There may have been a better strike partnership in its Serie A debut season but its hard to think of one right now. We used to say that all Antonio Conte’s Juve were missing was a forward who guaranteed a double-figure goal haul. Now, in Carlitos Tevez and Fernando Llorente, they have a pair of them.
It was a goal from each of them which eventually saw off a brave effort from Clarence Seedorf’s revitalised Milan side in San Siro. For much of the first half, the Rossoneri had La Vecchia Signora looking decidedly unsteady on her feet. But Ricky Kaka and company failed to deliver the killer blow which would surely have brought her to her knees.
Instead, the Old Lady hit back with the footballing equivalent of a swing of the handbag to the nether regions and a crack over the head with an umbrella. Just before half-time a sweeping piece of interplay saw Llorente stroke the ball home to give the visitors a lead which really hit Milan where it hurts. Then, in the second period, Tevez delivered the coup de grâce with a thunderbolt strike which left them reeling.
It produced a final scoreline which was harsh on a Milanese side which is clearly showing signs of progress but was also testimony to what a fine-tuned unit Juve have become. Seedorf must know his team cannot afford to dominate possession without turning it into goals. It felt, to paraphrase an old Italian proverb, like getting all the aromas from a lovely roast dinner but none of the actual meat.
Juve, on the other hand, are a full steak dinner - at least in Serie A terms. They now face a three-course lunch with Fiorentina in a mouthwatering triple-header on domestic and Europa League duty. On recent evidence, they will devour the Tuscan side like one of the tasty T-bones traditionally prepared in the Renaissance City.
The Viola’s protest at recent refereeing misfortunes backfired spectacularly at the same time as the Bianconeri were polishing off Milan. Fans on the Curva Fiesole - and many in other parts of the ground - decided to wait 10 minutes before taking their places to watch the home clash with Lazio. In doing so, they created an eerie atmosphere and also missed the only goal of the game with a spectacular Lorik Cana strike giving Edy Reja’s men all three points.
Without their Spanish talisman, Borja Valero, the boys in purple lacked precision and purpose. He will miss another three Serie A games - including the League clash with Juve and another key match with Napoli. They can only hope he will be well enough rested for the Europa League encounters to somehow revive the spirit of the incredible 4-2 victory over the Bianconeri earlier this season. Conte’s men, however, appear to have learned the lessons of that clash.
Elsewhere in Italy, Saturday’s big night game failed to deliver the result either side hoped for. A goalless draw meant Roma failed to turn up the pressure on Juventus at the top of the table while Inter were unable to make another big step in their recovery. But that did not mean there was not plenty to talk about.
The clash in the Stadio Olimpico ended up being mostly about what Mauro Bergonzi and his match officials missed. Daniele De Rossi and Juan Jesus both escaped sanction - during the game at least - for swinging their arms at an opponent. There were also loud shouts for a penalty at either end - most notably when Mauro Icardi was tugged back by Mehdi Benatia. But spot-kicks for the Nerazzurri have become as rare an occurrence as big matches without some loser with a laser pen in attendance.
It proved a tough weekend for the three revelation teams of Serie A as Parma, Torino and Verona managed just one goal between them. Marco Parolo’s early strike for the Emilia-Romagna outfit was enough give them local bragging rights as they saw off Sassuolo at a soggy Mapei Stadium. But Hellas missed their suspended talisman Luca Toni and could do no better than a 0-0 draw with Bologna. And it was even worse for the Granata as Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci were upstaged by Sampdoria and, in particular, a stunning strike by Manolo Gabbiadini which clinched their win after Stefano Okaka had opened the scoring.
The other half of Genoa was also celebrating as Luca Antonelli and Stefano Sturaro scored to see off the ever-more-marooned Catania. There were also significant wins for Cagliari over Udinese and Atalanta against Chievo to give themselves more breathing space over the relegation fight. The Sardinians’ success was particularly emphatic with Victor Ibarbo, Matias Vecino and Agim Ibraimi scoring without reply. It allowed them to move level on points with the Friuli side. Even the Lazarus-like qualities of Francesco Guidolin’s outfit will surely not allow them to resurrect their European football dreams this season.
Finally, there was frustration in Tuscany for Napoli as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Livorno. It might yet prove vital in the survival fight for Mimmo Di Carlo’s men but it was a nuisance for the Partenopei who had a chance to close up on Roma in second spot. Fiorentina’s defeat meant Rafa Benitez’s side actually tightened its grip on third place. But they, like everyone else, look a long way off the ruthless efficiency with which Juve are honing in on three Scudetti in a row.
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