One down, two to go. Having slipped up in the league on Sunday, Juventus returned to the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday night, recording a 2-0 win over Lazio that ensured the Bianconeri were the first team to have won the Coppa Italia in three consecutive seasons.
While Roma shocked the Turin giants in the same venue just three days ago, their crosstown rivals were quickly and easily swept aside thanks to first half goals from Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci.
This was nothing new for these two sides, Juve winning each of their six previous meetings with the Biancocelesti, scoring 11 goals and keeping a clean sheet every time. The gulf in quality between them – a chasm further highlighted by the 15-point gap in the current Serie A table – was evident throughout the game, but the 90+ minutes of action also served as a perfect microcosm of how Max Allegri’s team have fared in the 2016-17 campaign.
They did more than enough to win, Lazio arguably fortunate to only be trailing by two goals after a first half that Juventus completely dominated. For large portions of the opening stanza, the Rome-based side struggled to gain a foothold in the game, Dani Alves and Alex Sandro stretching them down either flank while Paulo Dybala tormented them through the middle.
While the Argentinian roved around the pitch and popped up wherever he found pockets of space between the opposition defence and midfield, Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic worked tirelessly to close down Lazio whenever Juve lost possession. Of course the presence of the BBC kept their attacking prowess fully in check, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini denying Keita Balde Diao and Ciro Immobile the chances other teams have surrendered.
However, perhaps it was the displays from unheralded names that best showcased Juve’s complete control in this clash. With Sami Khedira injured and Miralem Pjanic suspended, Allegri was forced to hand Tomas Rincon a place in the starting XI, the Coach rewarded with a solid, reliable outing from the Venezuelan midfielder. He provided a strong filter alongside Claudio Marchisio, the duo helping the Bianconeri kill the tie off after the break, the game never truly looking like a genuine contest.
Further back, goalkeeper Norberto Neto once again deputised for Gigi Buffon, the Brazilian making a number of saves – albeit largely comfortable ones – to register his seventh shutout in 13 appearances this term. Neither Rincon nor Neto are likely to feature in the Champions League Final, a game that Juventus will certainly be able to focus on once they take care of business against Crotone on Sunday.
Cup finals should not be this straightforward, but the celebrations for this victory will be somewhat muted given what lies ahead. Even as they move on to their next objective, the Coppa Italia Final showed once again why Juventus remain head and shoulders above their domestic competition.