Juventus and AC Milan locked horns in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, as they aimed to pip one another to advance to the final. With the tie tantalizingly poised after a 1-1 draw at the San Siro in the first leg, both teams went into the game with a spot in Rome up for grabs.
In a tightly fought encounter, there was nothing to separate the two sides after 90 minutes of action, as Juventus booked their place in the Coppa Italia final with a 0-0 draw at home.
Spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus dominated the opening exchanges and pegged Milan back right from the get-go. The Portuguese hitman was joined up front by Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa, but the trio failed to break the deadlock in despite their best efforts.
The game sprang into life in the 15th minute, when Juventus were belatedly awarded a penalty. Andrea Conti was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the penalty area, as the referee made the decision to hand the home side a spot-kick after consultation with the VAR.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored a last-gasp equalizer in the first leg, unsurprisingly stepped up. However, the ball struck the post via Gianluigi Donnarumma's outstretched arm, as Ronaldo was denied from the spot by the young Italian.
Milan's happiness, however, was short-lived. As they breathed a huge sigh of relief after Ronaldo's missed opportunity, Ante Rebic was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Danilo. The Croatian international's cynical foul was reminiscent of Nigel de Jong's kung-fu kick on Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup, as the game turned tides twice in as many minutes.
Neither side showed enough quality in the final third, as they went into the interval with the scores tied. The second half produced more of the same, as they shared the spoils in at the Allianz Stadium.
As Juventus capped off their return to action with a place in the final, here are five key observations from the second-leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final.
1. Rebic aberration foils Milan ploy
AC Milan were happy to sit back and play on the counter-attack, as they aimed to pull off a smash and grab victory away from home. Stefano Pioli's side were on the back foot from the opening exchanges, as Juventus unsurprisingly dominated possession and threw bodies forward to break the deadlock.
However, Ante Rebic's untimely dismissal threw a spanner in the works of the away side, as they were left with a mountain to climb for the best part of 70 minutes. Milan needed to score on the night to stand any chance of qualifying and began the game with Rebic as the lone striker, but the 26-year-old's sending off dashed their hopes of doing so.
The Rossoneri gave a good account of themselves despite the Croatian's dismissal, but it wasn't enough as Juventus went home the happier of the two sides.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo had an evening to forget
Italian football resumed after a two and a half month hiatus due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe and all eyes were on Cristiano Ronaldo, who lead the line for Juventus. After uncharacteristically missing a penalty in the opening exchanges, Ronaldo failed to make an impact as the game progressed and looked a shadow of his former self.
Before the break, the Portuguese talisman was in red-hot goalscoring form and spearheaded Juventus to the top of the Serie A standings. While it might be unfair to judge him based on his first game back, he was lacklustre by his lofty standards and failed to trouble the Milan backline.
Maurizio Sarri will hope for Ronaldo to rediscover his goalscoring touch in the coming weeks, as Juventus aim to win their ninth Serie A title in succession.
3. Juventus' front-three lacked chemistry
Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa started either side of Cristiano Ronaldo in a star-studded attacking lineup for Juventus, as they aimed to wreak havoc against a hapless Milan defence. However, the Bianconeri looked toothless upfront and were evidently rusty, as they struggled to find their feet in their first game back after the restart.
While Costa was lively, particularly in the first half, Ronaldo had an evening to forget and Dybala failed to make an impression on the game.
Juventus are embroiled in a thrilling Serie A title race with Lazio and will hope for their attackers to fare better in the league fixtures, in order to stand a realistic chance of retaining the Scudetto.
4. Romagnoli and Kjaer stand tall for Milan
AC Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli was joined at the heart of the defence by Simon Kjaer, as the pair were handed the task of keeping Cristiano Ronaldo quiet on the night. While the Rossoneri were eliminated from the competition, they held their own against a star-studded forward line and marshalled the Milan rearguard expertly.
Kjaer, in particular, was a handful on both ends of the pitch. The Dane made several crucial interventions at the back and almost capped off a fine display with a well-deserved goal. Romagnoli, on the other hand, lead from the front, as he induced a sense of calmness in the Milan backline.
Pioli's side were lacklustre upfront, but they gave a good account of themselves against Ronaldo and co despite being reduced to ten men as early as the 16th minute.
5. No shortage of intensity from both sides
While the game was devoid of quality, neither team refrained from getting stuck in, as the tightly-fought encounter ended in a stalemate. Rebic's needless lunge in the 16th minute set the tone for the rest of the game, as the Croatian's sending off was followed by a series of crunching tackles.
Both sides were visibly rusty in their first game back, as they failed to break the deadlock on the night. While Donnarumma got the slightest of touches to Ronaldo's penalty and was at hand to make a series of routine saves, Gianluigi Buffon was relatively untroubled between the sticks for Juventus.
Sarri and Pioli will take encouragement from the fact their teams relished the challenge physically, as adapting to the pace of the game after nearly three months out is no mean feat.
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