Ten-point gap. This is what the victory over Milan established at the top of the Serie A table. It is the biggest margin in the top leagues in Europe a first-placed club has at the actual moment. Of course, at the time of writing, Roma are yet to play their away game in Cagliari, but considering their recent form and the need for points the island-based club has, there is a fair chance the gap will not be reduced considerably, if at all.
Bring us the head of the Juventino who is not satisfied by the situation!
With the sluggish way Milan have been playing their football this season, this derby was probably expected by many to be a one-sided affair, dominated by the home side throughout. Close, but not quite — at least for the first part. It was more than enjoyable to see Milan’s players actually believing in their chance, playing with a high line at times, pressing Juventus and even scoring a goal. Foolish mortals ... received a lesson — another one this season — of football from the side that marches towards a fourth consecutive title. Yeah! Don’t be afraid to say it. There may still be half a season to go, but come on; things cannot possibly go that wrong.
The best thing to take out from this victory is Alvaro Morata — Man of the Match. It has been a while since a striker lost a ball near the opposite penalty area and then tracked back the whole length of the pitch in order to recover it and even succeed in doing so. Assisting Carlos Tévez at the first goal, scoring the goal that ensured the win and playing with a tremendous dedication throughout the game. His recent form is more than encouraging for the team, even more considering Fernando Llorente’s slump. But fear not, fellow Juventini, goals should become a certainty from now on and the re-addition of that man Alessandro Matri offers real value to this statement.
After the scintillating first half, when the home players proved great character to respond to the equalizer and retake the lead within minutes, a more pragmatic and calculated Juventus showed up — sitting back, allowing Milan to have possession at times, saving energy, all while still giving the impression of total control. Max Allegri must have delivered the perfect speech at the break and it was great to see him improving since that game at Stadio Friuli, when Andrea Stramaccioni had the upper hand. Allegri dealt quite easily with Pippo Inzaghi’s ambitious approach to the game.
And at full time, for the most part of a quarter of a second, this writer felt bad for Pippo. How could you not, you soulless brute?
Juventus started on the front foot, as expected and the first attempt of the match came from Morata in the second minute, who tried to place his shot at the far post from outside of the box, but Diego Lopez had no problems in making the save.
Tévez opened the scoring for Juventus in the 14th minute. After a long throw from Simone Padoin, the Argentine was played in by Morata and went clear through on goal from the half-way line. A late challenge from Gabriel Paletta couldn’t stop Tévez’s run as he drilled his shot past Diego Lopez.
Gianluigi Buffon needed the intervention of the medical team in the 19th minute, after he was hit in the head with the knee by Luca Antonelli, as the veteran gaolkeeper parried away a low cross.
Padoin did a good job to win a free kick in the 21st minute on the right side of Juventus’ attack. Andrea Pirlo swung the ball in at the far post and Patrice Evra almost deflected it on goal with an acrobatic kick, but the ball was eventually cleared away by Sulley Muntari.
Five minutes later, Pirlo found Evra with another free-kick from an identical position, this time in the centre of the box, but the Frenchman’s header went over the goal.
Antonelli equalised for Milan in the 28th minute, on his first reappearance for Milan after nine year since his debut. Tévez and Paul Pogba failed to clear a ball from Juventus’ box as it went behind for a corner kick. Cerci delivered a great cross and Antonelli leaped over Arturo Vidal to head the ball into the back of the net, past a helpless Buffon.
Moments later, Morata put Juventus in front again but the goal was disallowed for an offside. It didn’t last long until the hosts took the lead though.
In the 31st minute, Claudio Marchisio found a bit of space at the edge of the box and placed a shot near the post but Diego Lopez pulled a fabulous save to deny what would have been a certain goal. From the resulting corner kick, Bonucci restored Juventus’ lead. The ball was poorly punched away by Diego Lopez and Tévez headed it back in, only for Bonucci to deflect it from close range.
Pirlo delivered another good cross from a corner kick in the 41st minute, finding Bonucci again in the box but his header was deflected by Michael Essien’s hand and was held by Diego Lopez. Referee Antonio Damato decided against awarding a penalty.
Diego Lopez was a very busy man throughout the first half and he had to make another save to deny Tévez’s long shot during injury time. It was the last action of the first match as Damato sent the teams to the locker rooms.
Milan had the first chance in the second half when Giampaolo Pazzini, who replaced Jeremey Menez in the first half, managed to get a shot in despite being closely marked by Bonucci, but Buffon dived to his left to make the save.
In the 50th minute, Vidal won a free-kick outside Milan’s area, a perfect central position for Pirlo. The bearded master stepped up to take it but the ball gained too much height and went over the goal.
Buffon made a fabulous save to deny Pazzini again, in the 54th minute. Marchisio lost a ball in his own half, allowing Milan a quick counter and Pazzini received a pass inside the box but his shot was brilliantly saved, as Buffon stretched out his right arm to clear the ball away.
In the 65th minute, Pogba showed some great skills to beat two men but his through ball for Vidal was blocked and it bounced to Tévez who played it for Marchisio. The midfielder struck the post with a low shot from outside the box and the rebound came straight to Morata who only had to carry out a simple formality to put the ball into the net, scoring Juventus’ third goal of the game.
Milan’s little efforts were cut short after receiving that goal and Juventus had little problems defending the lead. Morata had another good chance to score in the 74th minute. Pirlo played a short corner, finding Marchisio in the box, who lifted it for the Spaniard, but his volley didn’t find the target.
With eight minutes to go, Padoin was played in by Tévez and tried to cut the ball back in the box but it was cleared away by Milan’s defence. Pirlo retook possession at the edge of the box and tried to take shot but it was blocked again. The ball bounced to Marchisio on the right who was one on one with Diego Lopez, but his shot from a tight angle was saved by the goalkeeper.
There was no late response from Milan and the home players controlled the game in the last minutes, before referee Damato blew the final whistle.
Buffon: 7 Made a terrific save to deny Pazzini in the second half and was very comfortable coming out at crosses. Had nothing to do to prevent the goal
Padoin: 6.5 Started at right back due to absences of Caceres and Lichtsteiner and acquitted himself of the job decently. Cool at the back and even brought something in attack
Bonucci: 7 Very steady at the back and scored the winning goal shortly after the equalizer, paving an easy way to victory
Chiellini: 6 Played a horrible ball back to Buffon in the first half and was sloppy at times but didn’t have too much defending to do either
Evra: 6.5 Good defending to keep Cerci under control and was also often involved in the build-up play
Marchisio: 7.5 Tireless performance from il Principino, who marauded back and forward throughout the game. Unlucky not to score on a couple of occasions
Pirlo: 6.5 A quieter evening for the veteran, but his deliveries from corners and free-kick were unusually good
Pogba: 6.5 Looked a bit too relaxed at times, losing possession easily but was a strong presence in midfield for both attacking and defending
Vidal: 6.5 Was very energetic and involved in attacking, appearing to be on the right way again, but was at fault for the goal conceded
Tévez: 7.5 Scored a goal and assisted another. Another great display from the Argentine who was also booked, causing him to be suspended for the next game
Morata: 7.5 Stole the show with his industrious performance, running his socks off and as his partner, assisted and scored a goal to secure victory
Ogbonna: N/A Replaced Marchisio with five minutes from time
Llorente: N/A Late substitution to give Tévez a standing ovation
Allegri: 7.5 Went again with his best four central midfielders at the same time from the start and it paid off, as Juventus dominated the midfield with ease. Good to see he made sure his players have the right reaction to the poor display from the Udinese game