Striker Antonio Di Natale is having quite a week. First, he scores two goals in an important Euro 2008 qualifier for Italy. Then, returning to his club team for the week-end, he has the audacity to score on the World’s best goalkeeper (and Azzurri teammate) and bring Udinese an excellent away win on Juventus soil. Buffon and Di Natale were joking at the end of the Ukraine game Wednesday, with Gigi warning Totò he would not let him score against him in the Juve-Udinese clash. At the end of the day, the joke was on the Bianconeri who couldn’t overturn the early 2nd half deficit, and were perhaps overly destabilized by the injury to in-form Mauro Camoranesi in the 1st period.
The first half at the Stadio Olimpico of Turin was a pleasant spectacle, courtesy of the good performance of both teams. The Bianconeri, inspired by an excellent Alessandro Del Piero (in much better form than what we’d seen in the game vs. France, also because he was back to his natural second striker role), dominated possession, and repeatedly pounded at Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic‘s doorstep. On the other end, Udinese was well organized in defence, limiting the attacking verve of the Bianconeri and rapidly setting off the counter-attacks, ready to feed their speedy attacking trio Asamoah-Quagliarella-Di Natale.
The first set of chances were all Juve’s: starting with David Trezeguet (looking for his 100th personal tally in Serie A) who headed narrowly wide a good cross by Giorgio Chiellini. Then, cue the Alessandro Del Piero show, as the Juve captain began dangerously flirting with Udinese’s woodwork. First, a close-range attempt stamped on the post (Del Piero was in offside position though), then later another post, this time on a 20m sverwing free kick shot. That would be the beginning of Del Piero’s bad luck today, because despite his best efforts (in between posts, the Juve captain even had the chance to send a chip narrowly over following a great Nedved assist) the ball would just refuse to enter the net.
The bad news were only starting for Juve though, because at the 30′ minute mark their right midfielder Mauro Camoranesi was forced off the field, complaining about a muscle strain. Off the Italo-Argentine, in Antonio Nocerino (coming from some very good performances in the pre-season). Alas, Camoranesi’s substitute was in a very bad day of form, and the cause of many of Juve’s lost balls throughout the game. Fortunately for the Bianconeri, most of Udinese’s turnovers were blocked by an attentive Juve defense, led by the experience of Jorge Andrade and the impeccable timing of youngster Domenico Criscito (the best of Ancelotti’s men today).
The half thus ended on a 0-0 scoreline, but coach Pasquale Marino‘s troops wasted very little time after the restart to poke their first stab into Juve’s heart. A great through ball was fed by Gökhan Inler to Andrea Dossena on the left wing, who had eluded Nocerino’s marking. The midfielder immediately centered for Antonio Di Natale, Nocerino’s presence nullified the offside trap, and the Udinese striker had little trouble in delicately lobbing Buffon with a precise header. 1-0 for Udinese.
Juve was in shock, and manager Claudio Ranieri decided to make a few changes. However, the ‘Tinker Man’ wasn’t in his best of inspirations today, and inexplicably took off David Trezeguet to put in out-of-form Vincenzo Iaquinta facing his old club. If this was a game in which a dead accurate goal scavenger was needed, it was certainly Trezeguet. Ranieri also inserted the more offensive Tiago for Cristiano Zanetti, but even that move proved to be a flop: due partly to the Portuguese lack of adaptation to Juve’s game so far, and partly because of the lack of offensive options at the front.
As the Bianconeri were desperately going for the equalizer, they left acres of space at the back, music to the ears of Udinese’s strike force. Ghanaian striker Gyan Asamoah had the perfect chance for the nail in the coffin, as he eluded the offside trap and Birindelli‘s marking and went all alone for the run on the right wing. His close-range effort however hit the post dead-on and rebounded away (someone must have put a magnet in both the ball and that post today). Juve had one final chance to equalize in stoppage time, as they obtained yet another free-kick close to the box. Skipper Del Piero armed his magic right foot, but guess what? He was once again denied by the woodwork (the crossbar this time). Clearly not Juve’s day.
On a sidenote, one of the match’s highlights did not take place on the pitch, but in the stands: a Juventus fan, who had thrown an exploding flare onto the field (thereby giving a big scare to a large part of the public), was reported and held back by surrounding supporters, who then waited for the stewards’ arrival to escort the man out of the stadium. A great example of the new effectiveness of stadium authority in Italy, which before the tragic death of policeman Filippo Raciti in February could only count on city police to keep order inside the stadiums.
Full Serie A matchday nº3 summary later today.
|GOALSCORERS: 48’ Di Natale (U)|
|JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Birindelli, Andrade, Criscito, Chiellini – Camoranesi (30’ Nocerino), Zanetti (56’ Tiago), Almirón, Nedved – Del Piero, Trezeguet (56’ Iaquinta). (bench: Belardi, Legrottaglie, Molinaro, Palladino). Coach: Ranieri.|
|UDINESE (3-4-3): Handanovic – Zapatocny, Zapata, Coda – Mesto, Inler, D’Agostino, Dossena (85’ Lukovic) – Quagliarella, Asamoah (64’ Floro Flores), Di Natale (85’ Pepe). (bench: Chimenti, Ferronetti, Sivok, Emerenko). Coach: Marino.|