With the Champions League place at stake, there could be no options other than a victory for Juventus, but in a sensational night at the Juventus Stadium AC Milan simply thrashed the holders and put their qualifications for the showpiece event in Europe riskier than ever. In Turin, the Rossoneri rejoiced while for Cristiano Ronaldo and Andrea Pirlo – there was nothing but frustrations.

To be honest, the Rossoneri deserved the victory because of the manner they played – they dominated from the start and out-thought and outplayed the hosts in all the departments.

Even though the first opportunity of the game fell to Juventus as a free-kick was whipped towards the far post from Bentancur and De Ligt connected sweetly with a volley after Donnarumma had failed to punch clear convincingly, but Theo did fantastically to block the Dutchman’s effort on the edge of the six-yard box.

A Rabiot threat was blocked by Fikayo Tomori and three minutes after that it was Brahim Diaz’s turn to fire on the Juve goal as a nice bit of quick passing on the edge of the box allowed Diaz to strike, though he fired over Szczesny’s near post after turning.

In the 21st minute, Brahim found the space to strike again as he was fed the ball after an incisive run from Theo Hernandez, though this time he fired straight at Szczesny.

Juventus had a huge chance to take the lead on the half-hour mark as Donnarumma misjudged the flight of the ball when coming to claim a corner and it fell to Chiellini unmarked at the far post, but the Italian defender headed wide.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was gradually getting into the groove and he was disappointed to see Diaz under-hit a through ball that would have put him in on goal.

A lovely flick through from Hakan Calhanoglu to Theo Hernandez saw the left-back galloping away and crossed to Ibrahimovic, and in the end, Alex Sandro did superbly to cut out a ball across the six-yard box that was heading for Zlatan.

Theo was a constant threat on the left and made another one of his galloping runs after a nice dummy from Kessie let the ball run, though Matthijs de Ligt eventually came over and just about deflected a shot that spun into the hands of Szczesny.

In the added time of the first half, Szczesny came out to try and clear a free-kick but was unable to make good enough contact and the ball fell to Diaz who cut inside onto his right foot and curled an effort over everyone and into the far top corner. VAR had a look to see if he had handled it when he got past Cuadrado in the box, but the ball clearly struck his stomach.

At Turin, Milan took the lead and with that gained momentum.

Juventus needed much more intent after the break but it was a Milan unit who had no intention to let the home side orchestrate a comeback.

Ten minutes into the second half, Milan were awarded a penalty kick and it was Brahim Diaz who was once again involved. A loose ball fell to Diaz inside the box and he had his first time shot blatantly blocked by the arm of Chiellini, however, Kessie could not convert from the spot as his tame effort was saved by Szczesny.

Milan were forced to make their first change with 25 minutes remaining as Ibrahimovic landed awkwardly after challenging for an aerial ball and had to come off, with Ante Rebic replacing him.

With twelve minutes remaining Rebic received an incisive vertical pass from Bennacer before turning, opening his instep, and firing into the top corner past a motionless Szczesny in the Juventus goal.

A free-kick in a rather unthreatening-looking position just right of center was whipped over from Calhanoglu right onto the penalty spot, where Tomori was waiting to power a header into the ground and over the outstretched Szczesny to make it 3-0.

Juventus were done and dusted.

“We try to prepare a strategy for the game and then choose the players suited to those positions we want to take. Brahim Diaz is good in that role, but it was an overall team performance,” Under-pressure Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.

“This was a team that believed, that showed a spirit of sacrifice, that gave its all and showed quality too. We want to thank our fans, who really moved us this morning with their support, but now we have another game coming up and that might be even more difficult than this.”

“We have had big wins this season, but admittedly this was a head-to-head, with the table so tight and so much in the balance. Unfortunately, it is not the final game of the season, so we still have to keep going.

“I celebrated pointing to the directors because the club has always been by our side and we share the joys and disappointments together.

“When it comes to determination, team spirit, and preparation to sacrifice, we were perhaps the best team in Italy for a long period of time. There was inevitably some mental fatigue after a long campaign, but we knew that today we had to step it up and put in a different performance.

“When it was time to make challenges and fight for every ball, we did not hold back.”

“Juve are changing the way they build out from the back and I was not so convinced they would start with three or with four plus one. So what we had to do was be solid, compact and press whoever had the ball. When we didn’t manage that, we tried to defend a little deeper and plug the gaps.”

“I watched the Champions League semi-finals and was so impressed with the way Manchester City and Chelsea worked off the ball, adding in the tempo and the quality. If we meet those elements, we too can have our say.”

“Pep Guardiola plays without a center-forward at the moment, whereas we have someone like Ibrahimovic. If you create and then fill the spaces with the right timing, that can really make the difference.

“Zlatan was not at 100 percent, he had half a training session with us on Friday, but he wanted to be here at all costs. He has a sore knee, but I don’t think it’s anything serious. We’ll evaluate it.”

While Pioli is a relieved man, the pressure on the rookie coach Pirlo is huge.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the match, Pirlo said: “Resign? No, I won’t step aside. I took this role with a great deal of enthusiasm amid certain difficulties. I am at the disposal of the club; there are still three games to go, so I will continue doing my work as long as I am allowed to.

“I had a different project in my mind and thought I would have a different group at my disposal. I had been working on some concepts, but then I had to make changes in order to suit their characteristics and had to adapt.

“It’s not that this team is resistant to change, but if you have some things in your mind and they become more difficult with certain players. If I cannot get the best out of these players, that is my fault and I certainly need to do better.

“If something didn’t go right, I take responsibility. This squad is made up of great players, clearly, something did not work.”

Juventus are now in grave danger of missing out on the Champions League entirely next season. With three matches of the season remaining, they are fifth in the league, three points behind both Atalanta and Milan, as well as one back of Napoli.

With Juve in financial difficulties, they can barely afford to miss out on the money-spinning Champions League, making the next two weeks absolutely vital to their hopes in the years ahead.

Facebook Comments