. The Bianconeri are deservedly in the quarterfinals, but the compliments that Antonio Conte gave to Cagliari are more than justified. With a team full of youngsters, the Pulga/Lopez pair responded well from a statistical standpoint.
Despite the fact that Buffon had only one save to make (from Dessena’s shot after Giovinco had scored), the total shots category finished at 19 to 15 in favour of the Bianconeri, who were more precise regarding those on target: 4-1. There was also balance in the other stats, with a slight edge to Juve. Ball possession finished at 52% to 48%, passes attempted at 616 to 567, and 11 minutes of territorial supremacy as opposed to their opponent’s 9. The only lopsided stat regards corner kicks, at 8-1.
The Bianconeri also maintained supremacy in the standings for individual players. Not so much in balls won (Pogba 32, Rossettini 29, Barzagli 28), but rather in passes completed (Marrone dominated with 55, ahead of Barzagli and Pogba with 50) and shooting. Here is where 12 comes back into play, meaning Giovinco, who got off a total of seven shots – including the winner – ahead of the four from Bendtner, Matri and Dessena, the most dangerous on his team.
LE PAGELLE (by Aaron Giambattista)
Buffon 6.5 – Had one save to make, and it was a very good stop. Otherwise nothing to do, but it’s the sign of a great keeper to wake up for a save after being inactive for so long.
Barzagli 7 – Ibarbo may not be the best finisher, but he’s a tricky player with his speed. Barza kept him locked up for most of the match, allowing him only occasional bursts of speed. Was rarely if ever beaten by the pacy Colombian.
Marrone 6.5 – Did well dictating play from the back, and looked assured in defense. It’s a bit puzzling why Conte only sees him as a Bonucci-type playmaking defender, he’s got the skills, clearly, but he’s a great midfielder as well. Either way, he needs to play more often.
Bonucci 6.5 – No troubles in defense for Leo, who also looked great (and not divy!) in offense. Funny enough, Thiago Ribeiro took a dive against Bonucci and was deservedly booked for Atalanta.
Isla 6 – Looked significantly better than in past woeful outings, but still is nowhere near his Udinese self, and his crossing is frankly woeful. Isla’s chief advantage over Lichtsteiner is supposedly his dribbling and ability to beat a man, but he either never tries or fails to take on a defender.
And this wasn’t quality opposition. I still believe Isla’s main issue is the fact he’s still only 4 months off an ACL tear, but goodness, couldn’t we have loaned him out to a crap team for 4-5 months to get this playing time?
Padoin 6.5 – If anyone stated their case for being on the team, it was Padoin. Cagliari’s B team wasn’t the toughest of opposition, but he worked hard in midfield, tackled well, broke up attacks, and distributed. Played the “tireless Pepe” role well, but it’s still confusing why we play him as a central midfielder ahead of Marrone.
Pogba 6 – Controlled the match well, but didn’t create much. A bit of an uninspired yet satisfactory display.
Vidal s.v. – Arturo only played because Giaccherini pulled up before the match, but still, why play him at all? You have Marrone and Asamoah who are constantly played out of position. It was a needless start and fortunately, his injury appears to be relatively minor.
16′ Asamoah 6.5 – As good as Asamoah plays on the wing, I’d love to see him at center midfield more often. It’s clear he hasn’t forgotten how to play it, he had good inserting runs and defensive play.
De Ceglie 6 – Covered his flank, put in a few decent crosses, but nothing particularly special in an average match.
Bendtner 6.0 – Had a very good opportunity to score, but it wasn’t his day. Or year. Will likely miss the next 3 months with a muscle injury sustained during the game, which will probably derail Juve’s ability to offload him in January. So long, Nicklas, your spell at Juventus managed to even miss my underwhelming expectations.
44′ Matri 5.5 – I was hoping he’d get a goal against the team that built his reputation, but it wasn’t to be. I’m not sure we can ever see MitraMatri back at Juventus.
Giovinco 6.5 – The typical Gio we’ve seen thus far. Good dribbling, a bit wasteful, but he scored the goal, regardless of how pretty or not. Has bagged 8 goals and 4 assists this season thus far, and we haven’t even seen his best yet.
Conte 6.5 – Welcome home, Antonio. It wasn’t pretty, but Coppa matches never really are. The team got the win, which is what counts, and Juventus fans got to greet our mister once again. Some hoped the Calcioscommesse scandal would create a gulf between Juventus and Conte. (See the constant rumors of Juve sacking him, or possible alternate coaches) Some even hoped the scandal would divide the fans and Conte, but if anything, it’s brought us closer than ever. Is there any coach in Europe more beloved by his fans than Antonio Conte?
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP (by Aaron Giambattista)
Coppa Italia matches aren’t ever the most thrilling in the world, but they do give us an opportunity to see players who are lesser used in the first team. Players like Pogba, Giaccherini, Padoin, Isla, De Ceglie, Marrone- they can all contribute to this team, and this was their opportunity to prove it. Some of them did, some of them didn’t.
The most memorable part of this match was unquestionably Antonio Conte’s return to the Juventus Stadium. His home, his fans, his team. About a decade ago, only 237 fans showed up to a Coppa Italia home match at the cavernous Stadio delle Alpi against Sampdoria. It was cold, it was the Coppa Italia, and the match was televised, but Juventus Stadium was sold out.
Fabio Capello won a lot of titles at Juventus, but wasn’t particularly loved. Ciro Ferrara was not the right man for the job, but remains in the heart of the fans. We finally have a new home, one to be proud of, and a winning coach who is the idol of all the fans. We’ve had some rough times as fans in the last few years, but there is nothing more satisfying to me than the video of Antonio Conte applauding the fans (and motioning to his heart) after the Cagliari Coppa match.
ANTONIO CONTE IL NOSTRO CAPITANO!
Juventus 1-0 Cagliari Video: Goal Plus Full Highlights