Juventus edged past AC Milan and booked their place in the final of the Coppa Italia in nervy fashion, drawing 0-0 at the Allianz Stadium on Friday night. Juventus, who advanced on away goals, failed to break down an ultra defensive Milan side who were equally as poor in attack.
The game’s best spell came 15 minutes in, with Juventus hammering on the pressure from the off. Viewers were treated to a missed penalty and a straight card both inside the opening 20 minutes – indeed, within six seconds of each other – as Maurizio Sarri’s side patiently tried to unlock Milan. That was about as good as it got, though, as Juve then failed to break down a side of 10 men.
After Ante Rebic’s sending off for a wild, high challenge, the Rossoneri slowly came out of their shells and slowly tried to push Juve more on the counter-attack, but struggled massively without a striker.
Key Talking Point
From the first whistle, Juventus took control of the game as expected. The ball was worked forward in seconds, and Costa found himself firing narrowly wide inside the Milan box just two minutes in, setting the tone for the rest of the match.
Milan forced Juventus out wide, packing their 18-yard-box, but gave away a penalty with VAR’s help 16 minutes in. Ronaldo’s spot kick smashed the post, but Juve kept plugging away. Costa and Paulo Dybala were all over to try and cause Milan problems, while Danilo and Alex Sandro regularly pushed high up.
In midfield, Juventus were completely dominant. With their defence playing on the half way line, Miralem Pjanic would sit back and fire passes into Dybala and Costa, trying to penetrate Milan from a number of ranges. Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi snuffed out any Milan danger down the middle, while Rodrigo Bentancur was allowed to roam forward and join the attack, trying to open up a stubborn defence.
A shaky start after half time was eventually dusted off by Juve, who had regained complete control by the 55th minute. Quick one touch passing between the likes of Pjanic, Dybala, Costa and Ronaldo almost worked, but still wasn’t enough.
As the second half ploughed on, the game became more of a formality for Juventus. In complete control and in the lead through an away goal, they patiently tried to probe Milan and forced a small handful of decent saves out of Gianluigi Donnarumma, but ultimately failed to break down Milan. In disappointing fashion, there’s no doubt the Bianconeri need to improve in front of goal.
Starting XI: Buffon (5); Sandro (6), De Ligt (6), Bonucci (6), Danilo (6); Pjanic (8), Matuidi (7), Bentancur (6); Costa (6), Dybala (7), Ronaldo (6).
Substitutes: Bernardeschi (6), Khedira (5), Rabiot (5), Cuadrado (5).
Key Talking Point
Despite being the ones needing the all-important goal heading into the second leg, Milan started off on the back foot immediately. Andrea Conti conceded a penalty for handball, only to see Ronaldo hit the post – much to his relief. Rebic’s sending off just 17 minutes in made matters worse for Stefano Pioli’s side though, who now had no striker at all with Zlatan Ibrahimovic out injured.
Despite the red card and constant Juventus pressure, Milan defended well and slowly found a way into the game from the end of the first half. Occasional counter-attacks sprouted from Juve being caught out of position, but the lack of a target man clearly hurt Milan’s game plan.
A bright start to the second half saw Milan look to hold possession some more. They were nearly rewarded for their confidence from a Donnarumma goal kick; a long punt resulted in the ball being crossed to Hakan Calhanoglu, who headed just wide. Soon after, Juventus regained control, and it was clear that Milan had once again set up to defend and counter-attack their opponents.
Ultimately for Milan, they seemed incapable of passing the ball forward with any success whatsoever. they were defensively sound, but never a threat to their opponents. Rafael Leao was brought on for Giacomo Bonaventura in the second half to add some spice to the attack, but while occasional brought a little danger to Buffon, he barely got his gloves dirty the entire evening.
Starting XI: Donnarumma (7); Calabria (7), Romagnoli (8*), Kjaer (6), Conti (5); Bennacer (5), Kessie (6); Calhanoglu (6), Bonnaventura (5), Paqueta (5), Rebic (2).
Substitutes: Leao (5), Colombo (4), Krunic (4), Laxalt (5), Saelemaekers (5).
In a largely quiet game, Milan’s defensive efforts deserve the most praise. Most of that was down to Romagnoli.
The Milan captain took complete control of his side, kept his defence supremely organised throughout the entire 90 minutes and did so with ease. Their job was made much more difficult when they went down to 10 men, and despite not going through to the final, it’s hardly Romagnoli’s fault.
The Italian proved why he’s so highly rated in Europe and been linked with a move to a more competitive club, frustrating Ronaldo and Dybala all night.
Juventus will go back to the drawing board after edging through to the Coppa Italia final, with one eye on Saturday’s semi final between Napoli and Inter. Sarri’s side got away lightly, but with Inter breathing down their neck in Serie A and Napoli impressing too, they’ll have to bring their A game if they want any chance of winning the Italian cup.