Who would have though that after being 12 points off the lead in Serie A in October, that Juventus would have another opportunity to create history in May? It was Coppa Italia final day and, with a win, Juventus would become the first Italian team in history to win successive domestic doubles. It has truly been a remarkable season. Between October and May, Juve won 25 of 26 league games, drawing the other. That's 76 points out of a possibly 78! That's unheard of anywhere!
And say what you want about the diminishing quality of Serie A, that is still a supremely impressive run of results.
Back to the Coppa Italia. Another win would also put Juventus on 11 titles, putting further space between them and the second most successful team in the competition, Roma, which has nine. For our opponents on Sunday, AC Milan, this represented their last chance to qualify for European competition. Milan have had another disappointing season. Despite spending more money than they have in recent years, the overall quality of the team has not improved significantly. There have been the usual managerial changes, criticisms by the owner Silvio Berlusconi and regular reminders of their great history by Uncle Fester, Adriano Galliani. Milan were billing this as their biggest game of the season, and understandably so. It would be their first silverware since 2011, and would give them some optimism at the end of an other season to forget.
Juventus were missing Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira, both out due to injury, and Leonardo Bonucci due to suspension. This meant another start for Hernanes and a rare start for "new signing" Mario Lemina. Milan for their part were missing, Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonelli due to injury.
Much like they were in the last meeting in April, Milan were quicker out of the blocks. However, the Milanese lacked quality in the final third, and this showed time and time again. Mattia De Sciglio cut in from his position on the left flank and got a right footed shot off, which whistled wide of Neto's far post. Just a moment later, Giacomo Bonaventura, Milan's busiest player in the first half, created some room to get off an effort; his deflected shot wrong footing Neto, but the Brazilian was able to quickly readjust and keep the tame finish out.
Milan were looking up for it while Juve were yet to get off the bus. An unforced error from Patrice Evra led to a Milan counter. Juraj Kucka found Keisuke Honda to his right; the Japanese playmaker cut in on his left foot and teed up the onrushing Andrea Poli, only for the Italian to blaze his shot high and wide. Some minutes later another error, Paul Pogba this time with a slip, resulted in De Sciglio with time and space to whip a cross in for Honda, who was making a late run, but the No. 10 miscued his shot and put over.
Juve could barely string more than three or four passes together and were clearly missing Khedira and Marchisio in midfield. Their horrendous half was summed up in one play, when some lovely touches from Mario Lemina led to an attack for Juve. Lemina found Pogba out wide left with a raking pass, and the Frenchman — despite being in loads of space — failed to get the ball under control, giving position back to the Rossoneri. The only solace that Juve could take from their dreadful first half display was that even though Milan were better, they were not actually that good either.
Putting it nicely, I was very happy to hear the halftime whistle. It was quite possibly our worst half of football this season.
Juve started the second half better than they did in the first, which frankly isn't saying much.
Juve's first proper chance of the half — nay, the game — came when Alex Sandro, who came on for Evra, found a Pogba run with a reverse pass. The Frenchman's cross was deflected however, and Donnarumma, like Neto in the first half, had to react quickly to keep the ball out of the net.
Pogba was starting to get more into the game, and some minutes later he put a cross to the far post where Stephan Lichtsteiner got to the cross with a header, but his effort was straight at Donnarumma. Moments later, Lemina found Mario Mandzukic on the run, the big Croat could only get a cross off but Donnarumma fumbled his cross. Unfortunately for Juve, no one was close enough to put in the rebound.
Pogba lined one up from about 25 yards out, but it was straight at Donnarumma who gathered comfortably.
The last chance of the ninety fell to Milan, as a corner was headed over by Alessandro Romagnoli. Nil all, and to extra time we go. Ugh.
Montolivo's giveaway led to a Juve attack. Mandzukic's backheel found Pogba in space, but his shot was pushed away from goal by Donnarumma. Down the other side, a terrible clearance by Alex Sandro, heading straight in the air, set up Carlos Bacca, but the Colombian's overhead kick was just over the bar.
