Saturday, April 21, 2018

Fiorentina 1 Juventus 2: Morata and Buffon put visitors on brink of title glory

SoccerNews in Serie A 24 Apr 2016


Juventus are on the brink of winning Serie A for the fifth consecutive season after substitute Alvaro Morata’s late goal and a dramatic penalty save from Gianluigi Buffon gave them a 2-1 victory at Fiorentina on Sunday.

Massimiliano Allegri’s men, who have now won 24 and drawn one of their last 25 league matches, will be crowned champions if Napoli fail to win their away match against Roma on Monday.

Even if Napoli can extend the title race with a win in the capital, rampant Juve will require only one point from their remaining three games to seal the Scudetto.

Mario Mandzukic’s 10th league goal of the season – an emphatic first-half volley – had the visitors in front, but the hosts were aggrieved after having a Federico Bernardeschi goal wrongly ruled out for offside prior to the Croatia international’s strike.

Nikola Kalinic pounced on an awful defensive error from Leonardo Bonucci to seemingly seal a draw for Fiorentina with nine minutes remaining, but Morata responded from close range just 107 seconds later.

It looked like Juve’s charge towards the title would be halted when Fiorentina were awarded a penalty in the 89th minute, but Buffon brilliantly denied Kalinic.

Paulo Sousa’s fifth-placed side have now won only one of their last nine league games, but this was their first defeat at home since the loss to Lazio back on January 9, while Juve will now hope to be champions before their next match against Carpi in seven days.

Both teams had goals ruled out for offside, with the visitors first to be denied by a flag. Sami Khedira tucked home Mandzukic’s flick from close range but was correctly ruled to have strayed beyond the last defender.

There was controversy at the other end a few moments later when Josip Ilicic’s throughball was neatly converted by Bernardeschi only for the goal to be ruled out despite the winger appearing to have been level with Juve’s backline.

Buffon had to get down quickly to keep out Bernardeschi’s deflected cross and a stinging Cristian Tello effort as Fiorentina continued to threaten having made four changes to their starting line-up.

Paulo Dybala had a shot deflected narrowly over in Juve’s only other chance of note before they took the lead six minutes prior to half-time. 

Khedira sent in a deep cross which was headed back across the face of goal by Paul Pogba and Mandzukic connected sweetly with a left-footed volley into the bottom corner. 

Fiorentina were unhappy with the officials again just before half-time. Marcos Alonso was off target with a golden chance as he connected with an Ilicic corner, but was adamant he had been pulled by Daniele Rugani as he attempted his diving header.

Pogba passed up a brilliant opportunity to double Juve’s lead early in the second half, stabbing a left-footed shot wide after Mandzukic’s pass had sent him racing through on goal.

But Fiorentina were still making much of the attacking running, with Buffon making saves from Mauro Zarate and Kalinic in quick succession.

It looked like Juve were set to see out a one-goal victory until Bonucci was dispossessed by Zarate in a dangerous area and Kalinic swept home a magnificent finish from outside the penalty area.

But Allegri’s men moved back in front when a corner was helped back into the box by Mandzukic and Patrice Evra’s shot was blocked on the line, with Morata – who had just come on for Dybala – converting the rebound.

An incredible finish to the match then saw another Juve substitute, Juan Cuadrado, concede a penalty with one minute left after he was adjudged to have pulled back Kalinic. But Buffon superbly got down to keep out the striker’s spot-kick, as well as the rebound from Bernardeschi.

The drama was not done there either, Kalinic hitting the crossbar with a close-range header as Juve clung on for one of the most memorable wins of the season.


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