Saturday June 13 2020
Sarri stumbles into Coppa Final

Juventus showed flashes of extraordinary potential before slamming up against a Milan wall, as Elio Salerno saw two teams who could’ve pushed themselves more.

There was a sense of relief and anticipation in the air as calcio returned to our screens on Friday evening with two of Italian football’s most decorated clubs. By the end of 90 minutes, that sense of relief would have extended to Maurizio Sarri and his players as they trudged into next week’s Coppa Italia Final.

Circumstances were always likely to prevent this game being a blockbuster affair and so it proved, but not before both teams served up a tense tie that had a competitive edge, a saved Cristiano Ronaldo penalty and Ante Rebic’s best impression of Nigel de Jong.

Juventus burst into life as the first whistle was blown with the Bianconeri scurrying to dominate play. Sarri’s team exchanged the ball sharply with neat combinations, punching passes across the pitch and suffocating any turnovers in possession as they stamped their authority on proceedings. Milan were unable to catch their breath as they laboured into the match with Juve creating a couple of early opportunities.    

The game’s main talking points came just 15 minutes in. Gianluigi Donnarumma fingertipped a Ronaldo spot kick onto the post, but before the Rossoneri could finish celebrating, their Croatian forward Rebic saw red for dangerous play. From that moment, the pattern for the remaining minutes was set. The visitors would defend deep, waiting for chances to foray forward. 

Stefano Pioli was left unfazed by the loss of his only striker and calmly re-adjusted his tactics. Patience was key. Despite needing a goal, Milan dropped into a narrow and compact 4-4-1, playing without an attacker as Jack Bonaventura retreated to aid the red and black wall that Milan raised in their half.

It was assumed that The Old Lady would now go on to win comfortably, but instead what they found in front of them was a dogged and disciplined opponent who was in no mood to go quietly. Juve’s early intense pressure began to fade as they became loose with the ball, Milan appeared comfortable and were now able to have short spells of possession.

Douglas Costa’s bright beginning dwindled as his space was limited and Milan doubled up on him defensively, whilst Ronaldo - who was being used in a more restricted role as a central striker - was unable to find his rhythm and after a positive opening, the home team’s play all of a sudden had a very familiar, hollow feel to it.

Leo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt were often in the attacking half with the midfield three pushed forward as Juve attempted to dislodge Milan and occupy spaces across the pitch, but il Diavolo stood firm. Pioli’s players ensured their hosts had no way through. There was a distinct lack of penetration on Juve’s part, Paulo Dybala floated around the right hand side with little effect with Danilo only limiting things further down that flank. Rodrigo Bentancur - who again impressed in midfield - was energetic and enterprising, but he was flanked by disappointing performances from his fellow midfielders.

As the game wore on it became apparent that this semi-final would go to the wire. Juve continued to work the ball, but the threat to Milan’s goal remained scant and Sarri’s substitutions had no effect on his team, only serving to increase the problems they already had. Ponderous play that left players frustrated as they failed to make a breakthrough.

Meanwhile, Milan would have been delighted to run deep into the second half with the scores level after playing with 10 men for so long. Rossoneri captain Alessio Romagnoli put in a colossal display at the heart of the Milan back four, as he defended superbly throughout with the help of Simon Kjaer. 

On reflection, perhaps Mister Pioli will regret leaving it too late in making an attempt to win it. After introducing a striker in the form of Rafael Leao on 50 minutes he then waited until beyond the 80th minute to make further changes. Milan carried little in the way of a threat on the counter and whilst his players deserve immense credit for their application, they could be forgiven for thinking that they had more than a chance if their coach had been a little braver earlier on. Simply put, Milan had nothing to lose and this should have been reflected in their attempts to claim a momentous victory.

In the end, Milan’s advances proved futile as two tired sets of players ended an energy-zapping affair goalless. As for Juventus, they will see this as job done whilst gaining important minutes in the legs as they set their sights on Wednesday night’s final in Rome.

In what has been an unprecedented situation for all those involved, it would be unfair to set expectations too high and harshly judge anyone on the back of this performance. For now, perhaps we can just enjoy the fact that football is back and a small slice of normality has been restored. 

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Have your say...
In the Final against Napoli Sarri will fix what did not work well against Milan, Pjanic out for Khedira, Costa out for Cuadrado and CR7 in the middle ..... no need to panic, Juve do not blow 2-0 half time leads to lose 3-2 in big games unlike some other teams in serie a !!!
on the 15th June, 2020 at 6:46pm
I've said it many times but Juve need an overhaul in central midfield (Apart from Bentancur who is great) and some serious athleticism in the wide areas. They have no threat in behind. A lightning fast wide player that causes the opposition defense to drop off 5-10 yards would create so much space for Dybala and co to operate. If teams take the risk and push up then all of a sudden there's space in behind for quality mids so pass through for the fast wingers to exploit.
on the 15th June, 2020 at 4:30pm
Same old Juve story. Midfield is nowhere near dynamic enough, the ball circulation is ponderous and as others have mentioned Ronaldo has a detrimental effect. He got out paced by Romangoli?! The guys not quick enough to play out wide anymore. For me he either has to be a central striker who just finishes in the box. Or an impact sub. The excuse of 3 months off is BS. Bundesliga teams came straight back playing a high pace, as did La Liga and so will the Prem no doubt
on the 15th June, 2020 at 4:26pm
Lol at that De Jong comment in the article.
on the 14th June, 2020 at 5:34pm
Napoli will beat Juve in the final.
on the 14th June, 2020 at 9:11am
Agree that it’s a bit harsh to criticize a team without training for 3 months and one month’s pre season matches. But it’s fair for every team. Also Sarri has to leave, he is not the right man for juventus. Period.
on the 14th June, 2020 at 1:45am
i dont understand why everyone is so harsh. these guys have not played competitive football for 3months. what u expect will happen. this was like a preseason game. it will probably take 4 or 5 games for juve to get back sharp. if i am sarri i would go back to that lineup vs inter where juve played as fluid as ever. it was matuidi-bentancur-ramsay. upfront it was ronaldo LW-Dybala ST- cuadrado RW. as costa is back he could play RW. pjanic is a lost cause in sarri system.
on the 13th June, 2020 at 4:25pm
Juve was shocking, but come on. Before the red card, Milan could not even put together 3 passes! Then the red happens, and magically Milan finds the mental and physical strength to compete? I think the Juve players slowed the pace down as they knew there are 5 subs and they are not fit, so they tried to stay on the field as long as possible. I mean CR7 trying rabona cross, Rabiot NEVER sprinted while on, Bent losing the ball and jogging back, Juve ran down the wings and passing backwards?
on the 13th June, 2020 at 1:44pm
That was an awful match. Milan were down to 10 men, but never looked like they care enough to try something. Juve was just poor, barely remember any decent shots / attempts.
on the 13th June, 2020 at 12:36pm
I whisper it, but Ronaldo is having a detrimental effect on this team. He was shocking last nite, but oh no! You can't substitute the great Ronaldo!

Not fit to lace Baggio's diadoras!

Half of this Juve team need binning off.

Pjanic, Danilo, DouglasCsta, Rabiot, Matuidi all need to go!!
on the 13th June, 2020 at 12:09pm
This was the same pre-Inter mundane Juventus kind of performance. They can stay on in quarantine if they intend to continue like this! Hope we can get the same Inter 11 for the final with Ramsey, Cuadrado and Higuain back in the starting line up
on the 13th June, 2020 at 11:01am

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