Ladies and gentlemen, this is the year of mystery player nº 10. We were all talking about Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo early this year, when the Portuguese funambulist and the magnificent Swede were scoring goal after goal, and deserved all the praise that was coming to them. In the second part of the season however, Zlatan (pretty much like the rest of Inter) lost a bit of his form, and while our mystery player probably won’t equal Ronaldo’s achievements this year (38 goals with Man Utd and still counting), he’s certainly risen to front stage spotlight. A very bright spotlight.
Alright, that was a very weak attempt at suspense from my part. I’m sure you’ve all guessed that our mystery player is none other than Alessandro Del Piero. On Sunday, the Juventus captain collected 3 goals, 1 assist, and left the playing field under the cheers of an unanimous standing ovation (Atalanta supporters included). It always breaks my heart when I mention this, but I still doubt that Donadoni will call Del Piero to Euro 2008. Numbers however, speak for themselves: 17 goals in Serie A (1 goal behind David Trezeguet and 2 behind topscorer Marco Borriello), 20 in total this season, and 151 in the Italian top flight. Only an idiot would keep this man at home this Summer, but who knows…
As for the match itself, I’ll quote KwSport by saying this was a match of “threes“. Three like the goals of Del Piero, three like the consecutive victories of Juventus (only 1 point away from mathematical Champions League certainty) and three like the consecutive losses of Atalanta. It seems that the Bergamo Nerazzurri have already left for holiday…
Ready, set, go. 1 minute from the start, Juve were leading by one, and 5 minutes later they were up by two. No time to breathe right? Ok, let’s proceed in order.
In the first minute, a Del Piero free-kick from the left wing found the header of Nicola Legrottaglie inside the box: the Juve center-back’s header found the way of the net, but had seemingly been touched by Guglielmo Stendardo on the way there. Seems like Lega Calcio gave the goal to the on-loan Lazio player, but these are details. 1-0 Juventus.
Moments later, a Camoranesi right-wing cross found the headed flick of David Trezeguet on the opposite end, a perfect assist for Alex Del Piero in front of the net: rotating left-foot volley and 2-0 Juventus within less than 6 minutes. Atalanta were livid.
Two goals could have become three when Trezeguet got loose inside the box, but the French striker found Coppola to deny him the goal. At which point Atalanta finally decided to wake up and hit back. Sergio Floccari in particular, very active in his heading abilities (much to the dismay of Gianluigi Buffon, expecting better marking from his defense), and Gianpaolo Bellini, who would have scored the goal of the week, if only his left-footed half-volley from 30 yards had been on target.
Unfortunately for the Bergamaschi, while their accuracy left something to be desired, Juve’s didn’t. Exploiting a marvelous one-time pass from Cristiano Zanetti (finally back from injury), Alessandro Del Piero escaped through on goal and beat Coppola for the third time, low to his left. 3-0 Juventus at the break.
In the second half, Gigi Del Neri decided to make some changes (more out of desperation than anything, probably) and took out Paolucci and Langella for Michele Marconi (Primavera) and Simone Padoin. But there was little the newcomers could do to change the face of this game. In fact, Del Piero went to work once again and attempted two volleys. On the first (from a Nedved cross) Coppola was ready, but not on the second: exploiting another good assist by Trezeguet, the Juve captain found the back of the net again and increased his team’s lead to four. 4-0 Juventus and game over.
There are now 4 matches left in the season, and Juve’s Champions League qualification is pretty much a done deal. The Bianconeri are so close in fact, that they are now only 5 points behind 2nd-ranked Roma… could an upset be in the works? The real question however, is “how long can Donadoni keep ignoring Del Piero”?
|GOALSCORERS: 1’ Stendardo (J), 6’, 34’, 70’ Del Piero (J)|
|ATALANTA (4-4-2): Coppola – Rivalta, Carrozzieri, Manfredini, Bellini – Ferreira Pinto, Tissone, Guarente (71’ De Ascentis), Langella (46’ Padoin) – Paolucci (46’ Marconi), Floccari. (bench: Ivan, Fissore, Pellegrino, S.Inzaghi). Coach: Del Neri.|
|JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Grygera, Legrottaglie, Stendardo, Molinaro – Camoranesi (71’ Marchionni), Nocerino, C.Zanetti (61’ Tiago), Nedved – Del Piero (77’ Palladino), Trezeguet. (bench: Belardi, Birindelli, Zebina, Salihamidzic). Coach: Ranieri.|