Coming off an awfully disappointing defeat to Sampdoria, Juventus was eager to prove themselves to Conte and the media. As the coach practiced heavy rotation, there was an additional incentive for the reserves to state a case for additional playing time. The game started out furiously, with 2 goals in the first 15 minutes. It ended in an equally frantic manner, as both sides were exhausted long before extra time was up. In the end, it was a solid 2-1 win over the Rossoneri and as Conte said, “a great response from Juventus.”
MATCH ANALYSIS (Football Italia)
Juventus will face Lazio in the Coppa Italia Semi-Final after Mirko Vucinic secured a 2-1 victory over Milan in extra time.
There was a last-minute change to the line-ups, as Andrea Pirlo was rested in favour of Under-21 international Luca Marrone. Claudio Marchisio, Simone Pepe, Giorgio Chiellini, Nicklas Bendtner and the suspended Fabio Quagliarella missed out. Milan used Urby Emanuelson in a trident attack and were without Robinho, Christian Abbiati, Djamel Mesbah, Mario Yepes, Kevin Constant, Daniele Bonera, Cristian Zapata, Sulley Muntari and Nigel De Jong. The first chance arrived after three minutes, as Marco Storari fingertipped a Massimo Ambrosini strike out from under the bar.
They had the more aggressive start and took the lead moments later. Giampaolo Pazzini’s dummy let a Kevin-Prince Boateng pull-back from the by-line through for Stephan El Shaarawy to fire into the near bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Juve went very close to an equaliser, as Alessandro Matri’s header whistled just wide with Marco Amelia rooted to the spot. Sebastian Giovinco did draw the Bianconeri level when he curled a trademark free kick over the wall and into the near top corner, leaving the goalkeeper no chance.
Philippe Mexes was perhaps fortunate to only get a yellow card for his extremely late, high and cynical challenge on Giovinco on the touchline. Antonio Conte was absolutely furious and had to be calmed down.
A long-range Arturo Vidal effort was accidentally charged down by teammate Matri. Boateng was booked for tripping Emanuele Giaccherini from behind to stop a counter-attack and Amelia fingertipped the resulting Giovinco free kick out from under the bar. Giovinco should’ve made it 2-1 when he took advantage of Francesco Acerbi’s defensive error to go clear, but blasted wide with only Amelia to beat.
Leonardo Bonucci threw himself at the feet of El Shaarawy to block after Storari’s misplaced clearance. From that corner, Storari grabbed the ball and was then barged over by Mexes, who ran a huge risk of a second yellow card. Giovinco wasted another chance after the restart when he hit a weak shot at Amelia after a lucky ricochet set him up. Storari also smothered a Boateng solo effort, and Amelia intercepted a Stephan Lichtsteiner pull-back in the six-yard box.
Lichtsteiner was clear on goal and lining up his shot when El Shaarawy sprinted back to defend with a crucial tackle. Pirlo was introduced for the final stages, but M’Baye Niang went close as he rose to nod a Mattia De Sciglio cross just wide of the far post. Giaccherini’s shot was deflected off target and Massimo Ambrosini went off with cramp. In stoppages Leonardo Bonucci tripped Bojan for a free kick in the D, but it was touched on for Riccardo Montolivo and charged down, so this Quarter-Final went to extra time.
Juventus took the lead for the first time of the evening with a classic counter-attack. Vucinic allowed a Giaccherini through ball to reach Paolo De Ceglie and the pass back was prodded past the on-rushing Amelia by the Montenegro international.
Storari parried a Montolivo snapshot, then blocked El Shaarawy’s follow-up. Amelia also had to be alert, smothering at the feet of Giaccherini after trapping a cross-field De Ceglie pass. Niang sprinted past Andrea Barzagli, but his finish was a weak effort into the arms of Storari. Juve also wasted a golden opportunity, as Vucinic drew two defenders away and rolled into the centre for an unmarked Mauricio Isla, but Amelia performed a crucial one-handed save.
At the 118th minute Niang hit a volley sweetly, but central and it smacked Storari in the chest without the Juve goalkeeper seeming to know much about it. Moments later Storari was at full stretch to deny another Niang angled drive, then Martin Caceres charged down El Shaarawy’s follow-up.
LE PAGELLE (by Aaron Giambattista)
Storari 7.0 – Had a few mistakes here and there, including a pretty terrible giveaway to Milan, but made up for it with two tremendous saves in the last two minutes. A captain’s performance.
Barzagli 6.5 – Solid and assured. Barza cleaned up at the back when necessary and rarely put a foot wrong.
Bonucci 6.5 – Leonardo failed to close Boateng down for Milan’s opener, but was a rock for the rest of the match. Distributed the ball well and never was beaten 1v1. Leo plays with the maturity and confidence of a man many years older.
Caceres 6.5 – In the very few games played this season, Caceres hasn’t looked that great, but the lack of playing time is certainly a determining factor in that case. That was not the case today. Did an excellent job at center back, playing with the grinta and physicality that Chiellini typically offers on the left flank. Unquestionably a better option than Peluso, and Conte better readjust the pecking order after this week. Welcome back, el Pelado!
