First, a confession: I have never seen a Juventus captain lift the Coppa Italia. I've always told myself it's a second class trophy, the leftovers if you weren't fighting for the Scudetto or Champions League. But it's still 20 years for Juventus, the club that, along with Roma, has won the most (9), and whose supporters desperately want to end the "curse of the silver star."
Thanks to a 3-0 win at the Artemio Franchi on Tuesday night, Juventus will have a chance to finally get her 10th.
The Juventus starting lineup seemed to change by the hour as the game approached, with Carlos Tévez ruled out after feeling a twinge in the morning while Stephan Lichtsteiner pulled up in the pregame warmup. Alessandro Matri came into the lineup for Tévez, lining up alongside Álvaro Morata, with Simone Padoin deputizing at right back. Andrea Barzagli sat this one out as Massimiliano Allegri chose a back four, while Marco Storari came in for Gianluigi Buffon. Claudio Marchisio returned, with Arturo Vidal, Stefano Sturaro, and Roberto Pereyra completing the midfield diamond.
Fiorentina came into this game confident, having won 2-1 at the Juventus Stadium and unbeaten in nearly a month, but knowing that they were in for a thorough examination. While the first leg came on the heels of massive games against Borussia Dortmund and Roma, this time the focus was squarely on the Viola. For his part, Vincenzo Montella lined Fiorentina up in a 3-5-2 with the explosive Mohamed Salah partnering Mario Gómez on top.
The game had periods of end-to-end play, but Juventus were better able to control possession and create chances for their frontmen. Once Matri got the first goal, Juventus seemed on her way to the final, and when the final whistle blew the only complaints were for Marchisio and (especially) Morata, who picked up suspensions that will rule them out of the showpiece, set for June 7th in the Stadio Olimpico di Roma.
Juve knew they had to score twice, and started firmly on the front foot. With Marchisio and Pereyra providing some of the directness and creativity that was missing against Empoli. The Argentine's cross nearly found Vidal for a great chance, but Marcos Alonso defended well.
Marchisio seemed to have a brief to play the ball forward, and it nearly cost Juventus just four minutes in. Joaquín read the pass and eventually the ball came to Salah. The Egyptian attacker weaved his way through five Juventus defenders and knocked the ball in, but the whistle had gone for a foul on Sturaro.
A long ball found Salah again, and after his two goals in the first leg, a long night looked in store for the Juventus center backs. Marcos Alonso blasted a shot over but soon the ball was at the other end, as the Old Lady wrestled back control. Pereyra then Padoin nearly found space in the box, but José Basanta just about got the ball before the man.
Marcos Alonso fired a shot-cross in from near the corner flag, but Storari had no problem. Leonardo Bonucci's long ball nearly found Vidal, but the midfielder's touch was poor. Marchisio and then Giorgio Chiellini tried to find Matri through on goal, but Fiorentina's defense again did enough. The through ball nearly came off for Morata when Marchisio's pass split the defense, but he was flagged offside.
Marchisio's knee looked fine as he created the first goal, winning the ball back and running the wing before a good cross found Matri. Pereyra's shot was blocked but it fell back to Mitra Matri, who calmly knocked in with the outside of his foot. 1-0 after 21 minutes, a vital first step to overturning the deficit.
Patrice Evra's clearance eventually fell to Pereyra and eventually Padoin's cross nearly created the second but Sturaro couldn't get good contact. It was end-to-end stuff, with Salah finding Matías Fernández in the box, but he was crowded out by Sturaro and company. Borja Valero played a cross in for Gómez, but Bonucci did well.
Pereyra played a nice pass in for Morata whose shot was blocked, before his back-post cross evaded Matri and Vidal. Joaquín beat Evra to get into the box, but could not put a ball across. Sturaro saw a yellow card for putting up a roadblock on Salah, but Juventus generally looked more comfortable against his pace and trickery than earlier in the game or most of the first leg. The Viola looked for Mario Gómez in the box, but Juve's defense did well against him in the air and on the ground.
A midfield free kick gave Mati Fernández a chance to whip in a fierce free kick that Gonzalo Rodriguez flicked past Storari, but the flag was up. Marchisio's long ball found Morata who tried to score from range but missed his kick. The Spanish striker had another go from range on 40', when Matri's control eventually fell to him, and this time struck it much better but it curled wide, with Juventus players claiming a deflection.
Morata did well to allow Juventus to counter but the cross was cut out with Sturaro down in the box, and then in the 44th Pereyra made it 2-0 after a very nice move. Bonucci played the long pass to Matri to set up Morata, whose strike was saved, but Neto could only parry as far as Pereyra, who netted his third Coppa Italia goal since coming to Turin. The 2-0 on the scoreboard would send Juventus through, but with 45 minutes to play against a dangerous Fiorentina nothing was settled.
The second half began with Fiorentina needing to score, and Salah tried an ambitious shot from range, but couldn't find the target. Morata nearly created a chance for Vidal after nutmegging his defender, but the cross was just too far ahead of the Chilean.