Into the second half and Max Allegri made his final substation, bringing on Alvaro Morata for Hernanes. This proved crucial, as within moments Morata had the key contribution to the game. Lemina pushed forward from deep in the Juve half before spreading wide for Juan Cuadrado. The Colombian played a perfect cross for Morata to sweep home with his first touch of the game! That play was literally the first piece of genuine quality from either side in the game!
Milan tried to get back into the game, with Honda showing some nice footwork in the box, but then falling after a non-existent trip by Giorgio Chiellini trying to win a penalty. The play continued, and the ball came out to the top of the box and fell to Cristian Zapata who blasted over. Juve failed to clear a Milan free kick properly, and the ball fell to Jose Mauri, who was just centimetres wide with his shot!
The final whistle blew to put us out of our misery, and into the history books. Juventus are the first Italian team in history to win the domestic double in successive seasons! Huzzah!!!
Neto 7 Made one difficult save early on, but due to Milan's lack of quality in the final third, it was not a particularly busy night for the number two.
Rugani 6.5 A decent night for the youngster, and earned a rare yellow card in his young career to date. Still, no major complaints on his overall performance.
Barzagli 6.5 As with Rugani, a decent night for the veteran. He had to weather things a bit in the first half when Milan were on the up.
Chiellini 6.5 Typical performance by Giorgio.
Lichtsteiner 6 Relentless up and down the flank, but was useless with his crossing - unsurprisingly.
Lemina 6.5 Starting in place of the injured Khedira, the Gabon international was arguably the best of our woeful midfield. Played a key part in the winning goal.
Hernanes 5.5 The Brazilian was on close to peak bidone form tonight. Hopefully this was his last game in a Juve shirt.
Pogba 6 Was poor in the first half, improved as the second half and extra time went on.
Evra 6 Had some trouble with Milan's right back, and was understandably hooked for Alex Sandro.
Dybala 5.5 Looked a bit tired and had trouble having any impact on the game whatsoever.
Mandzukic 5.5 Like his strike partner, the birthday boy had very little impact on the game and had very few touches.
Alex Sandro 6.5 Improved our production from the left flank when he came on for Evra, and did a better job against Calabria and Honda.
Cuadrado 6.5 Likewise, Cuadrado's introduction improved our impetus on the right flank. He was a liability defensively, however. But thankfully were poor all night in final third.
Morata 9 Our man for the big occasions did it again, this time scoring with his first touch. Even playing second fiddle to Mandzukic and Dybala this season, Morata has proven just how important he is to this team.
THINGS I THINK I THINK
- Okay, putting aside the euphoria of the history-making win, and as you could have probably told from my summary, it was hard for me to watch this game as this was a truly awful game of football and one of the worst I've seen all season. It was a very bad advert for the much-maligned Italian game.
- As bad as Juve were, it says a lot about the quality of the Rossoneri that Milan could not put Juve to the sword. They seriously need to get their house in order. I would say that a season out of Europe might do them well, as it did for us in 2011, but they were also out of Europe this season and look at how things have ended for them. So, only God knows with Milan at this point.
- I know I've said some nasty things about Morata this season, but honestly, Marotta has to do all he can to keep him. He has shown once again how valuable he is to the team. With all due respect to Edinson Cavani, I don't want him at Juve. He's about six years older, would command more in both transfer fee and wages, and has shown that he is a big game bottler (evidenced by his coming up short in key games in the UCL for both Napoli and PSG). On the other hand, Morata is much younger, cheaper and has shown is in young career so far that he can come up with the goods when needed. Also, Cavani is best as the lone front man, as he was at Napoli. Juve play with two up front, which does not bring the best out of the Uruguayan. We'd probably see more of the flaky Cavani of current PSG fame rather than the Napoli version (although, he was also flaky in big games there, as previously mentioned).
- When one reflects on how our season started and where it's ended, even with the disappointment of the Champions League exit to Bayern Munich, this has been an indescribably tremendous season. I know I could not have fathomed this if you asked me six months ago how I thought our season would end. Apart from the players, let's just give Max Allegri his due for once again showing how shrewd of a manager he is. He always remained calm (well, almost always) and had the belief that the team would get themselves out of their early hole and do something great this season. And, he was right. But I'm sure even he didn't think it was be this good.
Congratulations ragazzi, another great season in the books.