Tuesday January 30 2018
Coppa: Buffon keeps Atalanta quiet

Gonzalo Higuain scored a precious away goal, but 40-year-old Gigi Buffon was the Juventus hero with a penalty save to beat Atalanta 1-0 in the Coppa Italia Semi-Final.

The first leg was taken very seriously indeed, as both sides fielded practically a full-strength XI. Buffon made his comeback after several weeks out with a calf injury, making his first appearance as a 40-year-old and the first in the Coppa since December 2012, but Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala and Benedikt Howedes were injured. The hosts missed Leonardo Spinazzola and rested Mattia Caldara.

It took two minutes and 29 seconds to break the deadlock, as Gonzalo Higuain surged forward, cut inside past two defenders and curled a low right-foot finish into the far bottom corner from 12 yards. It was the quickest Juventus goal of the season in all competition.

Atalanta thought they had the equaliser when VAR was used to award a penalty for Medhi Benatia’s handling offence on an Andreas Cornelius flick, but Papu Gomez saw his spot-kick saved by 40-year-old Buffon. It was the 20th penalty save of SuperGigi’s career, but the first in regular time for a Coppa fixture.

Blaise Matuidi had two promising opportunities deflected over the bar. Atalanta introduced Josip Ilicic for Cornelius in the second half, moving Papu Gomez to a False 9 role, and he immediately had a shot on target smothered by Buffon.

Mario Mandzukic and Matuidi both went for the same Mattia De Sciglio cross, while Ilicic’s strike was deflected into the arms of Buffon.

The 40-year-old was decisive again, sprinting off his line to charge down Andrea Petagna’s effort from point-blank range. Juve held out under a late Atalanta siege, including an Ilicic free kick from the edge of the box in stoppages, and go to Turin on February 28 with a 1-0 first leg away lead.

Atalanta 0-1 Juventus

Higuain 3 (J)

Atalanta: Berisha; Palomino, Masiello, Toloi; Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler, Castagne; Cristante (Barrow 76); Cornelius (Ilicic 46), Gomez (Petagna 82)

Juventus: Buffon; De Sciglio, Benatia (Barzagli 82), Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic (Bentancur 89), Matuidi; Douglas Costa (Bernardeschi 63), Higuain, Mandzukic

Ref: Valeri

Saved penalty: Gomez 25 (A)

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