AC Milan’s hopes of making up ground in the race for a Europa League spot suffered a late blow – thanks to a penalty deep into added time – which gave the Serie A leaders, Juventus, a win they quite deserved on the balance of play. While young Donnarumma made an astonishing 8 saves for the visitors, several attempts were flashed wide by the Juventus forwards – who will be relieved they managed to bag all 3 points.
For the home side, it was just the result needed before their return fixture in the Champions League where they hold a two-goal advantage but will be hoping to have their defensive concerns sorted out. Here are the talking points from the game.
#5 A game played largely in Milan’s third of the pitch
Much of the game – roughly 43 minutes in the first half and close to 40 in the second – was played in the visitors’ half of the pitch, with Juve making regular forays in and around the Milan box. Misfired strikes sped past the post on the wrong side – on either flank – as the home side continued to press and squeeze out any possession the visitors managed.
While the Milan defence wasn’t at its best, it could have claimed to have at least gotten the job done if not for the penalty conceded late into stoppage time by De Sciglio that cost them a point and some valuable ground in the race for a European spot. Montella will know his side can’t always get away with letting the opposition make as many attempts at target, and would do well to bolster midfield for future games.
#4 Juventus have mixed fortune with penalties
Midway through the second half Juventus had serious shouts for a penalty turned down after Milan’s goal scorer, Bacca, played the ball on to his outstretched hand which was certainly extended away from the body in an unnatural position. The referee waved away the claims, and Juve continued to toil fruitlessly in front of Milan’s goal until the end of regulation time.
In stoppage time, with the visitors down to 10-men after Suso received his marching orders for a second yellow, the home supporters saw their glum moods uplifted with a penalty awarded for a hand ball spotted from point blank range by the official behind the goal line.
Dybala stepped up to give the home side the win, and as the players took a lap around the stadium to acknowledge their fans, Allegri possibly did the same to the luck that continues to hold his side in good stead at their home stadium.
#3 Gerard Deulofeu is settling in well at Milan
When he cut in from the left flank and rolled the ball into the path of Carlos Bacca, who made no mistake with the finish, Deulofeu picked up his second assist in two league games – out of a total of three since his loan move from Everton in January. This is in addition to the winner against Fiorentina where the Rossonieri triumphed 2-1 to mark the beginning of an upswing in results.
Deulofeu was Milan’s primary outlet for relieving the concerted pressure from the home side and did well to run the channels through the length of the game, as would be expected from the fresh legs of a 22-year-old. While there have already been whispers of Barcelona – who originally sold him to Everton – being interested in pursuing his signature at the summer, more reports suggest he will return to Goodison Park at the end of his loan spell.
The third option perhaps would be in his best interests with Vincenzo Montella building a young squad that he fits quite perfectly into.
#2 Benatia shows Juve’s tendency to find goals across the squad
When one by one Pjanic, Khedira, Dybala, Higuain and Pjaca sent their attempts flashing wide of the target or saw them saved in goal, it was Benatia’s turn to stand up and be counted as Juve’s 15th different goal scorer of the season. Beating the offside trap thanks to some uncoordinated defending from the visitors, the Moroccan latched on to Alves’ cross and smashed it into the back of the net from point-blank range to give his side the lead.
With Mandzukic having to be withdrawn from the squad just before the start of the game, the Serie A leaders saw their concerns over goal scoring – if there were any – allayed by their squad’s tendency to pop up with goals from unexpected sources.
Benatia had to be withdrawn with an injury concern in the second half, though, and could be a worry for the Champions League tie although Chiellini seems set to feature against Porto.
#1 Donnarumma stands tall but Juventus pick up their 31st consecutive home win
18-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma has been solid in goal for Milan this season, and has single-handedly secured points for the Rossoneri on a few occasions. His eight saves on the night – as opposed to only one for his namesake in the opposite goal – almost did so again, only for Juve to pick up all three points via a penalty that was literally the last kick of the game.
It was all the young ‘keeper could do to keep out the misfiring home side, but his luck finally ran out – and Juve’s extended – with the penalty from Dybala beyond his reach in the 95th minute of the game. This extended the sensational record of consecutive home league wins to 31 at the Juventus stadium – a big reason why they have been Serie A champions four seasons in a row now.