Monday, May 23, 2016
Juventus: 2015-16 Coppa Italia Champions
Juventus created more history on Saturday evening by beating Milan 1-0 in a tense Coppa Italia final to become the first ever Italian side to win domestic league and cup doubles in consecutive seasons.
The win was sealed in especially dramatic fashion courtesy of substitute Alvaro Morata’s strike in extra-time within three minutes of entering the field.
After a first half in which Milan enjoyed the upper hand in proceedings, Juve stepped up their game marginally in the second period, but were unable to create a truly clear-cut opportunity as the encounter required a further 30 minutes of extra-time to determine the winner.
The game, in truth, was in need of a spark from somewhere when Morata was brought on by Massimiliano Allegri in the 109th minute and the Spaniard repaid the manager’s decision in the most emphatic of fashions, helping the Bianconeri to win their 11th Coppa Italia with the same level of extra-time drama with which they had claimed La Decima last season.
In a pulsating opening period, Cristian Brocchi’s men had the better of the early chances, as Giacomo Bonaventura fired over the crossbar from range before prodding whiskers wide of Neto’s near post.
Mattia De Sciglio would be next to try his luck for the Rossoneri, hitting over from outside the box, and after 24 minutes, the lively Bonaventura forced Neto into an extremely smart save after the Milan midfielder’s low shot took a wicked deflection towards the bottom corner.
The Bianconeri demonstrated that they too posed danger going forwards courtesy of a strong run down the right by Stephan Lichtsteiner, whose menacing cross was ultimately dealt with by Alessio Romagnoli.
But it was Milan who continued to threaten more in the final third, Andrea Poli taking Keisuke Honda’s pass into his stride before shooting wide of the mark from the edge of the area.
The Bianconeri knew they had to improve after the break and began the second period with renewed purpose as Mario Lemina’s centre almost located Mario Mandzukic, who would have had a simple tap-in were it not for Gianluigi Donnarumma’s interception at the crucial moment.
The Rossoneri would dust themselves down from that scare and reassert the attacking intent of the first half, as Honda flicked Davide Calabria’s cross just inches beyond the reach of an onrushing Carlos Bacca.
In the 69th minute, Juve very nearly found the breakthrough, when Paul Pogba’s attempted cross spun off Calabria’s leg and was heading inside the near post before Donnarumma got down low to avert the danger.
Just four minutes later, Milan’s towering keeper had to palm away Lichtsteiner’s powerful header from Lemina’s cross, as Massimiliano Allegri’s men began to step up a gear or two into the final stretch of regulation time.
The Tuscan tactician’s introductions of Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado had indeed injected greater life into the Bianconeri’s legs, the latest sign of which culminated in a fierce long-range attempt from Pogba that was too central, however, to trouble Donnarumma.
A quiet ten minutes would follow before Romagnoli nodded wide from a promising position, paving the way to extra-time.
Both sides cancelled themselves out after the second restart of the night until Pogba warmed Donnarumma’s gloves with a venomous right-footed drive in the 102nd minute.
Milan too would have a good chance of their own to open the scores only moments later when Alex Sandro’s clearance fell to Bacca and the Colombian’s acrobatic kick ended up just the wrong side of the crossbar.
Shortly after extra-time’s midway stage, Allegri made the decision to bring on Morata and within just three minutes the change paid dividends with the Spaniard showing exceptional composure to turn home Cuadrado’s cross from the right.
Three minutes of added time spurred the Rossoneri on to encamp Juve’s half as they eagerly pursued an equaliser, but the Bianconeri were in no mood to let history slip from their hands as they held firm until the final whistle, sparking scenes of jubilation from all in black and white half on a truly unforgettable night in the capital.
Neto, Rugani, Barzagli, Chiellini, Lichtsteiner (Cuadrado 75), Lemina, Hernanes (Morata 109), Pogba, Evra (Alex Sandro 62), Dybala, Mandzukic
Unused substitutes: Buffon, Rubinho, Padoin, Sturaro, Asamoah, Pereyra, Zaza
Donnarumma, Calabria, Zapata, Romagnoli, De Sciglio, Poli (Niang 84), Montolivo (J. Mauri 109), Kucka (Balotelli 111), Honda, Bonaventura, Bacca
Unused substitutes: D. Lopez, Abbiati, Mexes, Alex, Boateng, Locatelli, Bertolacci, Menez, L. Adriano