A win for Juventus and a draw for Lazio. A win for Juventus and a draw for Lazio.
A win for Juventus and a draw for Lazio. A win for Juventus and a draw for Lazio.
Verdammnt! Verdammnt Lazio... hanging in there, postponing the title celebrations.
It would have been the perfect timing and the ideal venue, winning the 33rd Scudetto and the fourth in a row, after the match No. 100 played at the Juventus Stadium — which surprisingly had quite a few empty seats. At least the festive day has not been marred by the nasty Gigliati, even if it is hard to believe they would have dared to get another positive result after what happened last time.
A single point is needed now to officially secure the title. Not that you didn’t already know this, but with five games left to play, it is quite a handy situation for one to find himself in and it definitely requires a bit of showing off. Just ask Carlos Tévez and he will tell you. Sealing the Scudetto without making Rudi Garcia look like a fool won’t do.
Max Allegri continued to reshuffle the pack with great effect, making no less than six different changes to the line-up used for the Derby della Mole. Stephan Lichtsteiner was the only player who kept his place in the defensive compartment. Central backs Angelo Ogbonna and Leonardo Bonucci, who had a little nightmare in the previous game, were replaced by Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, while Patrice Evra regained his place at left back to the detriment of Simone Padoin.
Claudio Marchisio had served his suspension and marked his 300th appearance with a place among starters, with Arturo Vidal benched. The upfront pair Alvaro Morata and Alessandro Matri also made way for the former oh so effective duo from last season Carlos Tévez – Fernando Llorente. Perhaps, surprisingly, it actually was again effective with the Spanish-speaking strikers sharing the goals between them.
Plenty of moves to keep the squad fresh and fully fit ahead of the vital clash with You-Know-Who. Hopefully, the title party taking shape at the horizon will not create too much discomfort within the Bianconeri ranks. This, indeed, if Juventus get that single point in their trip to Genoa where Sampdoria, winless in five games, await. And it looks like they will.
After a small misunderstanding between referee Luca Banti and Tévez over the first kick of the game, the action unfolded, but rather slowly, with a disciplined Fiorentina managing to close the ball down quickly, away from their own box.
Juventus almost had a shot on target after quarter an hour of playing, but Marchisio’s powerful attempt was involuntarily blocked by Tévez. A few minutes later, Llorente pivoted brilliantly with Gonzalo Rodriguez closely marking him inside the opposite box but the Spaniard had no venom in his shot and it was easily saved by Neto.
The stream decided then to botch things up and by the time it was fixed... well, nothing had happened.
However, it wasn’t long until a few moments of pressure rewarded Fiorentina with the opener in the 33rd minute. Pirlo was easily tricked by Joaquin right at the edge of Juventus’ area and the bearded master tripped the Spaniard down, forcing referee Banti to point to the spot. Viola captain Rodriguez stepped up to take the penalty and converted it perfectly, giving Gianluigi Buffon no chance.
All Hell broke loose afterwards and with great effect for Juventus who managed to equalise in the 36th minute. Neto, who was well out of his position, brought Sturaro down with a silly foul on the right side of the box. From the resulting free-kick — a shorter corner – Pirlo delivered a sublime cross for Llorente who headed the ball past an idle Neto.
Three minutes later, another great corner-kick delivered by Pirlo – and I write this while still in utter astonishment — almost lead to the second goal, but Evra directed his header straight at the goalkeeper who showed good reflexes to pull the save.
With three minutes before the break, Lichtsteiner managed a fantastic last-ditch tackle to block Salah, whose attempt from close range was announcing danger for Buffon.
Tévez gave Juventus the lead in the first minute of injury time with a sublimely placed header — although the way he hit the ball looked a bit weird. Evra had enough time to prepare his cross from more than 25 yards out and found El Apache in the box. The Argentine broke free of his marker and sent the ball past Neto who had no chance to keep it out.
Allegri showed a sign of relief as the ball hit the net and headed straight for the locker rooms, probably also missing the chance to see Tévez playing the violin — Rudi, doing alright?
The second half started in the same high tempo as it finished and the Gigliati launched themselves forward, but an early corner came to nothing.
In the 55th minute, Gomez was presented with a decent chance but Evra cramped him enough and the German striker put his header wide. Appeals for a penalty were fruitless, for Gomez’s exasperation.
Ten minutes later, Joaquin won the second penalty of the evening after a similar situation but with Chiellini the villain. Rodriguez faced Buffon again but put his shot wide of the post, sending Buffon and Allegri in exuberant celebrations.
The miss suddenly proved even more costly for Fiorentina as Tévez doubled the hosts’ advantage in the 70th minute. From just inside Juventus’ own half, Marchisio delivered a fantastic ball over Viola’s defence for Tévez who beat the offside trap and made his way inside the box, placing a perfect shot at the far post from a tight angle past a fully-stretched Neto.
Allegri reacted quickly after the goal and switched to a three-man defence, replacing Pereyra with Ogbonna. The substitution pretty much closed the game, as Fiorentina’s attacks were coming to a premature halt.
With four minutes to go, a dialogue between Buffon and Alessandro Diamanti was more interesting than the game, as the two friends were shouting at each other, trying to make themselves heard over the chanting coming from the crowds.
The friendliness of the pair was all charming but a football game was still left to be finished and Fiorentina reduced the deficit on the board in the 90th minute. Having just replaced Salah, Josip Ilicic stepped up to take a free-kick from just under 30 yards out and the Slovenian curled a tremendous ball over the wall and into the net, despite Buffon’s desperate efforts.
The four minutes of extra time passed without any more problems for Juventus who sealed the win to move one point away from the fourth consecutive Scudetto.
Buffon: 5.5 Could do nothing to prevent either of the goals, but was not really tested beside that
Lichtsteiner: 6 Steady performance from the Swiss who kept Alonso quiet throughout, although his presence in attack was scarcely felt
Barzagli: 6.5 The Wall put in a great display, dealing with the opposite attacking players with ease, while also very confident with the ball at his feet
Chiellini: 5.5 Conceded the second penalty after a reckless challenge but had a decent performance overall
Evra: 6.5 Great delivery to assist Tévez’s goal and could have also scored in the first half. Very alert in defending
Marchisio: 7 Swept pretty much everything in midfield and distributed the ball around swiftly, with a brilliant long-ball played for the third goal
Pirlo: 6 Uncharacteristically, delivered two fantastic crosses from set-pieces but wasn’t one of his best games, also conceding the penalty
Sturaro: 6.5 Probably the first exceptional performance from him, before being forced off with injury. Very dynamic and an important defensive contribution.
Pereyra: 6 Looked a bit out of form in the first part but managed to cover a lot of ground throughout, although ineffective in attack
Tévez: 8 Bailed Juventus out once again with a phenomenal brace. Simply brilliant
Llorente: 7 The Spaniard finally found the net again. Also decent hold-up and passing game from him
Vidal: 6 Replaced Pirlo after 56 minutes and added some extra muscles and speed to the midfield.
Ogbonna: 6 Introduced to accommodate the 3-5-2 and did his job all right
Padoin: N/A Played the last 12 minutes after replacing Sturaro but was barely involved
Allegri: 7 The rotations used recently have worked quite well and they also paid off against Fiorentina, with an inspired attacking partnership dealing with matters. Replacing Pirlo before the hour mark was a great decision, as was changing the system following Tévez’s second goal.