Wednesday, March 21, 2018

AC Milan 0-2 Juventus: Five things we learned as Juventus brush Milan aside

Benjamin Darvill in Editorial, Serie A 28 Oct 2017

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In the end, it was not quite the blockbuster clash that these two teams have played out in the past. Juventus strolled past AC Milan in a 2-0 win on Saturday evening as the home fans were left disappointed by yet another defeat.

A brace from Gonzalo Higuain was enough for the visitors to take all three points as Juventus made it two wins in two to go level on points with Napoli at the top. While the leaders have a game in hand, Juve will be very pleased with their work this evening as it heaps all of the pressure on Napoli.

For Milan, it was yet another win and another worrying performance. 16 points from their 11 games is a paltry return and they are losing more ground on the top sides with each defeat which is compounded by the comparative success of Inter Milan.

From the game, what five things did we learn?

Higuain is at his clinical best

Gonzalo Higuain must go down as one of the most maligned strikers in world football. Often mocked for his weight and lack of a real work ethic on the pitch, his struggles at Real Madrid were often put down to the fact that he does not try hard enough. A move to Napoli revitalised his career, and it earned him a further move to Juventus.

Despite helping the club to the league title last season and being an integral cog in their route to the Champions League final, he is still massively underappreciated. Of course, he does not have the work rate of some other forwards and his interplay can be very sloppy, but he displayed on Saturday exactly why Real Madrid, Napoli and Juventus have all put their faith in him, and that is because of his finishing.

Paulo Dybala cushioned pass was snapped up by Higuain who took a touch into space, before hammering a shot past the despairing Gianluigi Donnorumma from the edge of the box. His second goal saw him take another good touch as his strike pinged off the post and into the back of the net, once again giving the young Milan goalkeeper no chance.

Both goals were perfect examples of his outstanding finishing ability as he won the game for his side. While he may not be blessed with incredible pace, skill or strength, on his performance this evening, his supreme finishing ability cannot be disputed.

Dybala is world-class

While Higuain was able to display his clinical finishing, it was his fellow countryman that caught the eye on Saturday with regard to general play. Paulo Dybala has been coveted by a number of the world’s biggest teams, and his dismantling of Barcelona in the Champions League last season saw this interest doubled.

On Saturday, he displayed that this is not something that affects him, as he put in yet another classy display. His first touch, passing and vision were outstanding, while it was his neat pieces of skill and individual brilliance that opened up space for his teammates time and time again.

Juventus, like the rest of the teams in Europe, have been looking to cut the gap between themselves and the Spanish teams, and the gulf has shrunk significantly in recent seasons. For the Italian champions, it is vital that they keep hold of their best players if they are to continue to improve. Dybala is set to become a truly world-class talent and, with even Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi vulnerable to time, the Argentine could yet grow into one of the world’s very best.

AC Milan are still some way off the best teams

While Juventus displayed their class in a game that could have been a stumbling-block for them, AC Milan’s fans were once again left disappointed by their team’s performance as they lost more ground on the leaders.

In the first-half, it took until Juventus had struck through Higuain for the hosts to wake up. They managed to control much more of the game and their passing kept Juve on the backfoot. Considering the reigning champions have been so dominant in recent seasons and they have looked back to their best in the last few games, it was quite impressive to see Milan dominate the ball. Their positive play almost ended in a goal at the end of the first-half as Milan struck the bar, but that was as close as they came.

While they did start well in the second-half, Juventus conveyed the gulf in class between themselves and their hosts as they pulled away through Higuain’s second. This killed off any kind of resistance from Milan as they rarely threatened from then on. This displayed the problem Milan are currently facing, with the difference in quality between themselves and the likes of Juve, Inter Milan and Napoli is massive.

The other three teams have been able to keep their best players and bring in intelligent additions, all the while improving the way they play on the pitch. The difference between Milan and the top is now 12 points, but the gulf on the pitch is much, much bigger.

Pressure mounts on Milan

The defeat to Juventus was Milan’s fifth of the season as they went down by two goals to the reigning champions. 16 goals scored is a decent return, but they have now conceded 16 times, which is simply not good enough for a side aiming to return to the Champions League.

They are also 12 points short of Napoli at the top, which could become 15 if the leaders win their game in hand. All of this points to the fact that Milan are neither closing the gap in the table nor the skill gap.

Indeed, the pressure is now mounting to huge levels on manager Vincenzo Montella and his team as they flounder in mid-table anonymity. Incredibly, they are currently closer to the relegation zone than they are to the top, being 1pointsnt short of Napoli, and just 10 above Hellas Verona in 18th.

Things don’t seem to be changing for Milan, and the success of their fierce rivals Inter Milan will only compound the pressure on Montella’s men.

Juventus once again solid in defence

There was a time when, if Juventus scored the first goal, it was game over. Such was their ability at the back that the opposition would invariably fail, with their best efforts usually not enough.

In recent weeks, this feeling of invincibility has been quashed, with their last five games before their win over AC Milan not yielding a clean-sheet. This means that the Italian side were in danger of going through the entirety of October without a clean-sheet.

Against Milan though, they were able to take the lead early on and drop back into their defensive shape and bide their time. This allowed them to maintain their solidity at the back and defend in numbers.

Their effort was summed up by Giorgio Chiellini making a superb block at the end of the game, which was followed by the defender fist-pumping and roaring as the clean-sheet was kept intact.

While the reigning champions have not been perfect this season, they seemed back to their best at the back once again.

AC Milan: Donnarumma 7 – Zapata, 6 Romagnoli 6, Rodríguez 6 – Abate 6 (Locatelliat 6), KessiéBiglia 6 (Antonelli 5), Borini 5 – Suso 5,Calhanoglu 6 (Valente Silvaat 6 ), Kalinic 7.

Unused subs: Mauri, Gomez, Montolivo, Musacchio, Paletta, Storari, Zanellato, Cutrone.

Juventus: Buffon 7 – Lichsteiner 7 (Barzagli 6), Rugani 7, Chiellini 7, Asamoah 6 (Alex Sandro 6) – Pjanic 7, Khedira 7 (Matuidi 6), Cuadrado 6 – Dybala 8, Mandzukic 6 – Higuain 8.

Unsued subs: De Sciglio, Marchisio, Douglas Costa, Pinsoglio, Szczesny, Sturaro, Bentancur, Bernardeschi.

Referree: Paolo Valeri


Benjamin Darvill

Ben is an English and creative writing graduate that is now working his way up in the world of sports journalism. Having been writing for the last four years, Ben has written for a number of websites specialising in sport, with football a particular passion. He is a long-suffering England fan and eternal optimist when it comes to the Three Lions.



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