Mario Gómez fired wide after Mati Fernández dribbled his way into the box. Morata tried his third curler of the night, after sending Savić the wrong way, but again could not quite pick out the far corner. A loose ball fell to Salah at the edge of the box, briefly putting hearts in mouths, but he shot high and wide.
58 minutes in Matri nearly created another chance, as Bonucci found him well-positioned on the defensive line. The Italian played in Pereyra, but Neto made a fairly comfortable save. The corner came in, and it was 3-0! Marchisio's out-swinger was perfectly placed at the edge of the six-yard box, where Bonucci easily volleyed home. Chiellini played an important role as well, preventing two Viola defenders from attacking the near post.
Fiorentina needed three, and it was difficult to see where they would come from. A desperate clearance-turned-backpass from Chiellini nearly put Storari in trouble but the keeper reacted well. Marchisio was booked after protesting Rodríguez leading with his arm, forcing him to miss the final, with the defender also receiving a caution.
Ex-Juve man Alberto Aquilani had a chance after Evra's half-clearance, but his volley went wide with Storari rooted to the spot. Another long ball found Matri offside, and the Viola made their first substitution, bringing on Alessandro Diamanti for Joaquín. Fiorentina had a shout for a Chiellini handball, but he knew very little about it.
Matri nearly grabbed another in the 70th minute, with Marchisio setting up Vidal and Pereyra on the right flank. Pereyra put a good ball in to Matri, but Neto saved at his near post. Fernández went into the book after a hard foul on Vidal, but the Chilean international teammates shook hands and played on.
Pereyra was a constant nuisance down Fiorentina's left, providing an outlet on the counter and with the technical skills and workrate to keep the ball and bring the team up the field. Matri came off for Kingsley Coman on 75 minutes, pushing Morata up top.
Diamanti tried his luck from the top of the box but couldn't get it through, and then put a tempting cross in, but Fiorentina had only one man in the box and couldn't find him. Vidal saw yellow for a foul in the 78th minute, giving the Viola a dangerous free kick, but Fernández' effort was poor. Substitute Khouma Babacar fired over from outside the box as Fiorentina began to look more desperate.
On 83 minutes, Angelo Ogbonna was brought on to shore up the defense, with Rodríguez off for Nenad Tomović on the other side. Diamanti continued to threaten since his introduction, drawing a free kick in a very good shooting position from Evra. The ex-Guangzhou Evergrande player took it on himself, but Storari made the save look simple.
There was still room for a bit of controversy, as Morata saw a straight red for kicking out at Diamanti from behind. It was a silly, petulant foul; but of a kind that sees yellow more often than red. Coman was hooked off for Fernando Llorente, as one young striker's actions took minutes away from another.
Diamanti's free kick was again well-shaped, but Llorente headed clear. Marcos Alonso made his way into the box, but was muscled out of it by Ogbonna.
Mati Fernández forced a flying save from Storari in the 92nd minute, curling a sweet effort towards the far corner, and Fiorentina continued to press for at least a consolation goal. Fernández had another effort blocked away, the Diamanti sent in a dangerous free kick, but nobody could get a killer touch and the whistle blew, sending Juventus to her 15th Coppa Italia final.
Storari: 7 Had long periods without making a save, but was very quick to react when needed and managed to keep a clean sheet.
Padoin: 6 A much better game than the last time he faced Salah, but nothing special.
Bonucci: 7.5 An excellent performance from the center back, who kept Gómez under wraps and played lots of accurate balls into the attack, including a pre-assist to Pereyra's goal. Took his chance very well on the volley.
Chiellini: 6.5 Started off slow but grew into the game, despite having a tricky assignment against Salah.
Evra: 6.5 Resilient in defense, he controlled Joaquín well but struggled to contribute much on the front foot.
Vidal: 7 Was a constant nuisance to Viola ballcarriers, chasing after anyone who dared bring the ball across midfield. Got in the box at times, but did not threaten the goalkeeper as he would have liked.
Marchisio: 7.5 His knee looked all right to me as he covered his defense and played a lot of aggressive forward passes, contributing to the buildup in Matri's first and delivering the corner assist for the second.
Sturaro: 6 Filling in on the left of midfield Sturaro's energy is fantastic, but he faded as the game wore on and could have done better in and around the Fiorentina area.
Pereyra: 7.5 One of the difference makers in the Juventus side, Pereyra took on a big creative role with Carlos Tévez out of the team, getting a goal for his efforts.
Morata: 5.5 A decent game linking up with Matri and the midfielders, and could easily have scored, but ruined it all by getting a stupid, if perhaps slightly harsh, red card.
Matri: 7 Did all that he could leading the line, holding up the ball pretty well and taking his chances when they came.
Coman: N/A The young Frenchman had a brief introduction and showed his speed and directness, but was soon taken off after Morata was sent off.
Ogbonna: 6 Put under some pressure late on, Ogbonna slotted into the right center back position and held his own.
Llorente: N/A Was on for a couple minutes at the end and won an important defensive header.
Allegri: 7 Chose the right team to put Fiorentina under pressure, and seemed to direct Marchisio and Bonucci into making more attacking passes, repeatedly splitting the Fiorentina defense. Could perhaps have taken Morata off earlier, but his moment of madness was hard to foresee.