Once again, the Bianconeri conquered Rome.
Juventus needed to win against Lazio to reach the semifinals of the Coppa Italia and they completed their task. It wasn't a beautiful or easy match at Stadio Olimpico. Both teams fought hard on the pitch and I firmly believe that the difference was the quality of Juventus defense, Massimiliano Allegri's interpretation of the game and Simone Zaza's force of will on the game.
Allegri made six changes to the lineup that he presented in Udine this past weekend. Neto, Martín Cáceres, Paul Pogba, Stefano Sturaro, Álvaro Morata and Simone Zaza started for Gianluigi Buffon, Daniele Rugani, Sami Khedira, Kwadwo Asamoah, Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala. Again, the Livornian coach opted for a 3-5-2 foundation. Lazio manager Stefano Pioli deployed an aggressive 4-3-3 formation with the dangerous trident on attack of Antonio Candreva, Miroslav Klose and Balde Keita.
The game started with more intensity than quality, both sides tried to impose their tempo and fought hard for the possession of the ball. Then, on 12 minutes, the hosts wasted a terrific opportunity to change the course of the bout; the speed demon Ketia lost Cáceres with a furious run and found himself in front of Neto. Luckily for Juventus, the ex-Barcelona player fired his close-range shot over the bar.
Pogba responded with a pair of efforts. First, the Frenchman raised inside Lazio's penalty box and executed a header that went just over the crossbar at the 17th minute. Thirteen minutes later he tested Etrit Berisha with a long-range shot, but the Albanian keeper responded with aplomb. The rhythm of the match decrease steadily after those opportunities and the game went to halftime without a score.
Juventus began the second half like a hurricane. Just six minutes after the break Zaza flicked a brilliant pass to Morata. The Spaniard tried to beat Berisha with a low shot, but the goalkeeper showed great reflexes and performed a nice save with his left leg. Zaza got the rebound, but failed to score sending his shot to the side of the net.
At 66th minute, Juventus finally scored. Zaza controlled the ball just outside the penalty box and performed an impressive curling shot that beat Berisha, but ricocheted on the post. Stephan Litchsteiner recovered the rebound and scored coolly; Berisha scrambled, but the ball crossed the line by inches.
Lazio never threatened Juventus. In fact the Bianconeri should have had another couple of goals. Sturaro just missed a shot from the corner of the box and in the final minutes Allegri used Mandzukic and Dybala to close the game, both strikers had great opportunities, but Berisha was superb.
Juventus advances to the semifinals of the Italian Cup once again where they'll face Inter Milan in a two-legged tie.
Neto 6 The Brazilian had a really peaceful night. It must be hard for him because he wants to show his worth.
Litchsteiner 6.5 The Swiss Express delivered a sweet score to the Vianconeri. He defended with composure.
Cáceres 6 El Pelado have some troubles with Keita on the first half. Fortunately for Juventus, he played better as the match went on.
Bonucci 7 A textbook like match for the central defender. Leo played with poise and commanded a Buffonless defense smartly.
Chellini 6.5 A very physical performance by King Kong. Lazio's strikers couldn't pass his watch; nevertheless, he must control the intensity on some of his challenges.
Sandro 6 A discreet night offensively for the Brazilian powerhouse. However, it's relevant to say, that he erased Candreva from the game.
Marchisio 6 Il Principino won the midfield duel against Biglia, but was quiet on offense as Juventus gave the ball possession to Lazio.
Sturaro 6.5 He was a ninja on the pitch. Cleared a great amount of attacks and won a lot of balls for his side.
Pogba 6 An uneven cameo by the Frenchman. He was very dangerous on the first half. However, he looked too anxious during some episodes of the match.
Morata 5.5 Invisible during the first portion of the game. The Spaniard is a wonderful striker but his self-confidence is very low. He could have scored on the second half.
Zaza 7.5 This guy is machine; he never stops trying. A constant nightmare for the defenders. He was unlucky when his shot crashed on the post.
Mandzukic 6 Enter for Morata at 76th minute. Worked tirelessly as always and had an opportunity to score.
Cuadrado 6 Enter for Litchsteiner at 80th minute. Defended belligerently and had some glances on attack.
Dybala 6.5 Enter for Zaza at 90th minute.
He had no impact. La Joya manufactured a couple of really dangerous plays. He only played 5 minutes!
Lazio had 57 percent of possession in this match, yet Juventus shot six times on target and Lazio didn't even trouble Neto. Allegri was the master and commander in this battle. He taught Pioli another tactical lesson.
Things I think I think
- Who's ready for il Derby d' Italia?
- Paulo Dybala, you're ridiculous!
- Simone Zaza is really proving his worth. Right now, Mandzukic and Dybala are the clear-cut starters, but tell that to this guy.
- Finally, I want to quote a twit of our own Aaron West (aka O_Fenomeno86): "Form is temporary, class is permanent. Alvaro Morata, we believe in you"