Monday, June 18, 2018

Last-gasp derby drama, edging out Napoli and five matches that won Juventus the Scudetto

SoccerNews in Serie A 25 Apr 2016


Napoli’s 1-0 defeat against Roma on Monday gave Juventus a fifth successive Scudetto and this Serie A campaign will surely go down as one of their most testing triumphs.

Having lost Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez ahead of the campaign, Juve found the going tough in the early stages of Serie A. They secured just three wins in their opening 10 fixtures, leaving them in the bottom half and 11 points adrift of early leaders Roma.

But Massimiliano Allegri has led his team on a phenomenal run since, with Sunday’s win over Fiorentina marking their 25th match without defeat and 24th victory in that span.

Here, we take a look at the matches that played a crucial role in what had appeared an unlikely Sere A defence:

Juventus 3-1 Bologna – Juventus Stadium, October 4

Defeating Genoa had not provided the kickstart for Juve’s campaign, with a draw against newly-promoted Frosinone next time out followed by a 2-1 defeat at Napoli. Maurizio Sarri’s team had their own struggles in the early stages of the campaign, but the Bianconeri responded to the setback of a loss against one of their title rivals with the strength of character that would go on to define their season. 

After Anthony Mounier’s volley squirmed beyond the usually dependable Gianluigi Buffon, Allegri’s side mounted a brilliant comeback. Alvaro Morata’s header drew them level before the break and Sami Khedira added to Paulo Dybala’s penalty to secure a vital three points.

Juventus 2-1 Torino – Juventus Stadium, October 31

Consistency had remained a major shortcoming for Juve, but their resilience shined through once more in a Turin derby that proved pivotal to a phenomenal charge towards the top. 

A magnificent 20-yard effort from Pogba opened the scoring after just 19 minutes, but Cesare Bovo levelled for Giampiero Ventura’s team with a thunderous strike. After Leonardo Bonucci hit the crossbar, Juan Cuadrado secured the Bianconeri a dramatic win over their arch-rivals when he bundled home at the back post in the 93rd minute. 

It was a dramatic, last-gasp triumph that not only moved Juve into the top half of the table for the first time in the season, but launched them on a season-defining run of 15 consecutive victories.

Juventus 1-0 Napoli – Juventus Stadium, Febuary 13

Having put their early-season difficulties behind them, Juve and Napoli went into the 25th match of the season as the top two sides in Serie A. Sarri’s men held a two-point advantage over the defending champions and a victory for them would have provided a huge boost to their aim of winning a first Scudetto since 1990. 

But Juve had other ideas. It was hardly the classic many would have hoped for, but it was settled in the 88th minute when substitute Simone Zaza turned away from Kalidou Koulibaly and rifled the ball beyond Pepe Reina from 20 yards. Mass celebrations ensued on the pitch, while injured duo Mario Mandzukic and Giorgio Chiellini could not hide their elation in the stands. The Scudetto race would not leave Juve’s hands from this point on.

Juventus 4-0 Palermo – Juventus Stadium, April 17

After Napoli went down 2-0 to Inter a day prior, Juve welcomed Palermo to Turin knowing that victory would open up a nine-point gap at the top with just five games left to play. They wasted little time in striding towards that mark against their relegation-threatened opponents, Khedira opening the scoring after 10 minutes with a masterful piece of chest control and volley. 

They did not add to that until Pogba’s opportunistic finish in the 71st minute, with Cuadrado adding a brilliant third three minutes later. Simone Padoin slotted home the final goal in the 89th minute and the home crowd greeted the final whistle sheer jubilation, safe in the knowledge that a nine-point lead was almost certain to prove decisive.

Fiorentina 1-2 Juventus – Stadio Artemio Franchi, April 24

A true champions’ win. Juve were second best for much of the game and survived 21 efforts on goal, a late penalty and a header against the woodwork to record a 24th win in 25 matches and put one hand on the trophy. 

Mario Mandzukic swept home late in the first half following a fine team move and a cushioned header from Paul Pogba, but Fiorentina deservedly drew level when Nikola Kalinic beat Gianluigi Buffon from the edge of the area after Leonardo Bonucci was caught in possession.

But Juve battled back in front thanks to a poacher’s finish from Alvaro Morata, and Buffon proved the hero as he kept out Kalinic’s spot-kick before blocking Federico Bernadeschi’s rebound. Kalinic headed against the crossbar in the dying minutes, but the champions survived.


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