This post was guest-blogged by Massimiliano F.
CHIEVO VERONA 2-1 JUVENTUS (AET)
Quite a low attendance showed up at Stadio Pietro Barbetti in Gubbio, Umbria, for the second match of the quarter-finals of Campionato Primavera between ChievoVerona and Juventus; most were Juventini from clubs all over Central Italy.
Chievo Verona qualified for the finals reaching the fourth spot in Group B, then beating Napoli 4-2 at home and Palermo 2-4 away in the playoffs. Former senior team captain, Lorenzo D’ Anna, fielded the Flying Donkeys in a 4-2-3-1 formation, that shifted to a tight 4-5-1 while defending.
Juventus coach Marco Baroni displayed this year’s classic 3-5-2 with Branescu between the posts; Rugani, Magnusson, Garcia in the back line; Untersee and Mattiello on the wings; Kabashi, Schiavone, Gerbaudo in the midfield; Bonatini and Padovan in attack. Stefano Beltrame was initially benched for a minor injury he had suffered in a warm-up tournament.
In the first twenty minutes Chievo simply outplayed Juve in terms of possession and maneuvering. The high pressure of the boys in blue and yellow shook our defence: in two subsequent actions Pol Garcia and Hordur Magnusson lost the ball to forwards Matheus Da Silva and Juri Cisotti, whose efforts were saved into corners by Branescu and Daniele Rugani. Juventus had no clue on how to get to the other end of the pitch and resorted to long shots, one of which caused a spectacular yet useless save at the edge of his area by goalkeeper Ivan Provedel.
Juventus also looked vulnerable to counter-attacks. And at the 18th minute a quick two-way pass between Cisotti and Da Silva put the Italian in front of Branescu, who stretched for the ball but only found the player’s legs. Foul, yellow card, penalty kick, Cisottiâ’s conversion, Chievo 1 up. Totally deserved. So it came as a shocker, only three minutes later, that Magnusson curled a 30-metre left-foot free kick past Provedelâ’s head to level the score 1-1!
As an attempt to turn the tide, Baroni moved Joel Untersee to strengthen the back line and advanced Federico Mattiello to give creative support to Leonardo Bonatini and Stefano Padovan: it didn’t help much. At the 34th minute Magnusson tried to repeat himself from roughly the same spot but his free kick went inches out. Seconds later Chievo full-back Gianni Manfrin crossed in area to striker Ali Sowe, who headed wide. The first half closed with Mattiello and Padovan both finding space to shoot but missing the goal.
The second half opened with Beltrame in for Bonatini, who had been completely nullified by Chievo’s defence. Later Michele Cavion would substitute Matteo Gerbaudo, who probably played his worst game of the year. Among the Donkeys, the brilliant Cisotti was subbed by Isnik Alimi. Another quick two-way pass between their team mates Sowe and Da Silva endangered Juveâ€™s goal at the 63rd minute: Branescu flied to save into corner.
As Chievo looked more and more exhausted, Juventus gained control of the match. Beltrame ran a couple of times from midfield to goal, wasting chances out. Padovan missed the easy conversion of a lovely cross by Cavion. A Quagliarella-style long-distance lob was tried by clivense Filippo Costa. At the 83rd minute, the only proper ball exchange between Beltrame and Padovan sparkled a back-heel pass inside the area to Mattiello, but defenders cleared. Ghana-born, Italian-bred Caleb Ekuban came in for Sowe. Beltrame was booked for a dubious simulation, and the final whistle was blown.
With Chievo on its last legs, extra-time looked bright for Juventus. Seven minutes into it, a free kick by Andrea Schiavone was barely saved by Provedel. Among the gialloblu Da Silva was benched for midfielder Davide Paruzza, with Ekuban playing as the only forward of a desperate 5-4-1. Among the bianconeri Garcia was booked and then substituted by winger Edoardo Ceria, which re-established the starting 3-5-2. One team was aiming to the penalties, one team was aiming to a winner.
This is football, so nothing turns out exactly like planned. Three minutes into the second half of extra-time, Ekuban received the ball between the lines. Alimi ran to his left into the area to suggest a pass. Either Magnusson and Rugani should have followed Alimi, leaving the other taking care of Ekuban, or they both could have left Alimi to Untersee. Instead they both followed Alimi into the area, leaving Ekuban enough space to shoot the ball into the lower left corner of the net. ChievoVerona 2-1 Juventus.
In the last twelve minutes our players managed to waste three chances to equalise. The first chance came to Padovan’s feet, but he must had left his scoring skills in the locker room. The second chance came from a corner kick that caused confusion into Chievo’s area, but Provedel saved. The third chance came two minutes into injury time when Beltrame got a free kick just outside the box, with enough seconds to try and bend it into the net. In his most stupid action of the year, Elvis Kabashi rushed to take the free kick before the opponents had settled, but instead of serving Padovan he effectively passed the ball to the goalkeeper. There ended Juventus’ run in the Campionato Primavera.
Comments from my living room
The Flying Donkeys took off to the semifinals against Lazio, who had beaten Torino earlier in the afternoon, while the Young Zebras couldn’t get past the quarter-finals for the 7th time in a row. Juventus reached the final and won the competition for the last time in 2006 with the Calciopoli generation of Criscito, De Ceglie, Giovinco and Marchisio.
This was a disappointing ending for a season that saw Juventus dominate its Campionato group, win the Coppa Italia, and reach the quarter-finals of the NextGen Series (only losing away to Chelsea). The elimination from the Viareggio tournament in the first knock-out round at the hands of far-inferior side Juve Stabia rang a bell that should have been heard loud and clear. This team was physically and technically gifted but often lacked in concentration.
I can’t stand that many players gave their worst in such an occasion. Some were even at the end of their spell in the youth sector. Marco Baroni stood out to me as a fine educator but he should improve his motivational skills. As a trainer, he took some weeks to adapt his beliefs to the 3-5-2 that the club requested and that is so unusual to teach. Perhaps he interpreted it too defensively?
At half-time, on another TV channel, best-tactician-ever Oronzo CanÃ was giving a lesson about “bizona” and “5-5-5″. I really don’t like Italian comedies of the 70′s and the 80′s, but I loved the coincidence.
In the end I think that you should keep an eye on Laurenţiu Brănescu, who may already deserve a bench seat in the senior team; Hörður Magnússon and Daniele Rugani, who are like a junior Bonucci/Barzagli pair; Elvis Kabashi and Matteo Gerbaudo, wishing that they improve in consistency; and my favourite youngster, Federico Mattiello. Stefano Padovan should get the hairdryer treatment ASAP. Stefano Beltrame is head and shoulder above his peers, and I hope that he will deliver as a professional too.