Lichtsteiner 6.0 – Oftentimes the role of a wingback in a 3-5-2 is less of an attacking fullback and more of player sent on to maintain midfield possession. Against Milan, Lichtsteiner was fundamental in keeping the ball in midfield, but less effective when crossing into the box. Made a surging run or two, but was unable to capitalize on it. Looked gassed as the match went on, though.
84′ De Ceglie 6.5 – Had a rather poor intro, being at fault for giving Niang a pretty promising goal attempt. His running helped freshen the team up, though, and he had three excellent potential assists in 35 minutes- one unintentionally led to the goal, another, a fantastic long pass that set Giaccherini 1v1 with the keeper, the last, roasted Milan down the flank but the support in the middle was lacking. Offensively potent, his touchline running and crosses are a unique asset to the team.
Vidal 6.5 – Arturo had the better of Boateng for most of the match, robbing Milan in the center of the pitch and bursting forward whenever possible. It was one of those games where it seemed like he had 4 lungs- the Chilean never stopped running, whether to support the attack or hustle back on defense to protect against a counter-attack. Picked up a yellow card, but was plenty disciplined afterwords.
Marrone 5.5 – Young Luca has struggled to find space on the starting XI sheet, and he struggled to find space in midfield today. No one can replace Pirlo, of course, but Marrone does have great playmaking ability. He definitely didn’t play poorly, his running and tactical movement was much appreciated in midfield, but I was disappointed he wasn’t able to leave his mark on the game with any playmaking.
77′ Pirlo 6.0 – Nice little run out for Andrea. Helped the team regain a bit of possession.
Giaccherini 6.0 – If the game ended in the 90th minute, I would have given him a full point lower. He constantly wasted counter-attacks in the first 90 minutes of the game, waiting too long to pass the ball, passing it inaccurately, or being fouled when Juventus should have kept attacking. Wasn’t that great in defensive phase either, as Milan skipped past him several times. But Giac kept running, and in extra time it paid off- his passing got a bit more accurate, and his counter-attack led to Juve’s winning goal. A decent outing, all in all.
Isla 4.5 – After an ACL tear, a club really has to commit to a player if they intend to bring him back to full form. That was true for Quagliarella, and it’s certainly true for Isla as well- if Juventus really wants to see the Udinese Isla, we’re going to have to deal with a lot of poor games first. Unfortunately, Isla was very poor today. Playing on the left flank hurt the Chilean significantly, as his left foot is evidently so bad, Isla always switched to the right and it became very predictable. Was unable to influence the game offensively at all, and was bypassed in defense several times.
Matri 5.5 – Alessandro looked a lot more confident than in recent months at the start of the game. He played well in the first half, his understanding with Giovinco was excellent, he was supporting play, creating space, and making good runs. For some reason, when Giovinco was substituted for Vucinic, Matri completely fell apart. From his runs to his touches, he started playing dreadfully almost instantaneously.
Giovinco 7.0 – An electric performance from the Atomic ant. Scored a fantastic dipping free kick and nearly doubled his tally with an even more brilliant effort. Constantly caused Milan’s defense issues, the entire Juventus attack flowed through him. When he was taken off the pitch, Juve’s attack became completely stagnant, and not just between the two strikers. Giovinco started out the season decently enough, but he’s been in great form in the last 2 months. Let’s hope he continues to grow into his role.
65′ Vucinic 7.0 – For the first 30 minutes on the pitch, Mirko was completely anonymous- he didn’t have a single shot and was rarely on the ball. Once extra time started, he grew into the game, scoring the winning goal and holding up play nicely. Frequent readers of JuventiKnows will know I’m not the biggest Vucinic fan, but my problem was largely how overdependent Conte was on him last season. Now that there’s a rotation going on, I have no problem with Mirko. He’s not a man we can base our entire attack on, but he’s an excellent striker to have available.
Conte 6.5 – Juventus played a good match up until Giovinco went off, then the team struggled until extra time. While the boys really should have ended the match a lot sooner, the team did well given the heavy rotation and substitutions. Conte got lesser used players some time on the pitch and a win, that’s all we can ask for in the Coppa.
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP (by Aaron Giambattista)
The Coppa Italia will never really be a priority for Juventus, especially in a season where we find ourselves with a great shot of making the Champion’s League quarterfinals. But it’s an opportunity to see the reserves play, who can contribute, who can step in for missing players like Asamoah and Chiellini. It’s also important to see these players and if they can play Conte’s system despite significant turnover.
If this was our objective, mission accomplished. The team, largely composed of reserves, managed to outplay a strong Milan XI. Players like Giaccherini, Caceres, De Ceglie, Marrone, and for a brief period, Matri, showed both rustiness and talent. They aren’t as good as the starting players at the moment, but we know they can walk on the pitch and acquit themselves well if needed.
The club moves onto a semifinal match against Lazio in a few weeks, a two-legged affair. The Coppa is not a priority, but a win over Lazio would be impressive- the capital club certainly puts stock in the trophy, given it’s one of the few winnable ones for clubs just outside calcio’s elite. Should Juventus triumph, the club will be in the Coppa Italia final for the 2nd year running, which is a phenomenal achievement given the league dominance and European exploits. Conte has instilled a winning mentality throughout the club, from the top players to the reserves.
ANTONIO CONTE IL NOSTRO CAPITANO!
Juventus 2-1 Milan Video: All 3 Goals Plus Full Highlights