If ever there was a game that highlighted the importance of a team, then one need only refer to the Milan versus Juventus match held at the heaving San Siro on Saturday night. Forget individual talent, forget champions, forget match fitness and you can even forget formations – that match proved that determination is, on occasion, the vital if not the only ingredient required in attaining maximum points. This weekend Juventus played in accordance with their philosophy that sees them never giving up even in the face of adverse impediments. They fought for the honour of their shirt and walked away with a vital win to announce their ambitions for this season.
After the initial onslaught of attacks from the Rossoneri in which Zlatan Ibrahimović and Alexandre Pato ripped apart the Juventus defence, dancing in between the defenders and taking worryingly accurate shots on goal, a Bianconeri goal that came against the run of play shocked them to the very core and effectively robbed them of their potential to win the game. Juventus took advantage of every little mistake made by the home team, whether it was a Sokratis Papastathopoulos fumble or a Luca Antonini mistake, the Bianconeri wanted to win and no opportunity was going to be squandered. Only Alessandro Del Piero’s somewhat selfish display at the start perhaps restricted them from accumulating even more goals.
However, it had to be said that Juve were lucky to not have conceded more than just the one goal. The occasional poor man-marking skills that left Kevin-Prince Boateng with acres of space coupled with the crossbar that blocked Ibrahimović’s strike left the Rossoneri wondering whether they had seen one too many black cats on Halloween. However, you have to be good to be lucky, and Juventus played a fine game of football as they remained focused, compact and thoroughly effective in front of goal. Despite the occasional error, the defence stood firm even when they were forced to play with an emergency back-line due to amounting injuries. Nicola Legrottaglie slotted in perfectly, marshalling the back line and leading with experience whilst the full-backs defended with fervor and attacked with intelligence to stifle the potent Milanese attacking trident.
On the other hand, the Rossoneri failed miserably when it came to preparing for this anticipated game. They failed to make their experience count against a team filled with young boys susceptible to a defeat. Their aged midfield was exposed and the defence that has been continuously ignored in favour of an expensive front-line cost them dear against a well-balanced squad void of individual talent but filled with tenacity. Despite being well aware that his midfield is both short of speed and defensive guile, Massimiliano Allegri took the bizarre decision to bench the young and hard-working Mathieu Flamini again in favour of Gennaro Gattuso. It was indeed a poor decision as the veteran failed to adequately cover Andrea Pirlo, leaving the latter without the freedom to unleash his creative power or the ability to get past the over-excited Felipe Melo, who perfectly nullified the Rossoneri midfield.
Luigi Del Neri must be credited for the sensational psychological affect he has had on his players – sending out a troop of warriors who sacrificed themselves for the good of the team to allow the Old Lady her first win in Milan’s home since 2005. José Mourinho would have certainly been proud. Paolo De Ceglie provided the delicious cross that allowed the hard-working Fabio Quagliarella to head it in whilst Jorge Martínez’s defensive contributions eased the pressure at the back. In a super performance of cohesive display, Juventus attacked as one and defended together and were spurred on by the cheerleading antics of the bench and their Coach. Despite the forced substitutions, the new set of injuries and the disqualification of a Serbian match-winner, Del Neri’s side won a difficult test to revive hopes of a trophy this year and allow them to revel in the fact that they are not dependant on any player – not even the Serbian fury.
Having failed in their attempt to appeal Miloš Krasić’s ban that many feel came about due to the media witch-hunt initiated by Mediaset, Juventus have fought against all odds to claim this proud victory. This new management is proving that they know what it takes to reclaim glory as they fight for their revoked Scudetti whilst simultaneously triumphing over better and more ambitious squads. However, as Paolo Maldini mentioned in an interview published on Saturday morning in La Gazzetta dello Sport: “A team must have only one face both at home and away.” One only hopes that the club always puts in this much effort in each and every game they play. Although it will be hard as they come to terms with the many injuries suffered after the war against Milan.