Continuing to surf on La Gazzetta‘s “Serie A vs. EPL” wave, here are ALL THE PLAYERS from UEFA Champions League’s Chelsea vs. Juventus.
If one thing was certain on Wednesday night’s Coppa Italia match, it was the “do or die” nature of Juventus vs. Napoli. Coming from rather poor moments of form in Serie A (two consecutive losses against Udinese and vs. Cagliari for the Bianconeri, a single point scored in their last four fixtures for the Azzurri) both teams had every intention of turning this Cup encounter into a rejuvenating cure.
What transpired in the end was a rather entertaining match, and this despite the misleading 0-0 score at the end of the 120 minutes of play. A rather bleak first-half performance was followed by an exciting second half, in which Juventus and Napoli played open attacking football and quckly shifted the ball from one end of the field to another. It was only through some great moments of defensive brilliance (Mellberg/Cannavaro) or sheer bad luck (Bogliacino/Trezeguet) that the 0-0 score remained unchanged, and in the end (after another battled & tense 30 minutes of extra time) only penalty kicks were able to break the tie at the Olimpico tonight. Ultimately Juventus prevailed, capitalizing on the Neapolitan errors of Lavezzi, Contini and Gargano, and will advance to the Coppa Italia Semi-Finals where they will play Lazio.
At the end of the day though, it must be said that both teams can be satisfied with their performances tonight. After their rough last couple of weeks, Napoli and Juventus have demonstrated they are very far from being dead & buried.
“I will make many changes” said Lippi after the Cyprus game. And that’s exactly what we’re expecting on Wednesday, when Italy receives Georgia at Stadio Friuli of Udine. Particularly we are looking at a big overhaul in defense, because the zone of the field which historically has made them famous is looking very shaky in the Azzurri at the moment.
And who would have thought? In their last two official matches (one unfriendly and one
friendly also unfriendly) the Azzurri have conceded 3 goals, resulting in an alarming 1.5 goals per game average. In fact that statistic could have been even worse, had it not been for a certain Gianluigi Buffon keeping guard between the posts (especially on Saturday). Kinda ironic when you consider that not so long ago (ok, 2 years) the team coached by the same man conceded 2 goals in the entire World Cup tournament, one of them being an own goal and the other a penalty kick. Is it really time to sound the alarm, or do the Azzurri have extenuating circumstances?
The answer to that question is: well, a little bit of both. Certainly, the many injuries aren’t helping: Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini, and Marco Materazzi… these are just three of the names that missed out on one (if not both) of the matches in question (and you can say all you want about Matrix’s crappy Euro performance, he was solid against Sampdoria after his return from injury). In particular, the absence of Chiellini (aka the “Azzurri Euro 2008 Rock”) is currently the most problematic, as Saturday proved that even the presence of Fabio Cannavaro can be nullified when he is paired with someone like Andrea Barzagli in calamity-mode.
So, until Keyser Giorgio gets back (sometime in early October) what’s the plan for Wednesday? Andrea Dossena and Nicola Legrottaglie, that’s what.
A skilled wing-back with fast pace and good ball control skills, Dossena seems to be the perfect replacement for one of the Berlin heroes, and most definitely a starter for the Azzurri in the future. Beginning his career at Verona as a youth player in 2001, he was soon promoted to the senior squad in which he totalled 4 seasons before being brought to Serie A by Udinese (2005). The Bianconeri immediately loaned him to Treviso for a year, after which the player returned to Friuli in the 2006-07 season, was given the nº8 jersey and made 63 appearances in the following two years, scoring 2 league goals along the way.
Dossena has only been in England since July (being bought as a direct replacement for John Arne Riise), but he already has a sense of the difference between playing in the Premier League and plying his trade in Serie A. “The Premier League is more advanced in terms of atmosphere and culture, but the Italian way of life is better. Violence however, must disappear from our stadiums. Through a zero tolerance policy or other means, but it must go“.
Replacing the injured Fabio Grosso, the Liverpool defender claims this new starting role is a bittersweet experience. “I’m happy to be in the squad but not as Fabio’s expense,” said the ex-Udinese man. “However, I had always hoped to be playing in this match ever since the venue was first revealed. My old Udinese supporters will give us a big boost, especially when our fitness level drops.”
As for Legrottaglie, the Juve center-back has been one the nicest surprises of the 2007-08 season. Rising to defensive stardom during his time at Chievo (2002-03), Legrottaglie was bought by Juventus in 2003 to be the natural heir of Paolo Montero. A severe drop in form however pushed the player to the sidelines (and to a series of unproductive loan spells), at which point his Bianconeri career seeemed to have reached a dead-end, as not even Juve’s 2006-07 Serie B season was enough to promote him to a regular starting role.
In 2007-08, Legrottaglie started where he left off the previous season: on the subs bench. However, after the serious injury suffered by new signing Jorge Andrade, he was promoted to the starting eleven for the game against Reggina (September 26), and contributed to the final 4-0 scoreline with a goal. Until the season’s end Legrottaglie paired with Giorgio Chiellini in a starting center-back role, forming one of the best defensive partnerships of the year as Juve conceded only 9 goals in 14 games.
