Juventus cruised to a 3-1 win at the Juventus stadium against Max Allegri’s ex-employer AC Milan. Despite the scoreline, it was an entertaining game and the Rossoneri showed they have the potential to put up a fighting challenge against the champions. Milan had played at the Juventus Stadium on three occasions and lost all three times. Moreover, the Rossoneri had not won a game on the road in their last six attempts. Juventus, on the other hand, were looking to extend their lead at the top of the table to 10 points before Roma take on Cagliari the following day. Milan had a terrible month in January as they were hit hard with injuries and a run of bad form. Before their win against bottom side Parma, they had not won a game in five in all competitions. For Juventus it was quite the opposite as they used the past month to solidify their position at the top of the league. There was a big gap between the giants going into this game, as Juve hoped to extend their seven-point lead at the top of the table and the Rossoneri wanted to build on last week’s win over Parma, their first Serie A success of 2015. With Stephan Lichtsteiner suspended and Martin Caceres injured, Simone Padoin started at right back. Carlos Tevez was not expected to start as he was struggling with a fever prior to the game but the Argentine recovered just in time for the kick-off. Giacomo Bonaventura had a shoulder problem, while Mattia Destro and Philippe Mexes were suspended. Injury absentees included Stephan El Shaarawy, Nigel de Jong, Riccardo Montolivo, Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio, Cristian Zapata, Daniele Bonera and Hachim Mastour, so Gabriel Paletta and Luca Antonelli got their debuts for Milan. Cristian Zaccardo was rewarded for the good form he showed against Parma and got the nod ahead of French defender Adil Rami at right back. Up front, both Alessio Cerci and Keisuke Honda started alongside Jeremy Menez.
The game kicked off with Juventus on the front foot trying to take an early lead and it was Alvaro Morata who fired a first warning shot to Milan that was nicely saved by Diego Lopez. A few minutes later, Carlos Tevez slid through an onrushing Arturo Vidal who used the momentum of the pass to cut past Luca Antonelli but fired a left footed shot high and wide. Inzaghi’s side grew into the match and enjoyed a decent spell of possession. However, this was short lived as the Bianconeri opened the scoring. After a poor clearance from Alex fell to Morata, the young Spaniard filtered a ball over the top of Milan’s defense and into the path of Tevez. The Argentine received the pass ahead of Milan defender Gabriel Paletta quite easily and expertly slotted the ball home past a helpless Diego Lopez. Sulley Muntari acrobatically cleared when Patrice Evra knocked an Andrea Pirlo free kick back into the middle, then the Frenchman nodded over from another Pirlo set play. However, Milan equalised with their debutant Luca Antonelli, who got a glancing header from a corner. He had already beaten Juve this season with Genoa and it was a special moment for the man who grew up in the Rossoneri youth academy only to return years later. The action, however, did not end there as now it was Juventus’ turn to attack. In the 31st minute, Leonardo Bonucci played a long ball into the path of Tevez who sent in a cross intended for Morata that Alex cleared to his teammate Muntari. The former Ghanaian international misjudged the amount of time he had on the ball and turned it over dangerously to Claudio Marchisio whose low and hard shot into the bottom left corner was wonderfully saved by Diego Lopez. While he may have stopped Juventus from going ahead in this instance, there was nothing the former Real Madrid man could have done to stop what was coming. From the corner Pirlo sent in, Lopez punched it clear. However, his punch wasn’t strong enough and Tevez headed it back into danger. Bonucci was the first to react to his teammate’s header and guided it into the back of the net to give Juventus the lead. The half would come to a close on this note.
After the break, Inzaghi’s side came out with a point to prove and were the better side in the opening minutes of the half. In the 54th minute, the Rossoneri got an incredible chance to equalize the affairs when Marchisio turned the ball over in his own half. Former Genoa defender Luca Antonelli pounced on his mistake and sent Giampaolo Pazzini through on goal with just Buffon to beat. The Milan striker failed to capitalize on this chance and fired a shot that was brilliantly saved with a strong right hand. Over the next few minutes, both teams exchanged chances but nothing of note occurred. Allegri decided that it was best that his side sat back and counter attacked with speed. In the 65th minute, Paul Pogba dribbled by Michel Essien with relative ease and played the ball to Tevez. The Argentinean forward then found Marchisio in a dangerous position at the top of the box. Marchisio fired yet another low shot that hit the post. With Diego Lopez down and out, the rebound off the post fell kindly to Morata who slotted home and into the empty net. Morata had the ball in the back of the net again, but was offside on Simone Padoin’s scuffed finish. Diego Lopez stuck out a foot to deny Marchisio from point-blank range. The Bianconeri almost added to Milan’s misery on a few more occasions but Diego Lopez ensured that the score would remain respectable. The game would end there with Juventus extending their lead at the top of the table to ten points with Roma yet to play. For Milan, it’s another case of one step forward, two steps back. For the umpteenth time this season, they fail to follow up a win with another.
Talking Points (via Opta)
Juventus have found the net in each of the last 42 Serie A home games, 100 goals in total
AC Milan have lost five consecutive Serie A games against Juventus for the first time since 1984
Álvaro Morata has both scored and assisted for the first time in a single Serie A or La Liga game
AC Milan have conceded 9 goals from a corner in this Serie A, fewer only than Cesena (10)
Luca Antonelli has scored four goals in this Serie A, his personal record in a single season
Juventus’ goals scored in the opening 15 minutes of play (record in this Serie A), 5 of which scored by Carlos Tévez
Claudio Marchisio (Juventus)
This game highlighted the importance of Marchisio’s presence in the side. Against Milan, he nearly found the back of the net on two occasions but saw both his efforts eventually lead to his teammate’s goals. On the night, the Juventus youth product completed 42 of his 54 passes and was all over the field.
Marchisio, while he was decisive in the attacking third, certainly lent a huge hand in defense tonight. This aspect of his game was sorely missed last week against Udinese when he was serving a suspension. At times last week, the Juventus back line looked exposed and out of depth. His return to the lineup coincided with solid defensive play.
Alvaro Morata (Juventus)
Labelled a flop earlier in the season, the Spanish striker silenced all his critics with his performance against Milan. The former Real Madrid man picked up an assist on the opening goal of the game and scored the crucial third goal to close the game mid-way through the second half.
In addition to his offensive production, the 22 year old tracked back in defense unselfishly on more than one occasion. The player racked up 3 clearances on top of one interception. With performances likes these, the young forward will soon become a fan favorite at the Juventus Stadium.
Luca Antonelli (AC Milan)
Dream debut for the ex-Genoa full back. Plenty of industry on the left and his headed equaliser from a corner was imperious. Has he solved the long-standing Milan left back issue in his first 90 minutes? He overlapped to good effect in the second half and should have registered an assist after his wonderful through ball found Pazzini one-on-one with Buffon. A very positive display from the Italian international.
The loss heaped further pressure on Rossoneri tactician Filippo Inzaghi who continues to struggle in his first season as a top flight coach.