Relegation candidates Livorno enjoyed an unlikely second good result in a row against Serie A’s elite after a battling 1-1 draw with Juventus.
Livorno’s confidence levels were clearly high coming off the back of last Sunday’s San Siro draw with Milan. Despite the Bianconeri’s early efforts to push forward it was the home side that struck first. The early exchanges of the game were symptomatic of the trajectory both teams have found themselves on in recent weeks. Livorno nullified Juve’s pressing midfield play, moving the ball out wide and coming forward at will with a performance of grit and determination over style and invention. Juventus on the other hand looked disjointed, they lacked penetration going forward and were defensively woeful, allowing the diminutive five-and-a-half foot Antonio Filippini a free header to make it 1-0.
Clearly Livorno boss Serse Cosmi had got his tactics right. In the build-up to the goal, Luigi Vitale exposed space for the second time in the game created on the left by Alberto Zaccheroni’s decision to play a back three supported by wing-backs. Despite having the better of the first half, Livorno did show the defensive frailties that have put them within three points of the relegation zone. Questions must be raised as to how Nicola Legrottaglie was able to break free of his marker to score Juve’s equaliser. The keeper, Rubinho also looked shaky at times – Livorno lucky not to concede when he flapped at a corner shortly before the equaliser and he could have done better with Lerottaglie’s header.
It was Livorno’s response to extended Juventus pressure in the second half that did most to convince that they have what it takes to avoid the drop. The midfield and defence proved resilient to a sustained onslaught from the wealth of creative talent at the Bianconeri’s disposal. Playmaker Diego was kept quiet in the hole between the midfield and the forward-line, only looking dangerous when he moved out wide. Cosmi’s post-match assertion that Livorno “make good teams play badly” rang true. Juventus looked hurried in their forward play as Livorno employed pressing tactics in the midfield. The Amauri threat was also nullified, tight marking and strong defending forced him to play with his back to goal pushing the tireless Alessandro Del Piero out wide.
A concern for Livorno will be their lack of cutting edge in attack, when Felipe Melo was sent off they failed to take advantage of the extra man and didn’t really threaten Gianluigi Buffon’s goal in search of a winner. At 36, Cristiano Lucarelli cannot be relied upon to lead the line and a return of three goals this season coupled with performances like that displayed his tireless work ethic more than his ability to be an attacking threat. Surely a worry as Livorno fight for survival.
Overall Cosmi and the Livorno faithful will be delighted with two consecutive good performances over on paper, far superior opposition – the work ethic, tactical invention and team spirit shown may be enough to keep them in Serie A.