Legrottaglie has openly admitted he owes his recent “transformation” to religion. Indeed since “finding the faith” again, the player’s performances have radically improved: his behaviour on the field is more calm, he gets into less arguments with opposing players, (the number of his yellow cards have also substantially decreased) and more importantly: he’s become reliable. Oh, and also: apparently he hasn’t had sex for over 2 years… Whatever helps, right? I mean, “belonging to Jesus” didn’t stop Kakà from winning the Ballon d’Or, so…
Bottom line: we are looking at a Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Legrottaglie, Dossena Azzurri backline for Wednesday.
As we await the return of Giorgio, let’s hope it will be enough…
And you thought that Fiorentina’s return to Europe was a good one… The Juventino in me can’t help but grab this opportunity to say that whatever La Viola do well, the Bianconeri seem to do better. Ok that was a cheap shot and also completely gratuitous: different teams, different opponents, different levels of preparation. Still there is something disconcerting about the ease with which this Juventus team just brushed Artmedia Bratislava aside. I used the expression “pressed their opponents under their heel” in my Fiorentina-Slavia match report, but I feel something a little bit stronger and more explicit is required here.
How about “bashed their heads in with a big hammer”? Too strong? Just “steamrolled” will do then…
(From Gazzetta): This is what you call an exhibition game, because that is exactly what Wednesday night’s UCL Preliminary Round match ended up being for Juventus: a whopping 4-0 victory, thanks to goals by Camoranesi, Del Piero, Chiellini, and Legrottaglie. Artmedia Bratislava may very well already be on day 7 of the Slovakian league, they could not provide a shred of danger for the Bianconeri tonight.
ADP’s ON FIRE! – Elements of Juve’s “walk in the park” tonight: the reliability of the “old guard” (except for Christian Poulsen, all the starting eleven were part of last season’s roster) and the class of captain Alessandro Del Piero, who christened the beginning of his 16th season with the Bianconeri with a fantastic goal, nº38 in 80 matches the UEFA Champions League and nº242 with the Juve shirt. A goal “alla Del Piero” for good measure: curling shot into the top-right corner and keeper left looking. Also big contributors: the quality of Mauro Camoranesi (dribbling, passing, and finally on the road of optimum form) and the strength of Giorgio Chiellini (who needs no introduction at this point). As for Gigi Buffon, he celebrated his 500th professional match with yet another clean sheet, just another positive note to add to a very successful evening.
FIRST HALF HAT-TRICK – The Bianconeri started their domination very early into the match, and one could say Mauro Camoranesi’s goal in minute 7 made things considerably easier for them. Exploiting some good work inside the box by Grygera, the Italo-Argentine winger slammed a powerful instep shot inside the right post, thus putting his team into an early lead. 1-0 Juventus. The only snag? Grygera had to be subbed off due to a knock on the head, forcing Ranieri to backtrack Salihamidzic to right-back and insert Vincenzo Iaquinta as vice-Nedved (out suspended) on the left wing.
Having an extra striker on the field must have actually helped Juve, because they did not slow down one bit. Del Piero’s star was burning very brightly tonight, just like in the good old glory days (with plenty still to come) and his recent match at Old Trafford (when the Man Utd crowd gave him a standing ovation as he was subbed off the field). Indeed, anything that the Juve captain touched turned into gold, be it penetrating passes or finishing shots from close to mid-range. As for his curling minute-26 shot inside the top corner, well… that was pure vintage Del Piero right there, justifying in full all the “ooohs” and “aaahs” coming from the Stadio Olimpico crowd. 2-0 Juventus.
2-0 became 3-0 shortly before the break, as Giorgio Chiellini got his noggin to a perfectly-delivered Camoranesi free-kick. The latter was the true playmaker in Claudio Ranieri’s team (and this despite playing on the right wing), making heads in the Slovakian defense spin with his twists & turns, all the while the tireless Momo Sissoko continuously to win possession back in the center. The 3-0 Juventus HT scoreline left little doubt on the Bianconeri’s UCL qualification.
SECOND HALF FORMALITY - Indeed, the second period was essentially a formality for Juve. Controlling the lead, Ranieri’s boys even came close to making it four on a good number of opportunities, such as Del Piero’s curling shot (this time left-footed, from the right side) which missed the crossbar by inches (it would have been another fantastic goal, a xerox copy of his first one), or Vincenzo Iaquinta’s 20m effort that the Juve striker slammed onto the post. Goal nº4 did come eventually, but we had to wait until minute 90 for it, as Nicola Legrottaglie (left all alone by the Slovakian defense) headed a Camoranesi corner-kick out of the keeper’s reach. 4-0 Juventus, with the Bianconeri one foot and a half through the UCL entrance door.
|GOALSCORERS: 7’ Camoranesi (J), 26’ Del Piero (J), 38’ Chiellini (J), 90’ Legrottaglie (J).
| JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Grygera (15′ Iaquinta), Legrottaglie, Chiellini, Molinaro – Camoranesi, Poulsen, Sissoko, Salihamidzic – Del Piero (72’ Amauri), Trezeguet. (bench: Chimenti, Mellberg, Zebina, Ekdal, Pasquato). Coach: Ranieri.
| ARTMEDIA BRATISLAVA (4-4-2): Kamenar – Fodrek, Cisovsky, Salata, Urbanek – Anderson, Kozak, Velicky, Piroska (46’ Obzera) – Pospech (83’ Oravec), Halenar (69’ Glever). (bench: Hyll, Szabo, Hasek, Mraz). Coach: Weiss.